Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
- Most likely, the tournament will be held at a large gymnasium. When you enter the the gymnasium, treat it the same way as your Dojo, Dojang, Kwoon, etc. Bow at the entrance as you normally would at your school. You might see other people not doing this, but this will prepare your mind for the task at hand by an action that is very familiar
- Choose a main "meeting spot" and seating for your family and/friends first. Don't leave your family and friends high and dry while you run around nervously.
- For many tournaments, forms divisions are run off first, followed by sparring. So don't put on your sparring gear just yet!
- Get to know the dimensions of the forms competition rings. For open tournaments (that allow all styles to compete), you'll probably find that all the rings are cordoned off as large squares. The size of the rings may vary from event to event, but they are usually between 18' X18' and 20' X 20'. "Hard style" forms (Karate, etc) are usually ran in these rings.
- Be in a clean, pressed uniform. I know, you're probably thinking "Duh!", but I've seen many competitors come into the ring with dirty wrinkled uniforms. I drop points when I see that!
- If possible, research and read the rules of the tournament before the day of the event. In open tournaments, it is common that the event may use NBL (National Black Belt League), or SKIL (Sport Karate International League) rules for forms, sparring, scoring procedures, etc. Click here for NBL and SKIL rules and regulations for forms and sparring
- For Wushu tournaments, the rules are completely different. Get to know the rules beforehand! Click here for USAWKF tournament rules
- Don't try to change your form at the last minute to include fancy moves just to get an edge on your competition. That should have been done months ago with your teacher or coach, don't try it yourself on the day of the tournament. What you didn't have yesterday, definitely will NOT manifest today (unless you are a very seasoned competitor)!
- You are responsible for listening to the announcements for forms divisions. These announcements will state the division name and ring location. Some tournaments will have you go to "staging" well before your division to make sure everyone is present for your division. Staging is just check in....so don't panic yet!
Division ring presence:
- Sit quietly with your forms division. Be respectful and conduct yourself with good manners. Do not splay your legs out sloppily, and don't talk while someone is in the ring performing.
- Most tournaments will state the name of the next competitor, and the name of the person "on deck" (i.e., the next after). For example...."John Smith next performing! Kate Johnson on deck!" Upon hearing your name as "on deck", raise your hand and nod in acknowledgment.
- Upon hearing your name to perform, stand up smartly, turn around to quickly adjust your uniform if need be, and smartly approach the edge of the ring. (if its your first time, watch the others). Bow or salute, walk confidently to your starting spot.
- You may start your form after finding your starting point, or you may choose to "address the judges". This address introduces yourself, the school your represent, your teacher, and the name of your form. Address the judges confidently but without cockiness, speak loudly and clearly, and salute the judges when given permission to begin. Example:
Your Form performance:
- Upon getting to your starting spot, take a couple of deep breaths to compose your mind, then start when you're ready. Don't take forever to ready yourself.
- When performing, keep your eyes focused on your "opponents", don't let your eyes wander. Do your form just as practiced, keeping aware of good stance, good power, confident demeanor, etc.
- When your form is complete, stand quietly in attention position, and await the scores from the judges. As hard as it might be after a strenuous routine, try to control your breathing so you do not looking like you're huffing and puffing. When given your scores, the judges with call out each judge's score, then the Final Average Score. Salute the judges, walk backward to the edge of the ring, salute again, and walk smartly back to the group to sit down again. You might encounter a few competitors congratulating you on a job well done....say "thank you" quietly and sit down. (give your group members the same quiet kudos when they are done with their forms as well.)
- Make sure your weapon is free of defects. Swords must be securely peened or screwed into the handles. Staffs and spears and other long weapons must not have cracks in the shaft, spearheads securely screwed on. Always have a spare weapon on hand.
- Do not wave your weapon around carelessly before your division. Keep a controlled demeanor .
- If addressing the judges before your form, allow the judges to examine your weapon before your performance: "Judges, do you wish to inspect my weapon?"
Oops! I made a mistake in my form! What do I do???
