This post is dedicated to David Willson:

One of the most rewarding aspects of training for competition (and also the competing part) is to watch your child grow. Mine started out with a lot of enthusiasm and little competitive experience, and since she started competing as a brown belt (which is advanced), against kids her age who'd been competing for a few years already, she was at a natural disadvantage. And to be honest, she found the learning curve a bit steep.

Losing is fine. But when you're always losing, and not by small margins at that, it gets hard to stay motivated. Especially when you're nine. She does slightly better in forms than in point fighting so my strategy has been to favour the former for now. She qualified in both at Provincials but found the fighting very hard. So when it came time to try for Nationals, we agreed she could just try in forms for this year. She qualified there (they took the top four competitors for the Canadian team and she came in fourth out of seven), so she's only competing in forms at the Worlds in Dublin.

That's totally fine by me, but we keep her competing in fighting at the smaller tournaments we're going to until Worlds, like the next one in London (Ontario) two weeks from now. And of course she keeps training - both for fighting and for forms. And I don't just mean a little.

We have both ramped up our training quite a bit. During the months of July and August we did a solid four training sessions a week plus our regular classes (plus we help teach). That's a good 20 hours a week of training for her each week (me, I've sort of been off the charts this summer), plus teaching time.

The training is intense, it's relentless, it's tiring, it's hard. We all find it hard. But - again - when you're nine sometimes you find things even harder than adults do. Especially the part when she gets criticized or yelled at (sometimes for not working hard enough, sometimes for not paying attention, sometimes for being next to another kid who wasn't paying attention or working hard enough...), by our trainer and sometimes by me, too.

Like I said, it's been a harsh learning curve for her. But you know what? She's starting to pull out of it wonderfully. And I credit her new shirt. :)

OK. Maybe it's a bit more than just a shirt. But the shirt matters.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, our instructor gave her a shirt. It's just a regular t-shirt with the WKC Canada logo on it - I have one just like it in adult size. I wasn't there when she got it but from her description of how it happened there wasn't much of a reason for it, just one of those "here you want this shirt?" things. It's a little big for her but she likes it a lot, so she trains in it. And trains hard. Almost as though she were trying to make it look good.

She also recently asked if she could train in continuous sparring, and I said yes sure let's go get you the proper gloves for that and see how you take to the training (which I also do, because I find it helps improve my timing and footwork). But it is way different than the point sparring we normally do - it's also a style where you get hit in the head a lot, so we're not competing in that discipline until we're good enough to manage that. I'm not interested in anyone getting easily-avoidable concussions. But the training is awesome and a half - both for our technique and our fitness, and she's benefited from it mightily in just a few short weeks.

And guess what. About a week ago she suddenly began to fight better. Better than she's ever sparred. Since she started karate, I mean. She's a different kid in the ring, and I do mean that in a good way. She's more aggressive, her technique is better, she dares use her reverse punch, and she moves better. It's so wonderful to see - she makes me so very proud (yes, you bet I tell her).