July 2015
I Belong Here

Tom Hogue  July 2015

So this is kind of personal, but I’m gonna share my thoughts and my moments of great inflection during some of the most important times in my life. Those times are in the thick of a competition, when I’m about to perform either a weapons or open hand kata in a karate tournament.

 

Picture the scene: the day starts at 8 or 9 AM in a gymnasium filled with karateka competitors from varying martial arts styles such as Isshinryu, tae-kwon-do, Shorin-ryu, and so on.

 

The students perform what’s called a kata, or form. Which means, a series of attacks and blocks symbolizing defense against a number of imaginary opponents. These memorized series of moves demonstrate power, technique, and focus. Each style is different, and yet some elements are the same. Even within some styles there are different flavors of the same katas.

 

A panels of 5 judges sit there, I am usually one of the center judges as a senior rank, judging students throughout the day. After many hours, usually between 2 and 5 PM, the que ranks, those wearing white belt through brown belt, are finally finished their competition.  And then the fun really begins. The black belt division with varying ages and weight classes begin their competition.

 

The previous judges from multiple rings assemble in the center ring and now become competitors. A few select non-competing senior black belts remain to judge their peers. We begin to perform open hand, weapon katas, and fighting.

 

At this time I step into a private hallway, or outside where I can be alone. I practice my kata in deep focus two or three times to polish it and get in the right mindset. When finally I hear my name called, I approach the judges to announce my name, school, instructor, and kata. It has begun.
I step back the memorized exact spacing from the judges, to ensure that as I perform my kata, I will not throw an attack too close to a scoring judge or audience member.  I bow to the panel of judges respectfully and pronounce the name of my kata once again. It is at this point, before I begin my kata, that I close my eyes, breathe deeply twice, and ignore the clamoring crowd around me. All eyes are on me. I am the only black belt competing at this time. My competitors stand nervously behind me, hoping that I’ll make a mistake – which I won’t.

 

At this time I find my inner calm, the special place where I am the only person here and no one else matters. And before I open my eyes, and step into my first move, I mentally say to myself “I belong here”.  It’s my way of validating to myself that despite those who wish I would fail, or not be here at all, that I deserve to be. I’ve trained every bit as much as them (probably more), sweat, bled, and committed years of hard work.

 

“I belong here!”

 

From this statement I gain confidence over my surroundings, competitors, and even those judging me.  And I soar.  Punches, blocks, and kicks flying with certainty. Appropriately timed pauses and khais (shouts of power).  Until I’m finally finished and bow to the judges awaiting their scores.

In 9 times out of 10, I’m awarded with scores that earn me the 1st place trophy, and enter me into the grand champion competition, which I’ve also been fortunate to win a number of times.

 

But none of this happens without the quiet certainty and reassurance I give myself that no matter what life throws at me or who may be jealous and think I should not be competing, that I believe I belong there. I believe that with a certainty and my performance reflects that until others also believe the same.

 

So there you have it. A good example that may help you when you feel a little seed of doubt creep up inside you for whatever reason. If you reinforce to yourself that you belong there, you can directly affect your likelihood to succeed.