Sensei Aleeta took the time to write down her thoughts about tournament participation:
At FKU, we consider tournament participation an important part of the training experience.
While it is not mandatory for beginners or for very young students, tournament experience is necessary for achieving the level of black belt and is encouraged for all students.
Tournament preparation gives a special edge and purpose to the training experience. Tournament participation allows our students to compete with, and meet other students of their level from other dojos. It also helps the individual student learn to overcome fears that training in the dojo does not foster. During tournament preparation and competition, a strong bond is formed between students and teachers who share that experience. Meaningful relationships with other students from other schools develop over time. Our students can also see karate-ka participating at very high levels, inspiring them to higher levels of achievement.
Not every student in every division will be or can be a winner, (that is not really the point anyway) but most of the divisions, especially junior and beginner divisions are small and set up by the tournament directors to allow students a reasonable chance to place in competition. What is most important is that the student tries their best and continues to improve their performance. Our students are generally complimented for their strong basics; something that I am very proud of.
Students who compete are given a great deal of respect at the tournament. Judges at tournaments are in the sport because they love it and because they are dedicated to helping karate students, particularly the youngsters, along their path in the martial arts—nearly all of them are unfailingly kind.
At our school, Sensei Judy, in particular, loves tournament training and competition. She has developed a special weekly class to help prepare students for tournaments. Students are taught tournament etiquette, given extra training, experience performing and coaching on how to improve their performance.
As stated above, we encourage all students to try tournament competition. Check it out—for children, it is a great opportunity for them to stretch their wings and display and maintain the self confidence that is inborn before overthinking and critical judgment gets in the way. For adults, some just love the competition; for others, it teaches us that we can face our fears and reach into depths of ourselves that we may not have reached before and come out the better for it—that inner struggle. Tournament competition is simply part of the path that you choose when you decide to practice martial arts and it is something that I, as the Head Instructor, would encourage each student to experience as part of their training.