For many young martial artists, one of the most beneficial aspects of karate is the confidence that they learn throughout their journey. Gaining that confidence, however, does take time, and kids can still have moments where they have butterflies. Most people are not immune to nerves, and experience them before they have to give a presentation or try something new. The senseis at No Limits Martial Arts have each had to push past competition butterflies of their own, and wanted to share their experience with their student to help them overcome their own nerves before they compete. Here is how the senseis have overcome competition butterflies!
What was your first competition like?
Sensei Adam: SCARY! I was a White or White/Yellow belt at the time. Presenting in front of judges I did not know, and with kids I never met, was very overwhelming.
Sensei Helder: I wasn’t very young when I first competed. Not knowing what to expect, I just focused on following my Sensei’s advice and applied full effort and focus that day no matter the circumstances.
Sensei Elizabeth: I was as a white belt. As an adult, the division was white to brown belts and had about 13 competitors! It was very intimidating!
Was there a moment you were nervous before a competition?
Sensei Adam: Competition butterflies happened at every competition. Yes, a confident outside was presented, but each competition was a new challenge, and just before entering the ring, the butterflies and nerves would hit. There would be a flutter in the stomach, but as soon as I would bow in, it was game time, and the focus shifted from nerves to competition mode.
Sensei Helder: I was always more excited and pumped rather than being nervous.
Sensei Elizabeth: It was a very busy tournament, where there were lots of people in the gym, and it was very noisy. I was worried about remembering my kata and the fact that I had watched many of my fellow competitors compete over the years. It felt like I was going up against professionals and I was worried I wasn’t ready.
What did you do to get past the nervousness you were feeling or prepare before you competed?
Sensei Adam: Practice! The more prepared and as I like to call it ‘mileage’ you can put on a kata, the better the competition. The feeling of nerves would disappear, and confidence would take over.
Sensei Helder: In order for me to stay focused, I would walk around with my headphones and “CD Walkman,” play some tunes to pump me up before the fights.
Sensei Elizabeth: At that first competition I didn’t really get over the nervousness. I turned the wrong way and got mixed up, but kept moving and finished. After, I realized it wasn’t a big deal, not life-changing.
What tips would you have for students to help them shake off nerves?
Sensei Adam: Don’t worry about the competition. Worry about your performance and intensity. It will take the worries off placement and competition, and on to personal performance. Performance is something a competitor can control.
Sensei Helder: Think of competition as one of your training sessions back at the dojo. Engage your full effort but maintain focus and stick to the plan. Most competitors that focus too much on winning tend to overthink and rush. If the outcome does not end up in your favour, take that as a learning step and as a goal to focus on for when you get back to the dojo. You will always gain more knowledge losing rather than winning, which in the end will result in victory!
Sensei Elizabeth: I realized practicing harder, and as if I was competing, would get me through better with fewer nerves. Students should always practice as hard as you can when you compete.
Nerves happen to everyone at one point or another; the most important thing to do is practice hard and push through. Even if you make a mistake, as Sensei Elizabeth said, you can get through it, and like Sensei Helder said, losing can be an amazing learning opportunity. We encourage all of our students to work hard preparing for their competitions, to find things that help them cope, and to try their best – no matter the outcome.
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