- Don't panic. It may happen at your first real tournament. Hopefully you've practiced hard enough to not mess up, but sometimes things happen and you lose your concentration. No worries......when you realize you are "lost", make up some movements to keep you moving while you find your place in the form again. When you find your place, pick up where you left off. (during your training phase, you should practice your favorite moves and "slow dramatic postures" for times such as this)
- The trick here, is to NOT let the judges see that you made a mistake. Do NOT look at the floor. Do NOT snap your fingers or touch your head in the "trying to remember" actions. If possible, do not ask the judges if you can start over. Although most tournaments will allow this, your score will be reduced significantly if you start over due to forgetfulness.
- If you do have to start over, its okay. Its not the end of the world. Keep your emotions in check and perform as if it never happened. Remain focused. Keep stoic at the end of your performance and try not to show your disappointment until later. This will show your fortitude and the judges will remember your strength for the next time they see you.
- If a mistake in your form is due to outside circumstances, like if an adjacent ring's competitor accidentally throws his weapon into your ring, or if someone is not paying attention and inadvertently walks into your ring (it happens!), the head judge will most likely stop your performance, and allow you to start again without any score penalties.
There's the possibility of ties....in the event of a tie, each tournament has their own way of breaking them. Most tournaments will allow the tied scorers to perform the *same* form again to be scored again; other tournaments might have you perform a *different* form to deter a bias. Some tournaments will allow for judges majority vote. Whatever the outcome, be prepared to perform again.....and have a 2nd form in your repertoire in the event the judges ask for a different form.
After the scores and awards:
- Regardless of the outcome, always thank the judges personally with a handshake and a sincere thank you. Sometimes, you may be able to ask a particular judge what advice they may be able to give you for the future. (wait to ask until a break between divisions or when you see them during a floor break)
- Thank your fellow division competitors. Congratulate the top winners, and see if they would be willing to give you tips as well!
- Do NOT express your disappointment at not winning to your school group, family, or friends while at the tournament. This reflects on your school. You don't want to be thought of as a person whose sole reason for living is "Winning". Instead, express your desire to *work harder* for next time!
Your first forms competition might be a nerve wracking experience at first, but remember that every competitor starts out with the first experience. As your experience grows, you'll settle into the tournament routine a little easier.
Be sure to check out the tournament rules links I included above.
Next post, section 4, will include sparring procedures......
Thursday, January 21, 2010
This portion of the guide with be broken into 4 sections: "Forms", "Sparring", "Travel", and "Day of".
First off: Watch a tournament FIRST. Get a feel for the atmosphere. As you watch, put yourself in the shoes of the people on the tournament floor....they have to listen attentively to all instructions given over the public announcement system, they have to know where their divisions are being held, they have to stay focused and calm during the din of people warming up or practicing on the side. Tournaments are much like rank tests, in that you have to do your very best, but unlike exams at your school, there are so many things going on at the tournament floor at one time. Get familiar with the way things are run, how the event goes, etc.
Another "first off".....do realize that you are not "obligated" to win an award at your first tournament. Your teacher won't demote you if you don't take home an award. Just do your best and learn from the results. Also realize that you are not guaranteed an award just because you show up to the tournament. Surprisingly, some first-timers (mostly young children) believe that they get a prize for being brave enough to show their skill in front of other people. While judges would surely want to give prizes for all people that attend and do their very best, the reality of competition is that limited awards are given. This is usually limited to 1st, 2nd, 3rd place in divisions, and Grand champion awards.
On to the tips......
1) When you do decide to compete at an upcoming tournament, let your teacher or coach know of your intention to compete. The sooner the better. Don't tell them a few days beforehand! Your teachers and coaches will help you in choosing a routine for forms competition, or coach you in your sparring tactics, or both.
2)If you choose to get a group together for group forms or open skits, be sure that there is ample time to prepare and practice together. Don't just throw together some mish-mash thinking "oh, let's just do Pinan sandan all together". You must practice and detail your group's form diligently.
3) Practice your form facing in different directions in your school, and in places other than your school. You want to be able to perform that routine *anywhere*. My tournament team used to do a drill called "crazy house", where they would do their individual routines while the rest of the team would be a "housefull of of crazies"....we'd turn up the stereo so loud the walls vibrated, the other team members would spar around the person doing their form, or make loud raucous noise. The idea here was to train the person doing forms, to be able to perform at their best regardless of distraction. Practicing forms in unfamiliar places also helps, because let's face it, your probably won't be competing at your school!
