Best Things Come When You Least Expect Them But Are Most Prepared for Them— Aoba Cup 2016
-“You mean the tournament is held in Kobe?”
-“Yes, and it’s coming up in less than a week.”
-“I guess we don’t have much time to figure out how to get there then.”
Hi there. This is Jing Huang, a Chinese exchange student from the University of Chicago. My Aoba Cup experience didn’t exactly have a pleasant start, as you can see from the conversation above between my teammate and me, but everything worked out pretty well.
In order not to get you confused, I’ll try to organize my thoughts in a logical manner. Thanks to KDS, now I realize how important it is to present my ideas in a way that could be easily followed by other people, both on a daily basis and a formal setting.
I want to share with you here:
- My overall reflection on the tournament
- The feedback I received that I thought would be useful for other debaters
- The result of the tournament
- Some thoughts about debate itself
Before I start, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone in KDS. Here is a picture we took at sannomiya station.
Special shout out to every one in the picture and Muraoka senpai (not in the picture) who left early
The tournament was very exciting. Even though we took the night bus and arrived just when the registration process was about to close down, we were able muster up our strength and fight until the last round.
Here is the list of the motions we had, if anyone is interested in trying out the motion:
First round: THW ban cosmetic surgery.
Second round: THW disallow idol production companies to prohibit their idols from getting into romantic relationships.
Third round: THW prohibit children from engaging in professional sports.
Fourth round: THW make voting mandatory.
It is not hard to find arguments for any motion from either side. I think essentially all four motions come down to the question of how much power the government has, who are the people we want to protect, and how effectively our policy could be.
The second round was particularly amusing because the wording of the motion is somewhat confusing. I heard from Asano senpai that the teams he was adjudicating both took on the opposite stance. In the end, he had to vote for the side that had the worse argument because each side was arguing for its opponent.
One thing I found extremely important for debate tournaments is physical stamina. Even though my teammate Airi and I were excited for our first official debate tournament, we were exhausted by the last round and our brainpower had drained out. So for those aspirational debaters, maybe now it’s a good time for you to hit the gym and get fit 😉
2. Useful Feedback
There were three problems that were repeatedly brought up to us during the tournament. I think these three problems are pretty common in any debate so I thought it might be useful for some of you.
a. Dig deeper into your arguments
Don’t get stuck on the superficial layer of your argument and merely throw out rational sounding sentences. Dig deeper to the cause and explain why your argument matters.
Let’s take the fourth motion as an example. In this case, an argument that could easily come up from the government side is that some people’s voice might not get heard. Then the debater could go off to talk about how making voting mandatory can make it fair for everyone. However, the debater never explains explicitly why it is bad not some people’s opinions are not voiced. He/she is simply making the assumption that it is universally agreed that it is bad if someone’s opinion is not taken into consideration, which is not always true. Therefore, it is important for us to stop making assumptions and ask “why” about our own arguments: why does it matter?
b. Don’t just stick with your points. Demonstrate why your decision is better than the alternative.
It is easy for us to say why A is good and why we should choose A. But everything becomes irrelevant if we never speak about why A is better than B when the question is: should we choose A or B.
Let’s take the first motion here. It is easy for each side to get into the cycle of proving either the harms of cosmetic surgery or the needs for cosmetic surgery. Yes, there is both harm and needs for cosmetic surgery, but the problem here is not to prove that the harm and needs do exist. The problem is whether the harm overweighs the needs or the other way around.
c. Make your point. Then give your example.
It seems natural for us to speak in a sequential manner: a step leads to another and eventually reaches the conclusion. However, while this technique might work well when you try to create suspense, it is not the best strategy in debate. It makes it hard for the judge to follow your argument if you do not first state what you are arguing about.
For example, for the third motion, we can have a long list of young athletes who were victimized by engaging in professional sports and then put out the statement that “young children engaging in professional sports could be harmful to their future development.” Although it seems logical to construct the base before reaching any conclusion, debate is more about persuasion not validation. It is more important for us to let the judge know what we are talking about rather than let him/her guess what our point is. The effectiveness of written and verbal presentation is reached through different paths.
3. Tournament Result
4th KDS A (Jing Huang, Airi Tanabe) 3wins 774.5 points
6th KDS B (Moe Kanemitsu, Yuki Muraoka) 3 wins 767.5 points
2nd Jing Huang
7th Moe Kanemitsu
4. Thoughts about Debate
I really appreciate the opportunity KDS gave me to learn more about debate. I have never thought much about the difference between a casual talk and a formal presentation until now. Through debate practices, even my daily conversation with friends has become more concise. Now I start to see “talking ” more as an art. Word choice and order could lead to totally different results.
I was very surprised that I was able to receive the 2nd best speaker award, as I thought my arguments were not presented as clearly as I wanted them to be. But I guess debate is as much about your on-the-spot performance as about the speaking and thinking habits you have developed over time. On-the-spot performance is about mentality, and behind-the-scenes practice is about preparation. The best state one can have when walking into a debate tournament is: done one’s level best and let nature take its course. Best things come when you least expect them but are most prepared for them.