In my previous post I talked about what tournaments are used for and some of the reasons why the AKATO Invitational is a bit different; today I want to focus on why I believe tournaments have a place in karate training.
I see tournaments in the same light as I see special training opportunities like the sparring we did at North Texas Karate in Bridgeport last month; simply put as just another method for the student to test themselves.
|Girls sparring competition at a previous AKATO tournament|
At the sparring session (mention above) our students were able to spar with students of different ranks, shapes and sizes from different schools much like at the tournament, but at the tournament there is the added stress of win and advance or lose and go home. In tournament competition the student is facing another student that is close to their skill/rank level their peers, instead of facing opponents of different ranks and ages at the sparring training. So it is a more accurate way to judge the student’s skill level.
The students will be doing point sparring, in a ring with three judges, with a two minute time limit. When a point is scored it takes two of the three judges to award the point, if only one saw the point, then no points are awarded. Since the judges call points the match is one of start stop, start again stop while points are being called. The competitor must also be quick, accurate, and they need to pick their shots. All of this adds stress to the situation for the student which is another way of testing them.
In kata competition a different type of challenge takes place. There the student has to announce themselves before the judges and then do their kata all by themselves in front of everyone who is around the ring. This takes nerves and concentration. Like floor exercises in gymnastics competition, every little thing counts such as; focus, looking before turning, balance, proper form, remembering the whole kata and physical skill in execution of technique. So the student is challenged by having to perform their kata to the best of their abilities and afterwards be judged in front of their peers as to how they measured up.
Students in this competition will all be doing similar kata and the students will be held to only performing their kata they are working on for their next belt or below, also instructors aren’t allowed to modify the kata such as adding in a jump turn kick at the end of Chungi to give their student a technical edge over his competition.
I don’t stress for the students to win, I applaud them for showing up and doing their best. A sparring match can be won on actual hits and lost because the judges weren’t in position to see them. A student who doesn’t have the same physical skills that another student has in kata doesn’t mean the first student didn’t put forth the same effort, in fact many times they put forth more effort. In both events the students stands on their own win or lose. In contrast to team sports where the player has to go because they are part of the team, if the team wins they still get a trophy even though they might have bungled a play or two. In a martial arts tournament the student makes a choice whether they will attend and it could be if they make a mistake on their kata or a point is scored on them then they will go home without a trophy. So to me it is more important that they stepped up and challenged themselves, then if they got a medal or a trophy. Since we as a school generally only go to one tournament a year this is the student’s opportunity to challenge themselves.