Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Pros and Cons of Competing


What's the first thing you see when you walk into almost any martial arts school? Trophies, of course. And usually lots of them. Is your dojo adorned with trophies? Do you feel that this image runs counter to what the martial arts are really about?

If your answer to this is yes, allow me to pose a question to you: Have you ever competed in a martial arts event?

Very few people get involved in the martial arts with tournaments in mind. Self defense, health and well being are the goals of most trainees. But I always encourage students to enter a tournament - even if it's just one - to see what it's like. Whether you place or not isn't really the issue. "You're already a winner just for showing up" an instructor of mine once said. It takes guts to bow into that tournament ring, believe me. Getting ready for this event will mean you'll have to kick your training up a notch or two. Preparing for a tournament is a great excuse to bring your skills and precision up to unprecedented levels.

Even if fighting isn't your game you could enter a kata (forms) division. Some of the most breathtaking and inspiring renditions of kata that I've seen have been on a tournament deck.

Right about now I can see the purists rolling their eyes. "The martial arts are not about sports!" they're yelling. I have to admit, I'm hard pressed to disagree with that statement. Sports are founded on rules. If there's one underlying rule to the martial arts, it's - there are no rules. So not only are martial contests not "real" martial arts, but in a certain respect the opposite of them because of the rules/no-rules dichotomy. To state the obvious, winning a point-match has absolutely nothing to do with how you'll prevail in a real altercation.

In spite of this schism I'm in favor of the sportive side of the martial arts. Every time you go out to compete you improve automatically. Not only through self-examination, but by checking out the other players. You're bound to see some new or different techniques that you may want to try out yourself.

Competing is a little scary because you're doing something the ego hates so much: facing the unknown. This is in contrast to the camp that insists that sportive martial arts is an ego-driven endeavor. For many it is, and winning can take its toll. Win or lose, you'll still be getting experience that really can't be acquired in the comfort of your school. In the end, you have only yourself to compete against.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Charles James said...

Hi, John

Really great post!

I am not sure if I qualify as a purist yet I know if I were I would not roll my eyes...well maybe at first.

You hit on some very important points all true practitioners should consider when it comes to tournaments and that is the stress it brings just getting out there to perform regardless of your reason for practicing karate.

Anything that will create excessive stress when performing kata, kumite or what ever is beneficial to training for combat.

I am not a fan of formal testing either except for the same reasons.

Get out there with neither a win or lose mentality but one of training for combat...Uhrahhhhhh....ops the Marine in me came out :-)

Great post...

1:00 PM  
Blogger MARKS said...

I must admit that doing some competition or full contact fighting will help train yourself to face and conquer fears. The only problem I have with them is that to much winning can sometimes give a student a bit of an "ego" and they may think they can then protect themselves on the street. Street fighting is different to competition of any kind, even MMA style fights.

6:04 AM  
Blogger [Mat] said...

I've come full-circle about tourneys.

They're only good with a proper mindset. :)

10:23 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Competitions are, for me, a great way to identify things I'm truly beginning to understand and things I need to work on. Nothing like trying a technique that works great in class only to be easily countered multiple times against an opponent.

They are also, as has been mentioned, good ways to learn how to cope with stress, anxiety and the insecurities stemming from truly not knowing what is about to happen. I was really stressed out, that's for sure! :)

And they're really, really fun, which is for me the bottom line. Most people in my experience, do it for fun, and THEN for those other reasons. I train and compete because it's a fun way to get and stay in shape.

And people quit because for whatever reason it's no longer fun. The health, well being and self defense parts don't change. For some reason, the fun part does.

My school doesn't have any trophies on display, but I'm not sure if that's common or not. While I'd say most if not all BJJ schools are involved in competition, I would guess that some BJJ schools display trophies and some don't.

2:05 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Thanks Charles.

Anything that will create excessive stress when performing kata, kumite or what ever is beneficial to training for combat.

So many books have been written on anti-stress, but a little is actually beneficial. Any kind of growth requires some discomfort.
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Marks:

Street fighting is different to competition of any kind, even MMA style fights.

Right. Literally anything can happen in the street, and it all goes down so fast.
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Mat:

They're only good with a proper mindset. :)

I agree.
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Steve:

...they're really, really fun, which is for me the bottom line. Most people in my experience, do it for fun, and THEN for those other reasons.

The competing experience is great, and yes it can even be fun, but it's a long day. I'm sure you already know that. I don't know how it is in BJJ, but in karate tournaments the higher ranks go last. And if you're a black belt and someone sees you walking around, you'll be asked to judge, keep score or time or whatever. If that's your thing, it's okay. If not it can be a drag.

2:02 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

[i]I don't know how it is in BJJ, but in karate tournaments the higher ranks go last. And if you're a black belt and someone sees you walking around, you'll be asked to judge, keep score or time or whatever. If that's your thing, it's okay. If not it can be a drag.[/i]

You are probably right all around. At my last tournament, there were 4 mats, with 4 judges, and the score keepers were all volunteers from the high school wrestling team. And the upper belts went first.

In local tournaments, it's not common to see black belts compete, and almost as rare to see brown belts compete. More and more purple belts, however, and as the local "scene" grows, the tournaments are getting bigger and more competitive at all levels.

11:04 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Steve:

...the upper belts went first.

That's the way it should be! If I ever promote a tournament, the black belts go first.

In local tournaments, it's not common to see black belts compete, and almost as rare to see brown belts compete.

That's too bad, but give it time. One of the good things about going to these things is hanging around till the end to see the advanced players go at it and take notes.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

That's too bad, but give it time. One of the good things about going to these things is hanging around till the end to see the advanced players go at it and take notes.

Bear in mind that purple belt in BJJ equates roughly to 1st or 2nd degree black belt in many other arts. It takes between 3 and 6 years to earn a purple belt. So, in BJJ, that IS advanced.

12:36 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Everything's relative. I was talking within the context of your style, not "other arts".

3:08 PM  
Blogger [Mat] said...

ha, the good old debate. I nearly missed it.

bjj vs other arts



It's true around here too. black belts go last. It's extremely long. The day starts at 8 and goes until... 10pm.

un-bearable. In another style (kempo) the competition was nka and wkf approved and black belts had a whole day to themselves. That made a very interesting spectacle. Aside from all those "extreme" things. :D

nice new site. No more blogspot? How did that happen

8:58 PM  

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