Instead of black belt cycle training, we had our in-school competition this weekend. I entered three events: kata, floor fighting and "last man standing." I ended up placing second in kata, but I didn't execute my technique exactly. In fact, with nerves running high, I skipped a whole section of my kata, which I realized after I had finished and bowed off the floor.
I had practiced and practiced the kata, coming early before class to get a few extra minutes in each day, but for some reason, when the time came to perform it for the judges, I lost the technique. What I kept, though, was my spirit. I put everything I had into my performance, with strong kiai and the best simulation of a fight I could muster. That spirit was my saving grace in keeping me in competition and eventually coming in second. "Spirit first, technique second" is the one of the 20 priciples of Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi, and I take it to heart in everything I do in my karate practice.