Learning Through Cooperation or Competition


Most of us are familiar with competition. Throughout our lives, at school, at work, or in sports, we have competed. For many people, the way that they perceive "getting ahead" in life is through successfully competing with their peers. One of the problems with competition; however, is that when you beat someone at something, they usually experience being beaten. That is, if you win, they lose. It is often the case that the experience of losing in competition is much more frequent than the experience of winning. This losing experience can be very unpleasant leading a person to become depressed or to completely withdraw from the activity in question.

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(Sensei Altwal trains with Shany with the Bo staff. Partner training with sticks can be very safe, provided that students realize the importance of cooperation.)
Here at the Karate Center, we encourage students to learn cooperatively. In Basics class, when a fellow student is awarded a stripe, we can be happy for their accomplishment. It is not necessary to compare ourselves competitively with our classmates. During partner practice, work with your partners to achieve the purpose of the practice and the best results for your training. Stay on task so that you can both benefit as much as possible. It is never appropriate to compete against your partners or to try to gratify your ego at their expense.

In Kata, always strive to be the best that you can be. Admire the form of those who are better than you are, and model your practice after theirs so that you can improve. At the same time, be of assistance to those whom you are able to help.

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(Power Kicking in Karate Camp for Parker!)
Sparring is one of the most difficult areas to address cooperatively; yet, it is the best way to spar. Sparring cooperatively means staying, all of the time, within the meaning and intent of the sparring rules. It means never striking with excessive contact which might injure or intimidate a training partner. Cooperative sparring is about being able to work within the limitations of a smaller, weaker, or less-experienced partner, for optimum mutual benefit. It also means having respect for the reserve and control exercised by a bigger, stronger, or more-experienced training partner. Sparring in this way allows your partners to give you their best match. It allows you to work to deal with their most proficient techniques. It also allows them to test you with techniques they would consider too risky to try if you were going to nail them hard.

Even the best students can be appropriately challenged by less skillful partners provided that this etiquette is observed.
By training cooperatively, rather than competitively, everyone can leave the Dojo after class feeling like a winner. It is in this way that students can develop intrinsic motivation to train, rather than being dependent on external motivators like stripes and belts for rewards.
Shihan Robert H. Mason ©2018