Monday, March 3

Shinsakai Competition

I went to Shinsakai and all I got was a lousy t-shirt

Every year in Portland there is a competition called Taigi Shinsakai where all the regional dojo’s get together and show off our stuff. This also allows the senior instructor Tabata Sensei see what the teachers have been teaching to their students.

Our group heads up at an ungodly 6: 30 am to get there first since we are running the event (each dojo takes turns doing so). I’m not a morning person and didn’t get much sleep the night before so I don’t reach consciousness until given a large cup of tea after we arrive. My job is to organize all the t-shirts and awards given out and I get it done quickly.

The morning is taken up with the kids division. Now it would seem like fun to watch children in their cute little outfits rolling around on the mat and trying gamely to do these complicated techniques and the large contingent of parents wielding cameras confirms this. I found it almost painful to watch. “No, no, that’s not the way to do koteroshi. Don’t bend over, watch your - aggh I can’t watch any more.” I wanted to scream. Instead I fled to the other room to dither over work I finished an hour ago.

I didn’t get to play until the last division in the late afternoon and we were the last to perform. I was trying to stay awake after long hours of standing around doing mostly nothing and a heavy lunch- I knew I shouldn’t have had that second sandwich. Since I had to wear a hakama like everyone else in the division, ( all brown and black belt ranks) I refrained from tea or coke at lunch to prevent any trips to the bathroom. I have a weak bladder and nature does not call to me, it screams. Taking off a hakama with the multiple sashes tied around the waist is not a quick thing.

The competition was stiff with several top students who regularly win every year. I decide to ride the wave and have a good time. "This is my space. I own the mat" I tell myself as we stand and wait our turn. Aside from a few glitches her and there, I think we did pretty well. I get through it without forgetting anything and I'm not too winded. A good sign.

Howard, who started training when I did, but is much more advanced in rank, cleaned up in two categories. He was as calm as the sea on a windless day as he lead his younger partner around without a ripple. Smooth. He truly was the eye of a typhoon.

Needless to say my partner Steve and I did not get any prizes.I wasn’t expecting any but I got lots of compliments from the senior instructors and that was award enough. At least we placed higher than the kids from our dojo which saved us the embarrassment of having our asses kicked by teenagers.

I know everybody says the prizes aren’t important and it’s all about improving yourself, blah, blah but dam it, it is about the prizes. There’s always a touch of disappointment that I didn’t get a ribbon or medal to add to my meager collection. I mean, come on, it is a competition.

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