Speaking in front of a crowd has always made me anxious. I think many people can relate to this. Performing kata in front of a big group (and getting judged on it!) is similar. It takes courage, and can be very intimidating.

Samurai dojo recently held a Pinan Yondan kata competition, where all competitors received a poster with the image of an ocean wave and the words:

“The ocean, like kata, is a symbol of power, strength, life, mystery, hope, and truth”

Like the ocean wave is an expression of water, I believe kata is a way to express yourself. You can be gentle or powerful. You can be fast or slow. You can play with the timing, the rhythm, the intensity. Practicing and performing kata is one of my favourite aspects of karate. I love working on and developing my form, and then demonstrating it with power, speed, and balance. I find that kata requires clear mental focus and teaches me self-control over both my mind and body.

Preparing for a competition means practicing every day, making sure I’m fit and am eating healthily. While practicing kata, I sometimes discover weaknesses or strengths I haven’t been aware of before. By observing carefully, I start to recognise mistakes in my form, intensity, or even mindset. And then when the environment changes, like in kata competition, I really see the truth of who I am and how effective my training and preparation have been. Competitions teach you how to handle the pressure!

But encouragingly, I’ve found that as I’ve gained more experience in competing, I’ve started to overcome my anxiety and become more confident. Performing kata in competitions has also helped my self-confidence when talking to strangers and speaking in front of bigger audiences.

Trusting myself and having the confidence to walk onto the tatami, is what I strive for.

LARA HELLWEG | 3rd Kyu Brown Belt