Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tournament and Kata Frustrations

Back from the Great Lakes Games/Lennox Legacy Tournament weekend. A good time was had by all, and in general things went very, very well.

We missed last year's GLG, so it was great to see all of our friends again. I didn't play nearly as many games as usual, but it was great fun anyway. I did get to try Goa, which is involved, but fairly fun, a really cool matching game named Quirkle, and an expansion to Ticket to Ride that puts you in Switzerland, which I really liked.

I hit the road at 3:30am to get to Hanchi Duessel's 8:30 seminar in Akron (tournament started at 10). I was 5 minutes late (aargh!). Fortunately for my pride, an entire dojo contingent walked in about two minutes later, and I used them as cover to slide into place. All but one of our dojo members were there and competing (the lone absentee is seven, a white belt, and doesn't know her first kata yet). We did, as a group, very well. I think everyone came home with at least one medal. The kids, especially, did great. The kids divisions were all pretty sizeable, but we had medals of all colors in both kata and kumite. Sensei's daughter took a second in kumite, and pretty clearly deserved first. (She scored two beautiful kicks to her opponents mid-section, clean and unblocked, but in each case the fight had worked into a corner and not enough judges saw the hit to allow the point. Even without those two points, the match went 2-all. Our newest adult student, who was so nervous about competing she nearly refused to enter, even though she was already there for her two sons, took home a gold in kata (against two higher ranked competitors, doing Seisan against Wansu and Chinto), and a silver in kumite (again against higher ranked competitors). We won't have to beg and plead to get her to compete next time.

In my division I took silver in kumite, with a 2-2 sudden death in the fight for first place. The girl I fought against (yes, girl. They changed the age breaks, so instead of being a senior in the 36+ like last year, I'm in the 18-38 division.) was tiny, but very quick. She had a large cheering section, which was nice to see. In weapons I got an autmatic gold for being the only weapons competitor in my division, but then competed one division up. I landed middle-of-the-road points wise there, which is fine by me, since I was using Tsu Yoi Bo (Power Bo, our prepratory bo kata), against people doing Tokumine no Kun or Urashi Bo, plus some sai katas I didn't recognize - not hard, the only Sai katas I recognize are Simple Sai and Kusanku Sai (which I've just started learning)

Which brings me to kata. I've found a perfect description for my kata results in Isshinryu tournaments here. To wit, I've landed in exactly the same spot in every Isshinryu tournament I've ever been in - dead last. I'm beginning to get a) puzzled and b) very frustrated by this bit of consistency. I don't think I do bad kata. This impression is seconded by my results in non-Isshinryu tournament (I've only been in two, but medaled both times), by my sensei's comments, by my competitors' comments, and even by the comments of the judges whose scores put me last. I hunted down three of my five judges this time and asked for suggestions on how to improve my kata. They gave me good advice (deeper stances and more varied rhythm), which I intend to follow, and went out of their way to mention that they thought my kata was otherwise good. One asked me when I thought I would test for brown, and seemed pleased that it would be soon. But at least a couple of the other competitors in my ring had kata that weren't terribly good - I.e. kata where I will be pretty upset if the video shows that I was as stiff, or weak or hesitant. Two years ago I placed last against a truly wonderful field, and I felt really good about being scored even in the same league, but that wasn't this year's set.

To try to be clear here - I'm not upset about my placement per se. I couldn't care less whether I bring home a medal in kata or not. But this makes something close to ten tournaments where I have finished last, and I can't help but think that there's got to be something fundamentally wrong with what I'm doing for that to have happened. Each time I've looked for suggestions on how to improve, and gotten them. Each time I've worked on the things I've been told - and sure enough the comments are different the next time I finish last. Whatever it is doesn't seem to afflict my weapons kata. Rob had the interesting suggestion that since by next year I will know both Kusanku and Kusanku Sai, I should do those two, and if I place well in weapons but not in kata, I will have a very specific way to zero in on what difference the judges saw.

I just know that it seems pretty pathetic that my goal for kata for next year is to do a kata so wonderful that the judges have to rank me above somebody.


John Vesia said...

Congrats on your placings. Too bad about the sudden death in kumite, but it sounds like you had a good outing.

What kata did you do? Some judges, especially if they're Isshinryu people, will grade higher for something like Sunsu or Chinto, as opposed to Seisan. A good tool to use to gauge you performance in kata is video.

Kusanku is a beautiful kata. If you can nail that one, you can't go wrong at a tournament.

Perpetual Beginner said...

I did have a good outing. I love this tournament and wouldn't miss it for the world.

I did Chinto kata, which is my newest. I've known it for 4+ months now, though, so it's not raw. The preference of Issihnryu people for the higher level katas is part of my puzzlement, because most of the rest of the group was doing either Seisan or Seiuchin (one did Wansu). I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around They think I did my kata worse than a very stiff orange belt doing Seisan, and not being upset at the idea that they might be right.

Becky said...

I agree with John about the video. It is a very good tool to see exactly what you are doing and what you need to improve. Have someone tape you either at home, or alone in the dojo, so that there are no distractions, and no stress.

Good luck with you kata. Have you mentioned this on the women's list? Maybe someone there can give you advice.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Hey Becky!

Two people videoed the kata at the tournament. My sensei is hoping that we can watch at least one of them sometime this week. If the video doesn't show any great gaffes (like our other adult purple who completely forgot a kick), then taking the problem to the women's list is a great idea.

At this point I'm almost hoping I made some tremendous gaffe - except I can't imagine that the judges wouldn't mention such a thing when asked about my kata.