Working the Crowd
The more you can get the crowd behind you the more likely the officials will call the points when they see them. This happens for two reasons. One, with the crowd cheering your every move the officials can't help but watch your movements closely. Sometimes this happens and they are watching you so closely they miss a technique that your opponent may have delivered. Two, the energy of the audience subconsciously compels the official to be more biased to call points for you when they are demonstrated. Crowds love action in a karate tournament. Techniques they especially love are sweep take downs followed up by a punch. If you are able to do this technique or other action techniques do them and the crowd will love it and focus in on you. They also love demonstrations of speed and strength both physically and spiritually as well as good sportsmanship. Strong technique and spirit will get the crowd behind you. Demonstration of poor sportsmanship will immediately get them as well as the officials as well. Demonstrate good sportsmanship at all times. Do not argue calls with the officials, do not try to kill your opponent if accidental contact is made. Be in control and do only what you were trained to do. Respect the crowd, your opponent, and the officials, and they will in turn respect you as well.
Eliminate the Flash, It Makes You Vulnerable
If you are not getting the points, eliminate the complex techniques and get back to basics. The flashy moves may look good but they have a tendency to open up your defense. In addition, some traditional officials do not see the value in the flashy movements and will not award point for them thinking that the movement is useless. Spinning back kicks and back fists may look great but they open up your backside to attack and their use is unadvisable in a close match. A good karateka will stick to the basics especially if you are equally matched and they see you throwing fancy techniques at them. They need only be patient for you to open yourself up to them while doing a fancy move. When in doubt or when the match is close, keep it simple.
Learn to Sidestep an Attack
Often times attacks and defense moves in a straight line forward and backwards. The problem is that no matter what, your attacker will always be able to attack faster forward than you can move out of the way going backwards. Combined with an onslaught of multiple attacks, it is only a matter of time before you are scored against. One way to help avert this situation is learning to sidestep a charging opponent. I refer to this as "cutting the angle". When cutting the angle you move either the front or the rear leg to the side at a 45 degree angle to the opponent. Some schools refer to this at the reverse triangle footwork. Visualize two triangles on the floor with the tip of one triangle touching the tip of the other. It forms four 45 degree angles that flare out in an "X" pattern. Utilize any of the four 45 degree angles as a path for your evasion to a technique delivered in your direction. Which way you go depends on which leg of yours is to the rear and what your opponent is attacking with. If you have time and see the attack early you have the option of moving forward at one of the two 45 degree angles. If you are late, you can easily move the rear leg. Moving the rear leg in the direction of the leg that is forward is the fastest. This is especially important in tournament because of the jogai (stepping out of bounds). Move out of the way and deliver a counter attack to the opponent as they pass you or give then a slight push and drive them out of the ring using their own momentum against them.
Using the Clinch to Neutralize an Attack
There are times when you are unable to move out of the way or defend yourself in time from an attack. This happens at times when you are being driven out of the ring or when the offensive pressure and momentum of your opponent is such that you are unable to execute a proper defense. One tool that you can use in this case is the clinch. When clinching your opponent you grab the opponent's body you're your arms with your bodies in a upright position. This neutralizes most of the attacks your opponent can deliver. No official will give a point for an attack delivered without at least some extension of the limb. Knee and elbow attacks are not allowed in most point karate tournaments. It is not a judo tournament so a takedown to the ground will not score any points from a clinch as well. The clinch can also buy you time in the event you become injured during the match. Repeated use of the clinch is not advisable and can get you disqualified if used repeatedly but it is a viable defense strategy given certain circumstances.
Pack a Lunch
This I consider one of the most important parts of preparing for competition. Traditionally the food served at tournaments is junk food designed only for the spectators, not for the athletes. Eating unfamiliar food can get you sick, upset your stomach and cost you the tournament. Packing food that your system tolerates well and that is not too heavy is advisable. Pack your own drinks, and food in a small ice chest and bring it with you to the tournament. I have been to several tournaments where the food was bad, where there was no food, or where they ran out of food. Like an automobile, your body needs fuel to perform. The human body is no different. Give it high- energy nutritious food that you know your body will tolerate well and you have eliminated one variable that can cause disaster. This also gives you an immediate advantage over your opponent that did not pack his or her own lunch. In my experience it seems that less than 1/4 of competitors do this and it violates one of my rules: nothing new on the day of the tournament. This goes for food, drink, technique and kata as well.