Spectators - A Typical Day Out

So what is a typical day out like for a spectator at a Karate event?

If you have been invited to attend a Karate competition by some friends, or are intrigued by some local advertising you might be wondering what the day involves.

Karate competitions vary in size from relatively small inter-club events with around 100 competitors up to huge events lasting 2 days with hundreds of entrants. Most competitions (or championships) have Kata and Kumite events, though a few are specifically for Kata. All are held on weekends and most are in medium to large sized sports or leisure centres.

Competitors are usually required to arrive for registration between 9.00 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. - if it's on a Sunday and a couple of hours drive you can say goodbye to your sleep-in! If you are going independently then doors usually open around 10.00 a.m. with the day going though to anytime between 4.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m.

In most cases the children start the day and usually with Kata. Younger children can tire if the day is too long so it's good to have their competitions first. You might not see the adult competitors begin to arrive until after lunch, so your first impression is that all of the entrants are kids!

There is always a great excitement and buzz as people find seats, warm up, and meet old friends. The organisers gather round the coaches and brief them on the days agenda, explaining which rules will apply. Then the coaches disperse back to their teams gathering together lists of names and trying to figure out what time events will take place. Most sports halls have terrible acoustics so it's hard to hear which event is being called. It's not like on TV where everything is neatly edited!

If you look over to the entrances to the hall you'll notice the better mannered competitors bowing as they enter. To us it may be a hall, to Karate-ka it is a Dojo, and the etiquette applies. You'll see plenty of bowing throughout the day. It's a refreshing sight and constantly reminds us of the discipline that is in Karate.

As the competition proceeds there will be plenty of announcements over the public address system. Nine times out of ten you won't be able to understand a word of it.

The Kata rounds are displays of fixed movements that can be beautiful to watch. Most people have their preferences between Kata and Kumite, but we think a perfectly executed Kata is an awesome sight. Following the Kata comes the fighting, or Kumite.

You'll find many friendly people in the crowd. Although competition can be fierce there is at the heart of Karate a great emphasis placed on respect and, therefore, excellent sportsmanship. Even after some of the most ferocious fights you will usually see genuine respect and praise between opponents. If one is injured the conclusion of the fight will see concern for their welfare expressed. This is not shown whilst the fight is live, simply because the etiquette of the Dojo does not allow it.

Even if you don't know the competitors you'll find yourself immediately drawn into the action. Many Karate people don't like the idea of displays of fighting, but the fact remains that watching two willing adult Dan grades in combat is exciting and brings out the primeval in us. No one forces them to compete, so don't waste any time worrying if they get hurt. Below the higher aspirations of Karate is a lethal system of moves designed to maim and kill, or in contrast defend without mercy. The rules of contact in the Dojo penalise the most obvious blows likely to cause damage, but be under no false illusions, this is dangerous stuff.

You should feel the pain when you see young children fighting. They get hurt and often shed real tears. It's not pleasant but then life isn't always either. They come out of the Dojo stronger for it, and the ones that don't need to consider another sport. You'll see some parents getting too involved in this aspect of competition and for a moment you'll think it all a bit barbaric. But if you grasp the point of Karate you'll soon realise everything is strictly under control and regulated. Yes it's dangerous, but people who do Karate don't wrap their children in cotton wool.

There are two distinct differences in how the winners are presented with their trophies. The first is to present them at the end of each category in an event. This is the best approach for spectators - you can watch an event from start to finish. It's good for kids who can go home after competing, and especially good if they have long journeys ahead of them. The second is to present all of the trophies at the end of the day. This gives a bigger sense of the day being an event, but does make for a longer day both for the kids and spectators.

The day will be noisy - sports halls have a wonderful way of amplifying the sounds. You'll go home with the unique sounds of the day ringing in your ears. Hopefully you'll go back for more.

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