4) Ask you teacher to hold a "Mock Tournament". This is a fun event where each student gets to come up in front of a "panel" of judges to perform their routine or spar using tournament rules. All students get a chance to learn about scoring rules, be a "judge", and be a "competitor".
5) Practice your form as slow as you can, paying attention to good form and technique execution. Practice your form as fast as you can, while trying to keep good form. Practice with no kiai, practice with kiai. Practice both slow and fast with just stance work. Think of different ways to practice your form inside and out!
(These tips are based on point fighting, no contact, light or semi contact. Although we're not including MMA, kickboxing, etc in this section, most of the tips can indeed be applicable to mma and kickboxing)
1) Be sure you have all safety equipment for practice. Mouth guards, head gear, torso protection (if allowed at the tournament), gloves, shin pads, foot pads, etc.
2) Spar with people of different rank at your school. Don't regulate yourself to sparring only with those in your rank. If you have friends in other martial arts, ask if its okay if they visit your school to spar with you so you can get a feel of how other martial arts styles spar. While I see no problem with just going to a martial arts friend's house to spar together, I do think it is wise to have a more experienced practitioner there with you to give you tips and to see to safety protocol.
3) Spar with control. No one ever gets points for being an out of control puncher or kicker. In fact, most tournaments will disqualify you if you are in a no contact or light contact match and you continually hit hard uncontrollably.
4) Work on your cardio, work on your stamina. Jump rope, pushups, blitzes, situps, shadow boxing, squats, speed drills, ....don't forget those! All the cool techniques you know and all the cool combinations you have are useless if you run out of steam. You need stamina and you need to stay strong for sparring matches. A 3 minute round can seem like a very long time if you're not in shape.
5) Work on keeping your cool. If you get tagged, accept it and move on. Don't spar in anger....it only gives you tunnel vision and might end up with you being out of control in your strikes and kicks.
TRAVELING TO TOURNAMENTS
(Whether the tournament you attend is just across town, or across the country, keep these travel tips in mind)
1) A few days before: Place as much of your gear in one place. No need to pack it yet, because most likely you're going to class and practicing and you're carrying your stuff with you to class. As long as you can set aside your stuff, it will be easier to pack the day before you leave for the tournament (that's explained later).
2) List what you will need,.... Here's some things to consider:
a) You'll want an extra uniform for each division. An extra uniform for forms, and if you wear something different for sparring, and extra set of clothes for that division. You never know what could happen....you might snag your uniform and rip it, or someone might spill their gatorade on you. Its better to pack extra uniforms rather than compete with a uniform with gatorade or mustard on it! Extra shoes and socks (if your art wears shoes) is a must also.
b) If doing weapons, always bring an extra weapon. If you accidentally break that staff or spear during warmup, or if your sword somehow falls apart, you'll need that replacement weapon. If , before the tournament day, you suspect that your main weapon is going to crack or is loose in areas, replace it as soon as you can AS WELL AS bring an extra weapon.
c) Extra contact lenses and accessories, or extra glasses if possible. Some people wear prescription safety goggles for sparring.
d) Duct tape! Preferably in a color that matches your sparring gear. You might need to do a quick repair on a ripped section of foam on your gloves or foot pads.
e) Snacks...water. Trail mix, granola bars, energy bars....anything that you can nibble on to keep hunger at bay. You don't want to eat a big meal just before your division, so nibbling on something and sipping water while you're waiting will keep your energy up. Wait to eat that big meal until AFTER the tournament!
f) Iron or clothes steamer. Chinese martial artists who wear silk uniforms consider this a MUST HAVE.
g) Travel documents: Passports, plane, train or bus tickets, ID, medical info, medical alert tags, an "in case of emergency" card in your wallet or purse.
h) Medications (if you take them), and first aid kit.
3) When packing, make sure you use a bag or luggage that will fit all your things in such a way that things are not "jammed" in your bag. Ifr possible, get some "packing cubes" for small items such as medical or eyewear supplies, snacks, etc. Just before a sparring division, is not the time to freak out about not finding your mouthguard. In fact, if you have people with you that are in the audience, its a good idea to have them hold onto an extra mouth guard in the event you get get distracted and lose your mouthguard.
