My seven year old daughter has guts.

Sunday, I watched her compete in the Northern California Karate Tournament. Her effort and dedication made me realize how brave she truly is.

Because she is now seven, she was put into the older age bracket, where she was the youngest in her group.

She competed in sparring and weapons with kids two and three belts ahead of her. A new challenge.

In her sparring group, the girls ranged from seven to nine. They all exhibited strength, confidence, speed, and strategic thinking.  Ava didn’t place, but one of her fellow dojo classmates won first place in a really exciting final. Who knew eight and nine-year old girls could fight this hard?

In weapons, she was the only girl out of the group of fifteen kids. It was her first time competing with her sword.

She practiced her sword routine for weeks and put in extra practice in the days coming up to the tournament. She even practiced in the hotel lobby.

She worked so incredibly hard. She completed her routine again and again. She felt ready.

It was a well prepared group of kids. The range of weapons was impressive. They ranged from sword to sticks to nunchaku (chain sticks) to  sai (baton with two prongs), to even a double kai (sickle). Nothing much there you could get through security at the airport and all of the weapons were safely tucked in the hands of small children aged nine and younger.

Ava was called first to perform. I think it takes guts to walk up in front of a judge and perform all by yourself, at any age. Never mind that Ava is only seven years old.

She was confident in her speech as she asked the judges permission to perform. She moved through her routine effortlessly. I was so proud of her beautiful and elegant sword routine.

When she returned to the side of the ring, she smiled and was really happy with her overall performance.

Her teacher watched her perform and he too was thrilled. After she was done, he told Ava, “Win or lose, it’s the best performance you have ever done.” He gave her a hug.

A teenage student from her dojo came and found her. She hugged her as well, and told her how well she did. Ava beamed.

But when the results were called, she didn’t place. She was heartbroken because it’s hard to lose.

We spent some time with the judge after to see where she could improve. He gave her really good advice on her overall performance. She was close to placing, but missed one small move in her routine. Also, she needed some additional work in holding her sword flush to her back. Things she’ll practice and fix for next time in the ring.

No, she didn’t win, but she gained the confidence to keep moving forward. There will always another competition. For Ava, this experience ignited a fire inside her. She’ll practice more. Fight harder. She’ll compete at a higher level.

All I can say is….watch out for my girl, she’s got guts.

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