Contest Hints

The two most important aspects of karate for contest are timing and distance. You must react the moment you see an opening and be close enough, given the maximum speed of which you are capable, to get the attack in before the gap is closed or the opponent can move out of distance.

Of course, getting an attack in successfully when your opponent is just waiting and on his guard is very difficult. You may put him off his guard by relaxing - or, rather by appearing to relax - or else by giving a really strong 'kiai'. Or you may feint an attack, say to draw your opponent's attention down to his groin or his legs, and then attack to the face. Alternatively, you may simply wait for your opponent to attack first, taking advantage of any opening this may create in his defences, before or after parrying his attack, or better still you may invite him to attack by deliberately leaving an opening in your own defences. In this last case you should be able to anticipate his attack and therefore the opening or openings likely to be offered you.

Whenever possible, when your opponent attacks you should move in on him. This doubles the power of your own counterattack and gives your opponent half the time in which to change his tactics. However, it does require both boldness and skill. If your timing is less than perfect you stand a good chance of getting hurt. And, of course, if you are injured from moving in on an attack you will lose the point!

With regard to your opponent's tactics, it is essential to understand his psychology and not be misled by superficial movements. No movement must escape your notice, but you should interpret correctly the intention behind it. This is, of course, more easily said than done, but it helps if you observe your opponent 'peripherally' - that is to say without ever focusing on any one detail. Although your eyes will be directed toward his eyes, you must actually be equally aware all the time of his body as a whole. His eyes, however, are important. They will often reflect his intentions, for which reason your own eyes should be kept half-closed and your expression unstrained.

Remember to be aware of (but again without concentrating on) the rhythm of your opponent's breathing, this will reveal his physical and psychological condition and it also can be an indication of when you should attack. When his lungs are empty and he's just starting to take an in-breath his reactions will be slower and his muscles less responsive.

Control your own breathing - keep the in-breath and out-breath equal in emphasis and smooth - and you will not only give your opponent a discouraging impression of imperturbable confidence, but will actually increase your confidence.

Confidence and skill - these are probably of equal importance in karate contest. Most of the foregoing matter has been concerned with methods of acquiring the latter, which is more easily explained. About the former, I can say this much in addition to what has been said about breath-control: confidence must become as much a habit as the correct way to stop a kick.

You must get into the habit of thinking only in terms of victory, whatever aspect of your life is under review. You can practise winning in daydreams. It should finally be impossible for you to imagine not winning, even when you dream in your sleep at night.

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