Well done to all those who took part last night in the Vale Karate Pop-up Competition. After the event, someone came up to me and said that though they had lost they were okay with it. That was a bit of a shock to me – because, though they had not received a prize, they hadn’t lost!

I’m not talking about some politically correct mumbo jumbo where “everyone’s a winner”. I think that is twee and life just isn’t like that. Yet to my mind, every single participant last night won. Let me explain.

We start practising karate for a number of reasons: some (most?) to learn to fight or at least to defend ourselves, some because our children or friends are doing it, some to get fitter, meet people, gain confidence, co-ordination, etc., etc. Those that continue karate long after their initial objective has been met often do so for different reasons, and that is one of the true beauties of karate: it provides the practitioner with so many benefits and if your mind is open then there is always something to learn.

Karate has many facets and one of those is competition. Some may not like that facet, believing they are not good at competition or that is not one of the reasons for their practise of the art. Some may go further and feel that competition devalues the essence of karate which is, of course, martial in nature. But it is still present, and not liking it doesn’t make it go away. I’m personally not a huge fan of competition myself, but – and this is a big but – I believe it can bring enormous benefits, and I’m not just talking about something for the wall or something to hang around your neck.

Participating in a competition puts you under a lot of pressure. You are in an essentially alien environment and have to focus on the task at hand. You cannot be put off by spectators. You need an awareness of your surroundings. You need to keep calm and not go to pieces under pressure. These are skills that are useful in many aspects of life, like working to a deadline on a project or, indeed, defending yourself from attack. Many who competed last night did so against their nature and experienced some fear about the process.

But they competed.

And in doing so I think they gained a lot. John Wayne is credited with saying Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. So congratulations to all those who saddled up last night. Most didn’t win a prize, but I think you gained something far more important and long lasting.