There is starting to be a lack of interest in martial arts tournaments especially in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Many reasons why parents do not put their children in competitions or why elder students themselves do not wish to compete may sound valid to themselves and a few others, but not to me. As an Instructor with over 15 year’s experience, as well as a past competitor and champion. I will do my best to disregard these excuses as well as show many other motives as to why you should place your child in competitions, or you yourself should compete.
The first explanation I hear a lot is that competitions cost money, and due to the fact that we are living in a hard time this may sound valid. Many competitions that HWMA likes to attend are the actual Kung Fu tournaments which are usually pretty distant from the Rio Grande Valley. Many Kung Fu tournaments take place in Houston or Dallas, some even further as far as Florida. Of course the distant tournaments will cost more money due to travelling expenses as well as lodging expenses. HWMA does attend the Karate/Tae Kwon Do style tournaments as well, which are local. This already cuts out the lodging expenses, but the travelling expenses still survive due to gas prices. A way you can cut costs for a local or distant tournament is car pulling with another family that is attending the tournament or observers who will be attending the tournament as well. Food is another expense that may arise when traveling to a competition whether it be local or distant, it is always good to prepare easy to make food such as sandwiches or tacos, and bring them with you to the tournament.
Many other expenses arise, and many can be either eliminated or cut in half, but one that a competitor may not be able to extinguish is the competition fee. One way of cutting costs for entering a tournament is to compete in only a few divisions. Some tournaments charge a lot of money per division, but some only charge as much as $5. If the student is competing at a tournament that charges much more for each additional event the student can focus on maybe just one event and try to master it. The competitor may also obtain sponsorships, donations, or fund raise. All in which HWMA will help the optimistic competitor obtain. Money for competition should not be an issue if planned strategically.
Another defense many competitors use is “I’m scared”, I am scared I will get hurt, or hurt others.” At every martial arts tournament there are divisions, these divisions are arranged according to age and experience, some tournaments even arrange by height and weight. This should alleviate some fear of fighting another opponent. In a realistic situation this advantage you get with attending a tournament does not occur. You do not get to dwindle down your attacker to age and experience. You or your child’s attacker may be in another martial art, or have a huge age difference or experience. Attending a friendly competition will release some shock to you or your child if (god forbid) you get in a bad situation. The competition will expose you or your child to other forms of martial arts and will therefore know a little more on how the attacker may fight. One may say that they are scared to get hurt or they are scared their child may get hurt. This may have been the case 35-40 years ago, but there has been an improvement in martial arts tournaments which require certain equipment that protects the competitor from injury such as a head gear, gloves, feet gear, etc.. I myself have seen injuries occur, but martial arts is a contact sport, injuries are bound to occur, they can be prevented if the competitor wears all the necessary equipment, and protects themselves at all times. There are actually more injuries in cheerleading than there are in martial arts, same with baseball, and football. There are also rules and officials that help eliminate the possibility for injury. Another way of preventing you or your child from getting hurt is not to enter the sparring division, tournaments hold a lot of other division such as forms, weapon forms, specialty division, group forms, and the list goes on. The competitor may be able to experience the joy of competition without having to fight another competitor. A competitor may fear the inescapable inevitable of LOSING. The competitor should realize that once he/she has agreed to compete, they have already won! They have done what others do not have the courage or excuses to do. Winning and losing is a part of life. Some will win and land the job interview others will lose, some will win a law suit others will lose. Competing at tournaments helps cope with this. When a competitor loses at something in the real world, the competitor will be better able to cope with this situation due to the fact that they have been exposed to it already. The competitor will also know what he/she should do to land the job next time, or know what mistakes the individual made. The competitor knows what hard is and what it takes to win and the individual knows that he or she should try harder next time and never give up.
At tournaments there are politics involved and some judges are not fair. For example if a competitors instructor is judging in their particular division and the instructor does not contain the values that he/she should have obtained when learning a martial art such as Honor and fairness, then of course the Instructor’s student will have the upper hand and that student may win due to the fact that the competitor’s instructor gave them a higher score to win the division. Also if an instructor holds and annual tournament and an instructor notices that one school always brings many competitors from one school then one judge may get on the instructor’s good aside and try to form an alliance, to bring that school to his/her competition. This is not fair to the competitor who has most likely trained very hard and lost due to politics, this sad incident does occur, but all in all that is not what the competition should be about. Same happens in real life situations, if one person is hoping to land a promotion, but another worker is wishing to get the position as well and one of them is friends with one who makes the final decision, then of course there is politics involved there as well. Hopefully none of HWMA students will be in that situation, but if they are then, they will most likely know what to do in a situation such as that.
Many excuses can been disclaimed, but let’s add fuel to the fire and discuss why it is good to join in competition. Reason #1 Fight your Fears! One of the benefits of martial arts training is the ability to stay calm in stressful or dangerous situations. So how can a tournament help you to stay calm instead of panicking? Just ask anyone who has competed. When you step into the ring your adrenaline starts to flow. Your pulse quickens, you feel butterflies in your stomach, and your legs will feel heavy. This is a result of the “fight or flight” response, and in a tournament you will literally be conditioning your body and mind on how to handle these stresses. With more competition experience, you’ll become stronger and more confident. Tournaments force you out of your comfort zone, and while that doesn’t always sound pleasant, it is necessary for true growth. Reason #2 Test Your Might! One spends hours in class and at home developing and perfecting their skills, drilling your forms, learning effective sparring strategies, working on your strength and flexibility….put that training to the test! Tournaments offer a safe and positive environment for you to showcase your abilities and learn about what you need to improve. You will get feedback from the judges, as well as other competitors, on what you did well and what you should work on. Reason #3 Experience! When you train at HWMA you many spar the same people continuously. You eventually get used to the way they spar, and can start to anticipate them. Going to tournaments allows you to compete against new people that can challenge you. Different martial artist will compete and showcase their skills. Remember that even inside of a single martial arts organization, each school will have its own unique style and personality, due to differences in the master instructors. So another benefit is that you may learn or see something you wouldn’t have seen just by attending your classes. Reason #4 Motivation! Like everything else in life, our level of motivation never stays constant. We see this the most in children who are still learning about self-discipline, one day they are extremely motivated future black belts, the next day they want to quit altogether. Competition can help keep students motivated by providing them with “mini goals” throughout their training. Once you commit to competing in a tournament, you start to train harder. And then when they do compete, they feel a tremendous amount of pride in what they have accomplished. Reason #5 Camaraderie! Tournaments offer a many bonding experiences for students. As they train together for a common goal, and then compete with and cheer for each other, they will become closer. They will also have the chance to meet with and create friendships with students from other schools. Nothing brings people together like a shared experience.
In the end, the benefits of competing in tournaments are much greater than any reason you could have not to. I have tried my best to disclaim any reasons for not competing and tried to add reasons to compete as well. It’s about more than just competing and winning trophies and medals, it’s about taking your martial arts journey to the next level. If you do have any reservations or concerns about competing, I will do my best to accommodate and educate any question or concerns you may have. I know that once you experience all that tournaments have to offer, you’ll be hooked and looking forward to the next one!