4) Plan ahead.....think "what if??" What if I lose my mouthguard (see above)? What if someone mistakenly takes one of my gloves that I left near the ring? What if I (gosh forbid!) lose my belt? Think about this well beforehand, and make the choice as to whether or not you want to bring extra items to replace such things.
DAY OF THE TOURNAMENT
1) Get a good night's rest the night before! Get up early enough to eat a good breakfast and allow the food to settle a bit before competing.
2) Make sure you uniforms are ironed and neat. Nobody likes to see forms performed in a wrinkled uniform....especially the judges!
3) If you're staying at a hotel, leave unecessarry items at the hotel. Sorry, but you should leave that Gameboy or PSP at the hotel in the safe. Take your mp3 player if it helps you relax before your division, but don't walk around with the earbuds hanging out of your ears the whole time. Leave your laptop in the safe....why would you bring a laptop to a tournament anyway? You should be concentrating on your performance, not the internet, email, or work project on your laptop!
4) Get to the tournament venue with enough time to check in (if you've pre-registered) or to register. Give yourself time to look at the forms areas and sparring areas to get accustomed to the size of the areas. Be sure to ask your coach or teacher any questions now....don't wait until just before your division starts.
5) Warmup lightly....don't go full power continuously while you're waiting for you division. You've hopefully done the power training already in the months and weeks prior, so use this time to keep warm and envision your forms or sparring.....imagine your moves and techniques being done in the best way you can muster.
6) Keep hydrated!! If it is your first tournament, the excitement will make you forget that you're probably sweating while you're warming up and waiting for your divisions. Keep sipping that water!
7) Be a good example. Kids....Don't run around the venue with your friends, talk badly about other people, or play around or yell. Introduce yourself to other kids, be friendly but not playing around. Adults....follow the same protocol as kids. Conduct yourself respectfully inside and outside the tournament rings. Whether you attain awards or not, remain respectful, humble, and gracious.
8) Do your best! You are always a winner if you commit to doing your best!
9) Congratulate your fellow competitors and thank the judges with a salute and handshake after your division. (more about good manners in the ring in part 3!)
That's the quick lowdown of simple tips to get ready for a tournament. In Part 3, we will discuss the detailed aspects of the forms competition, what the judges will look for, how scoring is done, etc.
Tournaments: Good or bad?
Tournament competition is purely a voluntary thing. You don't *have* to compete in a tournament. But, if you don't try it at least once in your martial arts course of study, you'll be missing out on some wonderful lessons. If your school allows its students to participate in tournaments, I suggest you consider at least watching one.
Some schools believe that tournaments only teach the aspects of "winning and losing", and that tournaments "cheapen" the true teachings of the arts. On the other hand, some schools believe that tournaments can have many benefits. Let's discuss the pro's and con's:
- You learn how to play the "tournament game"
Tournaments have rules, and to be successful, you want to get to know the rules and the strategies based around these rules. In any event, the judges panel determines your scores. Your teachers and coaches will show you how to keep the judge's attention, how to perform so as to highlight your strongest points, and show you how to set an good example that will allow the judges to remember you at future tournaments. Cheating has no place in tournaments, neither does bullying competitors to intimidate them.
- You learn sportsmanship
Its not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game".....a very often quoted phrase by coaches and teachers everywhere, in all sports. If you win, win with humility and appreciation for your competitors, and if you lose, lose with grace, dignity, and sense of learning what you can do to improve for the next time.
In order to gain the benefits of tournaments, you must first determine what the terms "win" and "lose" mean to YOU.
What IS "winning", anyway? Does it merely mean that you get to take home a shiny trophy or a beautiful gold medal? Does it mean having bragging rights at your school? Does it mean that you're better than everybody? Does it mean having people recognize you as a "winner"? Yes, while "winning" does entail attaining a prize, the "Prize" must be thought of as much more than a medal or a bunch of plastic and wood assembled together to look like a trophy. You must think of the "prizes" such as learning to see what you can improve upon, even if you've bested the rest of your competition, and realizing that the confidence of a "win" will motivate you to work harder. Besides....a trophy only means you were the best on THAT day.....you'll need to keep working hard because everyone that didn't get that gold medal will be working hard to get it next time!
