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How does competition fit into your program?

I begin to encourage competition at about the age of 6 (sometimes 5).

Although I love the look on the faces of my kids when they win, I donít stress winning in competition. The main thing that I want children to get out of competition is the ability to take a risk without letting the fear of failure stop them before they have begun. That is a skill that is important in life and lacking in many modern people (in my opinion).

This is what I say to the children before we go to competition:

Have fun.

Be a good sport. Learn to win and lose gracefully.

Meet new people.

Do your best.

Eat a little junk food. (I add that one for the laugh effect)

When we return from competition, I donít ask the children what place they took. I donít believe in asking that question. Whatever they do I am proud of them. (This is unusual in karate. Most teachers go around the room and ask what place the student took). What I do ask is: ďWhat do you want to tell me about your experience?Ē The children all have different takes on the day. Some tell me how they placed. Some tell me who they met. Some talk about the fun, or excitement, or fear. Whatever they say, I accept it, tell them how proud of them I am, and we move on.

My goal with my students is that they look at risk taking as an ordinary part of life. Since the majority of students who enter the dojo are not going to continue to train for many, many years, I use the karate competition to try to create a person who will continue that risk taking ability into the next life experience they attempt.