Large florescent lights hang from the ceiling revealing the overcrowded gymnasium which is barely large enough to contain the masses that have shown for this event. This is the annual tournament which tests each contender’s limits. Bleachers line half of the room along two of the walls, rising above the center like in a gladiator’s arena. The polished floor shines in the spaces where it isn’t covered by the mats that serve as the combatant’s rings. A chair is placed in each of the corners to provide each of the judges a perch from which they can observe the ring from various points of view. The tournament is a place of much anxiety which one must control.
Excitement is high and the bulk of the audience is chatting with one another rowdily, greeting those people whom they meet but once a year. Students and instructors rush about on their individual missions, occasionally stepping on the toes of some poor spectator who has chosen to sit too close to the action. However, I sit quietly, preparing myself mentally for when my opportunity finally comes. Fellow competitors stretch and warm up far too early, which causes them to release their energy prematurely from heightened nerves and adrenalin. I am also full of anxiety, but instead I choose to quiet the increased heart rate and rushing adrenalin by close my eyes and concentrate on each breath I draw. My master has taught me well in maintaining my focus and clearing my mind of distractions. I have undergone strenuous training, learning to instinctively use sharp techniques with mastery and speed. I am ready.
This competition is giving me some stress and some anxiety, but I know I’ll perform well. It is a passion for me and I am driven to try my skill against that of my peers. Win or lose, my abilities and experience will grow and I will continue on this path I have chosen. For Karate is not only a method of self-defense and a means to stay fit; it is a way of life.
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