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Hinkaku (Attitude of a Champion)
By Prince Loeffler

Having been in Karate for so long it never escapes me to come across that one person who can’t accept losing in a tournament. They drone about it constantly, protest the score, or blame the loss on referees, or anything other than themselves. They just can’t deal with the fact that they didn’t win.

Only few karate-ka have a fundamental comprehension of the concept of losing gracefully. Losing is a small but equally important component of Karate training. Looking at football, soccer, or any other sport in the west, how many post interviews do you see on TV where “losers” point the blame everywhere else but themselves?

In Budo this kind of attitude is a shameful quality for those who profess to follow the way of Karate and Bugei. Furthermore, this behavior and conduct is considered very unbecoming for a karate-ka.

When a kyudoka misses his target in Japanese Koryu, he does not blame his arrow and bow, or his sensei for faults, rather he looks within himself and discovers his own weakness for missing the target. He seeks to practice twice as hard and polishes his technique with sincere effort. Losing becomes a way to remind this kyudoka that more practice is needed.

Negative talk is very common amongst competitors who lose at tournaments. “I doubt I could ever be that good!” or “I hate tournaments because the judges suck!” With this disparaging attitude a karate-ka has already been defeated in the war before the battle has even begun. Once he plants a seed of negative attitude recovery is near impossible. Personally, I would not want a student or sensei with this type of cowardly attitude.

Referees and judges are often the frontline of the competitors discontentment when it comes to losing the Karate shiai. Excuse after excuse surfaces when one loses at the competition. I hear many comments such as “that green belt had a horrible kata but the judges gave him a higher score than my flawless kata!” or “that referee gave points to the yellow belt who can’t seem to fight his way out of a wet paper bag!” Not all judges and referee’s are perfect, but most important of all is that competitors should remember that they are not perfect themselves.

One of the most elusive lessons of shiai in tournament is the ability for practitioners of karate-do to handle seemingly unfair evaluations. Life is full of harsh criticism no matter where you go and what you do, but you can always improve.

The bottom line is that losing with dignity is as significant as winning with grace. While most of us think losers tend to fade into obscurity, the reality is karate-ka who lose with dignity are remembered in a more respectable and dignified manner than those who lose in a petty and vengeful fashion.

About the Author: Prince Loeffler is the Shugyokan Shorin Ryu Dojo head instructor. He is a Yudansha under Takashi “Art” Ishii of the Sho Tokyo Matsubayashi Ryu Dojo. He can be contacted at: Shugyokan Shorin Ryu Dojo, 310-590-7249, www.alljapankarate.com