What is "losing"? Does it mean not getting first place? Does it mean not getting a trophy or a ribbon? Does it mean that your teacher will be disappointed in you? Does it mean your skill is bad? For some, the term "lose" means "to fail". However, it can also mean that you've parted with something you currently have, unwillingly, or by accident or misfortune. Now think about it....if you've never had that particular tournament's gold medal or trophy, or if you've never had a "win" at a tournament, how can you "lose" it?
Here, sportsmanship is key. Both "winners" and "losers" should realize that learning is the key element to such competitions. Win with humility, lose with grace.
- You learn how to train beyond your normal routine
I tell students "Oh sure, you won a gold medal, and that's wonderful. But, all those other people in your division with be working hard to see to it that they get the gold medal next time....so train harder and don't get a big head!"
If you're used to doing your forms in such a way that your winded after a single routine, train to do the form in such a powerful dynamic way so you're exhausted after a single routine. Work on the weak spots on your form. If you're sparring, try sparring one-handed to work on your evasion skills. Spar with friends in other martial arts so you can spar with people that fight differently than your classmates. Ask your teachers or coaches for private sessions so you can get some one on one coaching on forms or sparring. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone, because when the tournament day comes, you'd be surprised at how your skill might dwindle when the nervous energy kicks in.
- You learn about other people and martial arts
If you compete in "Open" tournaments (where all arts are welcome to compete, not just one type of art), you'll see a lot of martial artists from different martial arts.....Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, etc. Feel free to meet these people, strike up a conversation with them, watch the other artists in action. You'll learn to appreciate other martial systems this way!
- You learn from seasoned competitors
Watch and learn from tournament veterans from not only your own school, but from other schools as well. Learn how they approach the forms ring or the sparring ring. Watch their concentration or execution of movement. "Learning from those who are farther down the path, with show you what to expect as you keep walking the path."
Now, let's look at the possible con's. However, these disadvantages only happen if all you are concerned about is "winning".........
Cons (if all you're concerned about is winning, then you just might......)
- ....Lose sight of the true nature of your art
Martial Arts, first and foremost, teach us much more than winning trophies. They teach us self defense, courage, tenacity, the culture, lineage and history of your art, respect for those who have mastered the art, the importance of hard work, philosophies of the past, and a ton of other things. If all that concerns you is a trophy, then you'll only have a roomful of trophies that will eventually gather dust or break, rather than a treasure trove of life lessons.
- .....Get a big head
Being proud of your wins accomplishments is one thing, thinking you're the the universe's gift to martial arts is another! If the first thing that comes out of your mouth when you meet someone at a party is: "My name is ______, and I'm a regional forms champion in Karate", then be prepared to not talk to anyone at that party. (unless of course, you meet up with another "big head", but at that point, you'd be playing the "one-upmanship" game). Be proud and feel good about your accomplishments, yet allow that pride to motivate you to work hard and assist those less experienced. Bragging doesn't win you any groupies.
- .....or, you lose confidence and give up entirely....
I've met people who competed in two, maybe three tournaments, did not attain medals or trophies , and gave up entirely. They said "Why bother? Everyone else is so much better, faster....I'll never win....blah blah blah"
When I began competing in tournaments as a brown belt in Karate (yes a brown belt...it took me that long to work up the courage to try and compete), I did not attain any awards that first time at a closed Karate tournament (only members of my style competed). Nor the 2nd time. Nor the 3rd. In fact, in took me until I was almost a 2nd degree black belt to win a 3rd place trophy. I didn"t give up, I kept training, I kept pushing forward. Soon....I began to attain 2nd place awards, then 1st place awards. Then I set my sights on open tournaments and regional award rankings. I went up the regional rankings and became 1st in the Pac-West NBL (National Black Belt League) rankings. Then guess what? After some years in regionals tournaments, I decided to go National....several years of hard work in attaining awards at National level, I made the plunge to compete at the World level. The hard work, the strenuous pain of training, the sweat, the tears, the toil....all were rewarded with a World Championship under my belt. If I can do it, being that I started out being the most UNconfident person, I know you can do it too.
