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While local residents were strolling down Cavill Avenue in search of their first caramel latte, 500 or so ‘Gi Clad’ karate-ka were anxiously heading towards the Coomera Sports Centre in search of gold.

With a slight breeze in the air Queensland’s Gold Coast welcomed yet another glorious Saturday morning, but not just any Saturday morning. Today was November 2nd, the date set for the Australian and New Zealand GKR Karate National Titles.

Driving into the carpark you could mistake this as audition day for Australia Idol. A long snaking queue of kids and adults anxiously jumping around, practising last minute techniques and fending off those inevitable butterflies. As they begin to stream into our super sized ‘dojo for the day’ you get an idea of the enormity and scale of this event. 14 rings, over 500 competitors, and spectators, officials and instructors from all corners of Australia and New Zealand.

Opening Ceremony ‘Run In’.

With a nod to all great opening ceremonies, each state ‘runs in’ to the arena, cheering and chanting alongside their dojo buddies and fellow karate-ka. What a buzz. Even from the sidelines the energy and excitement are contagious. It’s just a small taste of what this day will bring.

Let the Games Begin.

After the ‘bow in’, announcements and officialities, the volume cranks up a notch. ‘Kiais’ start to filter through the air as team kata and kumite hit the rings, followed closely by the individual events. Parents anxiously pace up and down the sidelines, often more nervous than their competing children, and Senseis hand out last minute words of encouragement and advice. There are always a few tears, some in happiness, some in disappointment. Today is the day to dig in deep, to pull out your ‘A Game’ and apply everything you’ve learned. It’s your time to shine.

What Competing is All About.

Sure, there are always those who need to Uber their trophies home in a separate vehicle, and others who leave empty handed. One thing I’m sure of, no one ever leaves the ‘Nationals’ empty hearted. Medals are forgotten and trophies end up as spider havens in the garage, but the friendships and camaraderie built from this day I’m sure, will last forever. The lessons learned are life changing, and the focus, dedication and commitment to even qualify for this event is something to be proud of.

With Thanks.

What many of us don’t see is the work that goes in behind the scenes of an event like this. Hours of preparation and set up before hand, and many more on the day ensuring things run smoothly. An enormous thank you to all of the Instructors, administrators, Regional Managers, Mums, Dads, friends and family who make a day like this possible. You get the gold in my books!

Although I didn’t compete I still took away many valuable lessons, so to wrap up this ‘sidelines view’ of the 2019 Nationals here are my closing thoughts.

  1. Take nothing for granted. Red belts beat black belts, and ‘champions’ often get knocked out in the first round. Step into the ring knowing everything, but assuming nothing.
  2. Have a go. Competitions of this scale aren’t for the faint hearted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start small. Take the first step at a regional level and go from there.
  3. Your best is good enough. Even if you don’t win, be proud of what you’ve achieved. You may have overcome personal or physical challenges to even be there, so stand tall.
  4. Always smile and be gracious. Photographs and videos on the internet will last much longer than your disappointment from the day.