This post is dedicated to Stacey Cherwonak: We left our house early Friday morning to go pick up our rental car at the airport (best deal I could find was there). It's a perk of tournament-going that we get to rend a car and drive something different every time. Well, most of the times. We are a one-car family and it's hard to leave Dad car-less for two or three days, especially when he has events to attend out of town himself. But I don't like spending more than I have to on rental cars and I've become pretty good at finding the best deal... Like the one I'm getting in Dublin, which comes to just over $100 for eight days. That's pretty good, right?

(Things I never thought I'd put on a resume: Great Car-Rental Bargain Hunter. Oh well. There you have it.)

Anyway, here we are in our rental car (cute Kia Soul in black), Mom and Eldest to train and compete, Middle Daughter and Youngest to hang out, provide entertainment and swim in the hotel pool. Drive to Toronto so ho-hum, with a quick stop at Walmart in Brockville (do we travel in style, or what) to buy more notebooks so they could all do what Middle Daughter decided to try to keep herself busy on the road: write an illustrated diary of our Trip to Mississauga.

(Yes, well, they don't get ipads to suck their brains out, they either have to read or play portable board games or write/draw.)

We got to our hotel in Mississauga, after spending most of our travel time making an average of 32 km/h between the DVP and Hurontario (I don't do well in traffic), had time for a quick trip to the pool before heading out to East West Karate (the fine folks who were hosting the tournament) for a special training session. Great fun there, followed by another very quick trip to the pool/hot tub and bed.

Tournament itself started bright and early with Mama competing in forms at 9:30. Three of us in our division (black belt women, 35 years and older). One lady who normally beats me, one lady I've never competed against, and yours truly. We do our thing and line up for the scores and lo, I win. First time winning a kata division - yay! That means I get to go to the final for the Grand Championship round, against the winners of all the other black belt forms divisions. Men and women, young and old, traditional, weapons and musical - in total there are seven of us competing in that round, the winner of which goes home with a ridiculously big trophy and a cash prize. I've never made it to Grands before in kata and I'm just thrilled to be getting that kind of experience. I don't really have huge expectations except to give it all I've got. I did the best kata I could, came 5th out of 7, and that made me happy.

Then Eldest competed in kata, with 17 other kids. Those kid divisions are huge, I tell you. That makes it hard to medal, but hey, we're here to do our best and she does. Her kata was excellent, one of the best I've seen her perform, but it wasn't enough to get her placed. She was disappointed, of course, and didn't understand the judging. We had to work together on that to analyze the judging and understand, given who had won and how they had performed their kata, what the judges were looking for. We found something to work on, and we will devote the coming week to that task so that she's at her absolute best for Worlds. I'm very proud of how she worked over her disappointment and agreed to focus on what needed doing instead. That's one of the many great things competitive karate has done for many children, including mine: It's given them excellent lessons in how to work towards achieving important goals. I say that's money well spent.

She then went on to spar. She had two fights: one against a girl much (and I mean *much*) bigger than she is (also well-trained and excellent), and one against another difficult opponent of a more manageable size. The first one, against whom she'd lost 5-0 last time, is a great kid, who's friendly and kind and generous with her advice. And while she hits hard (hey, it is a contact sport after all), she doesn't hit to hurt and that makes a huge difference. But my poor daughter, who'll never get to be a giant, is having a great deal of trouble getting around that long leg (even the other coach said it wasn't really all that fair for Eldest to fight such a big opponent, but my view is: she must get used to fighting people who are bigger and better than she is otherwise she'll never get better, so tough). The goal I gave my daughter was to move around better and make it harder to get scored on. "Don't worry about scoring for today, just work on not getting scored on so easily"). She managed that, and lost 4-0. She then won her second match by one point, which earned her third place. Her sparring still needs a lot of work and experience, but already in the last year she's improved a great deal and I am very pleased by that. She's not competing in sparring at Worlds, only kata, so sparring for her yesterday was primarily for experience, and she got that.

Me? I went on to fight in the afternoon against the same two black belt ladies I'd competed against that morning. I won the first fight against one of them, and lost the second fight against the other lady, and got silver.

Among the fun bits yesterday was the fact that we had about a half-dozen newish competitors from our team come to that tournament. These are kids (plus one parent competitor) who are newer on the team and who've only really done local tournaments before. This was a big step up for them, and it was fun for the more experienced among us to encourage, coach and cheer them.

Now we're off to Sunday morning training, a little stiff and sleep-deprived for the last such training session before Worlds. Gotta work those kinks out, right?