So, are tournaments good or bad? Well, it depends on how you approach your training for tournaments, and whether or not you see "success" as a black or white. Given the correct mindset, tournaments are wonderful venues to learn a lot about yourself, and to learn important life lessons.
In part 2, we'll discuss tips for the tournament first-timer, travel tips, etc.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I found that the kids were running in to close the distance between themselves and their attacker to throw an elbow strike, instead of possibly using a longer weapon like a finger jab to the eyes or similar) to "fold into" the gap. I also found that many times they would strike once then walk a few steps around their opponent then strike again, instead of maybe striking or kneeing as they took a step. Another thing was that many of them would use primarily only one side of their body. One teen said "i can't think of stuff to throw. This is hard".
The thing that made them more aware of the use of all their weapons and fighting ranges, was to give them an imaginary situation:
"Let's pretend you're all Captains of a fierce army in old China. You've got Spear men, you've got swordsmen, you've got horsemen, you've got archers. Which of the groups would you prefer to have out in front when your army runs in to meet the enemy?"
One teen raised his hand. "Probably the spear guys, 'cuz they have long spears and can clear a way for the other guys."
"Good call. Who would follow the spear men?" I asked.
A gal raised her hand. "How about the sword guys? While the spear guys are keeping the enemy busy, the sword men can go through and cut the enemies who are confused and distracted".
"Okay, nice way to look at it" I said. "Then what?"
All the rest of the kids began to blurt out things like "The horses! then the horses!" or "No no! The horses should go first and run over people, then the spears then swords". "Hey what about the archers?" "Archers should shoot first, before the other guys come in...to kill some first!" I heard many great "tactical plans" as I listened to the din of voices.
"Okay, Halt!" I thundered. "So, we have great plans...all of them different. But, we all agree that your army shouldn"t just run in all at once, right?"
There was a very brief silence. A boy held up his hand. "Sifu, you think we're just running into our partners in the drills, huh??"
"Yes, use a distraction, a longer weapon such as feet or finger jab, even throwing something....then fold in using your other weapons. Keep in mind, you should always have archers trying to shoot when its safe to do so and so not to shoot their own troops! hahahaha!" The room erupted in laughter.
"Also, you must make sure all your swords are sharp and that the troops know exactly where to cut....they can't mess around like light saber fights on Star Wars!"
"Okay! I think I get it!" another gal said. "Can we try it again, Sifu?"
"Sure! Knock yourselves out!" More laughter.
Now I don't claim to know anything about battlefield tactics, so you military people can stop snickering at me...hahahaha! I just wanted my kids to take a look at their training from a different angle, rather than jsut correcting them and saying "no, do it this way"
As the kids practiced, they flowed much better, and their entries were cleaner and their techniques a little more precise. Their efficiency of movement began to improve, and I was But why was it that they fell short of flowing? Where was the efficiency of movement hiding?
Granted, it does take some training to learn how to move efficiently..."maximum effect, minimum effort". What many people have for a time, is not a lack of flwing moves, but a lack of flowing thought. Do you remember your first day at sparring or self defense drills? You felt kind of awkward, not knowing if what you were doing was correct, or what move to do next, didn't you? All the distractions of not knowing or worrying, froze your mind and stalled it a bit. You might aggravate it by thoughts like "I should know this by now", "Why am I making so many mistakes?" or "Why is the lower belt not having as hard of a time as me?"
These distractions prevent the mind from "simply thinking simply". Know your plan, but don't freak out if your plan doesn't unfold the way you planned it. Find a way around the obstacles and carry on. Shoot a few arrows first to see how it affects the situation before running in headlong. Push forward intently, knowing where you should cut, thrust, or ride. Disjointed thoughts can result in disjointed technique execution.....or worse yet...death on the battlefield.
Efficiency of movement goes hand in hand with efficiency of mind. However, realize that it does take time, training and practice to train the mind and body. My Taijiquan teachers say: "Where the mind moves, the body moves." That, is sooooo true!
Okay troops...get out there!