The closest I have to a picture from those days,
However in those days I sported a Fu Manchu mustache.
Thinking about older tournaments makes me remember my first one.
I was a White Belt, and had been training maybe 4 months. I had my first kumite belt my 2nd night, getting my ass kicked by a young woman green belt 10 years younger than me. Strikes to my body which strung, her foot ending up in my mouth repeatedly. Literally as ass kicking.
But even though I was one of the most unskilled beginners that ever existed, I would not stop.
So I endured it, and unlike most beginners at that time, kept training.
Lewis Sensei had a team of extremely talented green belts at that time, they were fighting terrors. In class they worked me over repeatedly. And they worked a very wide range of techniques, including grounding movements.
I had started learning Side kicks and Front kicks off the floor my first night. But they regularly practiced using them in kumite, going to the ground as a strategy and then kicking from below.
So as untalented as I was, I was going to my first tournament. I was in Baltimore, a long ride away. The tournament was large, and the rules were decided on the day, as was often the case. The tournament director announced that as the kung fu competitors had been complaining that the groin techniques they regularily studied were not allowed, the rules were unfair. So he was going to allow controlled strikes to the groin that day.
What I noticed was none of the Kung Fu people used their groin striking skills during the tournament. On the other hand Sensei’s green belts all used the groin techniques. With great skill when pressed, they would drop to the floor and their kicks off the ground finding their way to their opponents groins.
I competed in White Belt kata. Didn’t do anything terribly wrong, nor terribly right either.
Then the White Belt sparring division was called.
As I was larger than most of the competitors I drew another larger guy. Turns out he was a student of Reese Rigby, one of my seniors. But I did not know that then.
When called I lined up to fight.
The fight began, I know I was not terribly effective. But we went back and forth for a while.
Then he unleashed a front kick, one which struck me squarely in the groin. I had been wearing groin protection, but it did not seem to help, a shooting pain was experienced. My eyes tear’d from the pain.
And to make matters worse he was awarded the point and the fight.
For the day I certainly was not terribly effective.
I remember the car ride home with Sensei and all the other guy’s. Feeling very low, knowing how much I did not know.
Then returning next class to continue studying, and taking beatings from those greenbelts.
Quite a few years later I was visiting and training with Reese Rigby, after I had become a black belt.
I remember Reese telling me, “ Victor, I remember when you started, you were someone that I questioned why the Hell you would even try to learn karate. Well, you did, and I am proud for you.”
There is a moral to this story. It does not matter where you start, if you keep trying you can and will improve. Even learn a thing or two. I always keep that in mind with every student. I am sure I was more unskilled than any of them would be, and I believe they can learn and grow. I did.