It's important to have good protocol and etiquette on the competition circuit in Martial Arts. It's a fact that seems to be forgotten a great deal and often over the claim that competitive spirit takes over. But achieving good protocol and etiquette is not only important in your development as a martial artist, it is an easy object to maintain. Below are some simple things that any competitor can do as signs of respect and honor.
Many of the protocols in good competition form are established to show respect for the art which you participate. In many ways, one can also consider the competition floor the same as a training ground. Thus, respect the floor as you would your school or teacher.
One must also remember the first term in Martial Arts, the word "martial". The definition of martial is "of or related to war." In war, there are rules of engagement that one follows. While over time the rules have changed, the concept of having them has not. Dating as far back as history extends, civilization and respected warriors followed proper codes of that time. From European knights to Japanese Samurai, these codes existed to maintain order and civility despite the brutal nature of conflict and war.
In this day and age, for a martial artist, one of the "fields of battle" is the competition floor. As such, a warrior should follow the code of conduct on this playing field.
Before the competition
Even before you come to the day of the competition, take the time to review the rules and regulations on your own. Each competition has some nuance that makes their rules unique. Understand them and ask questions about them before you enter the day of the competition.
There is always time before any event where competitors gather and prepare for the event. Do spend this time to get yourself ready. Warm up and focus your thoughts on the task head. Visualize what you plan in executing. Be it sparring or forms there are always things you can picture in your mind that will help when you are ready to perform.
Make sure you don't expend energy towards negative things during this time. Don't talk disrespectfully about other competitors or judges. Don't run around or leave the area you've been designated to. Have everything you need ready and with you before you get to the ringed area.
Entering the ring
How you enter the ring depends upon what you're doing, be it sparring or forms. It is good to make sure before you enter the floor, to show it respect. So just as you might bow (or kowtow) when entering a school or training floor, you should show the same respect before stepping into the ring.
Don't step into the ring until the judges acknowledge you somehow, normally with a nod or at a minimal eye contact. If you aren't the first person in the ring, do not step into the ring until the previous competitor has completely left the ring.
Move quickly. Don't waste anyone's time getting into the ring. When you enter, enter at the far end and then approach the judges. Most people often enter along the furthest point from the judges and move linearly to the center before making a 90 degree turn to face the judges and approach their table.
Once you've approached the judge's table, the proper procedure is to kowtow until acknowledged. Announce your name, style/school, and the form you expect to perform. If your form leaves the boxed in area, make sure to request it prior to starting so the judges know. Finally, ask for permission to begin.
Enter the ring only when the center judge instructs you. Come to the starting line, normally close to the center. Bow to the judge. Bow to your opponent. It's polite to actually take a moment to shake your opponent's hand.
Only go into set or ready position when the center judge instructs you to. This is normally done with a phrase or the judge lowering his hand between the two opponents. To go into this position before is disrespectful to the judge and your opponent. Plus, it shows poor sportsmanship that you are here just for the kill.
As you either complete your form or finish your match, it is important to close with the same level of respect and honor as you have shown so far.
Return to the center position where you first announced yourself. Stand in ready position until either the judges call out your score or dismiss you. Kowtow to thank the judges and then walk backwards (not turning your back to the judges) to the edge of the ring. Face the direction which you entered the ring originally and bow to your next opponent, who should be waiting ready to go. Exit the ring quickly.
When you're done with the competition overall, it's good form to both thank the judges for their time and to congratulate all the other opponents, regardless of where anyone placed.
Listen for the judge's call and break the fighting when they call it. Do not break combat before that point as you will find yourself in a weaker position. Even if you believe you have won the point, continue until the judges call it. Do not continue to fight after the judge calls break. Continuing to fight shows your lack of discipline and control, which is neither respected nor appreciated in the ring.
If your opponent is injured during the match, you will be instructed to stay back. Do not stand there and hover around the ring. In fact, the correct protocol is to often turn to face out the ring opposite of your opponent and kneel. Take this time to refocus your thoughts and visual what your next moves will be. Do not return back to the ring until the center judge instructs you to.
When the match is done, bow once again to your opponent and then to the judges. It is polite and nice to actually shake hands and thank your opponent, regardless of who wins. Some would say it is even better if you can hug your opponent and walk away on friendly term. After all, this may be combat but it doesn't mean we need to continue the conflict once the battle is done.
Competitions aren't for everybody or every style. However, if you do participate in competitions, it is important to follow good protocols and etiquette. It is part of the foundation that has created Martial Arts in the first place. And, in general, the respect you show is good to follow even in life outside of the competition ring.