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An Old-ish First-Timer’s View of KyuFest

So here’s the thing. I’m not a kid...and I’m not a Black Belt. Or even a GREEN Belt yet! That being said, when Sensei Jon asked me to sign up and compete in KyuFest, part of me really wanted to do it for a few reasons--even though I had never done anything like it before.

First, I’m very much a team-player, and if the team leader asks me to do something, I’m inclined to say yes. Second, I know it’s an opportunity to overcome a pretty significant phobia of mine--stage fright. Third, I REALLY wanted a trophy!

After sending in my entry form and fee, I experienced all kinds of emotions ranging from excitement, fear, worry and many others. It was such a mind-bending journey as we trained and prepared for the event. After all, I wanted to do a great job for my school and I worried that if I did poorly I would be letting them down. But that worry had me more focused in class than I’ve been in a while. My Kata were tighter and my punches and kicks were crisper and more accurate. Every minute was a crazy mixture of good and bad emotions...and good and bad results.

I could take some solace, though. I could see the stress and focus in the faces and efforts of all the other students, regardless of age or rank. And Sensei Jon was genuinely thrilled that several of us were going to the event to compete. Because of this, I know we were going to have fun and give it 150%...and Sensei Jon would probably brag on all of us for at least 6 months after the event! (If you know Sensei Jon, then you fully understand what I’m driving at, here.)

So what is the big deal about KyuFest? Why should we be worried, especially someone as “seasoned” as me? Well, there are several reasons. Essentially, there are two primary event types at KyuFest, with each type being broken down into age groups and belt ranks. The first event type is about Kata, and each of the contestants get to choose and perform ONE Kata that fits in their rank. The second event type is Kumite, or Point Fighting. So contestants fight one on one with others in their belt and age group.

Obviously, the fighting aspect of the contest was a bit of a stressor for all of us. I can honestly say that NOT ONE of the students in Sensei Jon’s class take the class because we want to actually be in a fight. We love learning, and camaraderie, and Sensei Jon makes every class as fun and as it is challenging. But none of us are aggressive or pushy, and we tend to laugh a lot while we learn. Personally, I started taking the class because my oldest son was taking it, and I was intrigued by the value that Kata brings to life and focus and...well...maybe self defense. So when we’re practicing punch/kick combinations against the bags, or sparring with one another, we really try to protect each other while still getting better.

So we trained hard, stressed out a bit and got a little bit anxious. And then we went...and we did our best. And we left it all out there on the competition floor. We watched each other’s events and cheered as loud as we could when we could. At one time during one of my Kumite bouts, I looked over and saw Sensei Jon cheering for me during a break in his judging sessions.

It was such a unique experience. It was horrible and awesome all at the same time. Before my Kata presentation, it was all I could do not to fake an illness and go hide in my car. Yet 10 seconds after I was done I wanted to do another one just so I could show the judges some other skills!

Kumite was a blur, but it so much fun that I asked Sensei if we could spar MORE in class!!! What the heck was I thinking? Generally, when we spar, I have to spar with HIM! It didn’t matter to me though. Kumite was such a wicked mixture of Chess and straight athleticism that I was hooked.

At the end of the day, it was a wonderful experience, and I am so thankful that Sensei Jon convinced me to go. I’m sure I’ll go next year, and I’ll probably stress out more than I did this year. Why you ask? Well, I’ll no longer be a beginner, and the guys I face will be better, faster and more knowledgeable. It’s going to be a tough year, but it will be worth it. I want another trophy!

Thanks for reading, and we'll see you in class!

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