San Chin. Three conflicts fought out at Tournament #3.

Today I competed in my third Karate Championship in under 3 years. Not everyone decides to compete in tournaments. Tournaments are something relatively new in the history of karate. It’s  essentially karate turned into a competitive sport, rather than karate as an art, a way of life,  and a life journey of personal development (which is what it is to me). I guess that might turn some people off; I completely get that.

Having said that, I do choose to enter tournaments, or at least I choose not to choose to not enter them. However, I enter them with the approach that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in terms of that personal development journey. To be honest if you ask me tomorrow about if / where I placed in my 4 events, I may well not be able to tell you. That is because I don’t really mind if I win or don’t even place. What I do care about, is the personal growth that occurs in the lead up to it. What I do care about, are the lessons I learn by taking part, and by watching others take part. I have learned different things each time I have competed.

As I have said, a tournament or championship, is a competition. There is no escaping that. However, you can choose to view it as an external and interpersonal competition (or sport)  and / or as more of an internal / intrapersonal one (like I do)…..either way it is to do with overcoming conflict. The reason I have called this post “San Chin” is because I would like to discuss the internal and external conflicts one faces when entering such competitions.

San Chin is a fundamental concept (and Kata) in many styles including my first style and my current style. Literally San Chin is “three conflicts”. There are varying thoughts on what these conflicts are. To me they are the conflicts of SHIN, the mind ( including spirit / heart), GI, the art (technique / skill), and TAI, the body (the physical side).

My internal conflicts of SHIN have related essentially to a lack of self confidence and self belief. Karate is a pretty big step outside my comfort zone but it’s one that I have been prepared to take because I know it’s good for me. There have also been internal conflicts relating to knowledge and understanding of various concepts. This will be ongoing, as there is too much to learn in a lifetime, but. with the help of my teacher, some research and more practical experience under my ever colour changing belt, some things are becoming clearer.

My internal conflicts of GI have related to my directional dyslexia, overdeveloped right hand dominance and lack of coordination. Again with patience this has improved but there is still a long road to travel.

My internal conflicts of TAI have related to various injuries and bio mechanical oddities that I can’t do much about and the simple fact that I don’t heal as well as most of my classmates who are a third to a half my age. This is a cause of some anxiety for me at times, but also for my husband, who continues to urge me to retire from kumite competition.

I learned lessons today and in the lead up and preparation for today, that fit loosely into all these categories.

Lessons of SHIN:

  • that when people believe in you convincingly you start to believe in yourself and become who you really can be.
  • that trust of teachers and fellow students is vital in order to make progress.
  • that daemons can be conquered once their significance is re-framed and diminished.
  • that pride in others’ achievements is vastly more important than pride in one’s own (especially for the others!).
  • and, on a more personal level, that my little girl has more courage and sportsmanship at the tender age of five than some people will ever develop, and the confidence to compete and socialise with other karate kids, after barely 3 months of training, to boot. Also, even though my son could not compete this year due to a recently broken arm, he waited up for us and congratulated us both (and said how proud he was), when we got home. (Proud Mummy moment)

lessons of GI:

  • that experience, skill, and practice, does not always win over rough and ready.
  • that practice may not make perfect, but it will get you closer than you thought it would.
  • that it isn’t about winning or losing but about how you play the game.

lessons of TAI:

  • that younger, or fitter, or stronger, or faster, or bigger, doesn’t always trump better.
  • that even when you think you are beat, you can still compete!
  • that winning and wearing more than one medal at a time really kills any aspirations you had of being a ninja! 🙂


So as the “rising sun” sets on our 3rd Traditional Japanese Karate Network Championship. I bid you goodnight. After about 20 hours of running mostly on adrenaline and endorphins, it’s time this karate-ka called it a day!



And the winner is…….. the one who get’s to eat all the home made chocolate hazelnut ice cream at the end of a very long day! (No sharing with Ms 5 who crashed in the car and requested to be put to bed when we got home!)