Tournament competition offers many benefits to the karateka in the development of their skills. Though most competitions today are far from replicating actual combat they do offer many opportunities to develop skills that can prove extremely useful in combat.
One benefit is to learn the ability to relax and remain focused under pressure. The typical reaction of a novice competitor is to tense up. The adrenaline flows throughout the body, respiration increases, and a feeling of light-headedness and inability to focus concisely takes a hold of the body. In this state, the body is ready for combat, blood flows into the extremities from the body and even additional physical strength may become possible. Events that happen may even seem to move in slow motion yet the competitor finds himself/herself unable to react to the movement quickly. The problem with this state is that the link between mind and body is diminished in this state for the novice. The body becomes tense and the muscles must fight themselves to move under the pressure of the self-induced tension. This tension greatly slows down reaction time and also slows down the ability to deliver techniques reflexively. Due to the increased tension, respiration and heart rate, the novice will also tend to tire quickly as they are burning up energy and consuming oxygen even if just standing and remaining still due to the tension developed in the body.
The competitor is also able to shut out the crowd from their mind and focus only on their opponent. The pressure of a cheering crowd can induce still more tension in the body, which can cause mental lapses of concentration. By closing out the crowd, the karateka is free to focus full concentration on the opponent.
Tournament competition also allows for the karateka to fight different people with different skills, strengths, and weakness. It allows for the karateka to quickly learn how to access an opponent's physical skill and spiritual strength. Over time a trained karateka can closely access an opponent without even seeing the opponent fight just by studying the walk, strength and projection of sprit, and physical attributes such as size and weight. By making these assessments, the opponent's weaknesses also become apparent. By capitalizing on this information the karateka can utilize the best techniques which will work most effectively against the opponent's weaknesses taking the apparent strengths into consideration.
Kata competition sets an environment in which the karateka is not able to perform kata effectively unless they are able to have complete focus and control of their mind. With total control of the mind, the control of the body follows. 100% of the karateka's focus must be on the kata and nothing else during the execution of the kata. The environment and distractions must be shut out of the mind with total focus on the movements and breathing. Only when this is done can the karateka control the stress of the situation and eliminate the unwanted tension and stress that make the karateka unable to perform their kata to their maximum capability. Like in kumite if the mind is not controlled the result is nervousness, physical body tension, increase of respiration and pulse rate, abdominal discomfort (butterflies), and the inability to think clearly. The results of this are the following: physical body tension - makes the kata look stiff since the person is fighting their own muscles to perform the movement. Increase in respiration and pulse rate - causes the competitor to tire more rapidly thus taking away from the power and focus of the movements toward the end of the kata. The interference in the breathing throws the rhythm of the kata off. Increased respiration also takes away from the focus of the slow movements of the kata. Inability to think clearly - this is a result of the nervousness and the additional adrenaline in the system as well as the euphoria that can be caused by hyperventilation. This will cause the competitor to lose their place in the kata and forget the next move and also manifests itself in a delay of timing and the appearance of a loss of mental focus, which is sensed by the judges. With the control of the mind all of these symptoms can be controlled.
The best way to develop these skills is by participating in tournaments. The more one competes, the easier it becomes to attain the state of mind and level of concentration necessary to be an effective competitor. Meditation is also an effective tool to calm and take control of the mind. Breath control before the match can also be used to calm the mind and body by taking slow, deep, deliberate breaths in the minutes before the match or kata. These learned attributes then can be utilized in actual combat and assist the karateka in becoming a more effective fighter in self-defense situations as well.