You Give Karate a Bad Name

Disrespect is ugly. Especially when it comes from a black belt and parent, and is directed toward a nine-year-old child.

A few weeks ago, we took our students to a karate tournament. While our school’s focus is on self-defense, not competition, we do offer our students two opportunities a year to participate in a no contact/light contact tournament. Every time we go to one, I am reminded again why I dislike them.

It was the nine-year old brown belt group’s final match in point kumite, (or “tag” as I sometimes call it since the first person to pass the other’s guard and make contact receives a point). A boy from our school and a girl from another competed in this final round, which would determine first place. Both competitors fought aggressively. Then the girl popped our student in the face. Twice. Hey, karate is a contact sport. It’s a fight. These things happen. Increased adrenalin paired with excitement or frustration often leads to lack of control. The girl was disqualified as per the rules.

Now, as anyone who has been popped in the nose knows, the body’s natural response is to tear up. When the boy wiped his eyes, a black belt man (the girl’s dad?) enthusiastically jumped in front of a black belt woman with a camera (the girl’s mom?) and exclaims, “He’s crying. Get a picture!”

Excuuuse me!

A grown man of advanced rank was excited about the tears of a nine-year-old to want a memento of it?

I was pissed. I didn’t care what rank this guy held, I let him know what he said was disrespectful. They ignored me and slinked away (I’d like to think it was because they were embarrassed, but more likely they went to show the girl the picture). Another sensei (teacher) with a red and black stripe belt (meaning 7th degree or higher) from the same school had been standing between the mom and me, and asked what happened. I don’t know how he missed it, he was standing right next to them when the guy said it…loudly, I might add. After I told him what happened, he started his spiel about how they have tough girls in their dojo and that they don’t treat their girls differently from the boys. Um, hello! I don’t give a flying front kick how tough the girls are in your school. You’re totally missing the point. This isn’t about the girl. At all. This is about your adult black belt parents disrespecting a competitor, disrespecting the competitor’s teachers and parents standing nearby, and demonstrating poor sportsmanship.

Seriously, is that really what you want your students to learn? “Hey kids…it doesn’t matter if your techniques lack control or you get disqualified; we’re going to celebrate the fact that you made a boy cry. And here’s the framed photo to prove how tough you are!”

I wonder if they’d feel the same way if the boy popped the girl in the face and his parents said, “Quick take a picture. She’s crying.”

~ K.M. Fawcett

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13 responses to “You Give Karate a Bad Name

  1. Wow. I’d like to say unbelievable, but in the last few years I’ve seen too much of that kind of thing in kids sports. Especially disappointing in martial arts though where respect is supposed to be foundational.

    And people wonder why kids are disrespectful these days? They learn by example.

    • I know. It made me think of the Karate Kid and the disrespectful sensei, John Kreese. Where was this guy from, the Cobra Kai?

      The sad thing was that wasn’t the only incident of a disrespectful sensei at the tournament. There was another one, but the post was already long enough. Might have to save it for a future post.

  2. Doesn’t just happen in karate. I’ve seen it across all sports my kids have been involved in unfortunately. Some parents get so caught up in the competition and their own kid that they lose sight of the fact that they are kids and their primary concern should be for what they are learning, not whether they are winning.

  3. I see this all the time and it makes me sick. Parents have no sense of perspective anymore.

    • I find it disheartening that none of these people thought to apologize. We all get caught up in the moment, but when you’re called on it, own up to it and apologize people!

  4. Well said, KM!

  5. I’m glad you said something!!
    I can feel my blood pressure go up at the ignorance of some people. Won’t that daughter be a little peach when she’s an adult — being raised by such shining examples and all……….

  6. This is so common in every sport—and I bet if you went to a spelling bee or science contest, you’d see it there, too. Though I’d like to blame it on a general decline in civility, I do remember my Little League-coach dad sternly reminding an overexcited dad (who had driven his son to tears) that Little League was about *fun.* And that was 40 years ago! (And no, my dad wasn’t coaching MY team–they didn’t let girls in Little League back then!).

  7. This is one of the my biggest pet peaves! Parents who won’t do what it takes to be good, decent examples for their children. What happened to kindness and compassion? Why aren’t parents teaching more of that? We could stop bullying in its tracks if parents showed their children how to behave in a loving way. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be competition. I’m saying there is no place for down right meanness and plain old ignorance!

  8. I have seen this far to often and it’s been one of the reasons I’ve gone out of my way to find instructors to train with who instill that sense of respect in their students and parents. It’s jut horrible the lengths at which so many go to in which to ‘prove’ their black belt has meaning…..when it only has the meaning of your actions and continued training.

  9. Kim, wow, fantastic post. Makes me angry on so many levels, I can’t stand it, and reminds me how crucial grace and good sportmanship is No. Matter. What. Happens. Thanks for sharing it!

  10. Kathy, I meant, of course! (I’d just tweeted about a person named Kim, and I am on the sleepy side.) My apologies!

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