Competing in Martial Arts

Competing in Martial Arts
Inevitably, in your life as a martial artist, you will come to the question of competitions. Competitions aren’t for everyone and there are some positives and negatives to competing.

First of all, competing is not for everyone. If you’re like me who tend to wish to do their Martial Arts for the art itself, not to be compared with someone else, you’ll find competitions trying on your nerves. But one important life lesson in Martial Arts is to face your fears and overcome them. That includes your fears of being in front of others.

All of our lives -- whether we like it or not -- we are judged by others. Using your experience in competitions can help you to learn to cope and deal with those situations. First and foremost, understanding when you have control over a situation and when you must simply accept and bow out.

Participating in a competition can provide a good source of positive self-esteem. If you approach the competition not in a win/lose mentality but in a mindset of doing the best you can, you can come away with a sense of accomplishments. You’ve conquered your inner demons, you’ve done what you setout to do. In addition, it can provide a means of focus -- next year I’m going to get the gold, near year I’m going to do even better.

Competitions can be a lot of fun too. It’s a great chance to see and experience other Martial Arts that you may not have been previously exposed to. Most of my exposure to other Martial Arts forms has come to me through these competitions. Year after year, with the same competitors returning, you develop a kinship with the others that helps to form bonds and sometimes friendships.

There are many negatives about competing as well.

The biggest for me is that when many people train to compete, they forget about the rest of the art. They train to perfect just one form or focus all their energy on sparring and forget about other basics. While this can hone in a competitors skills, prolonged practice of ignoring the rest of your Martial Arts will result in a weaker artist overall.

One of the dangers of forms competitions is that often times some artists will feel the need to “alter” or change their form to make a better showing. This results in strange actions that from a true Martial Arts standpoint, make no combat or logical sense.

One of the dangers of fighting competitions is that some artists will simply focus on the win and not the technique. Some competitions aren’t as stringent about the styles used and end up becoming boxing matches or shows of strength.

Judging is and always will be subjective. Just as there’s a skill in teaching, there’s a skill in judging. And just because someone is a Grand Master, it doesn’t mean they can always be a good judge. In many open competitions, there are often many different styles being represented. It’s not always easy to judge based on the variations.

Unfortunately, some judges flat out will make decisions on things you don’t have control over. This judge might be preoccupied with a side conversation and not see your whole routine. This judge might not like how you bowed (or didn’t bow) to him. This judge might grade you on your uniform or how many jumps you did in your form or how many keya’s you called out. The hardest part is realizing that you have no control over this what-so-ever.

As much as I would like it, not everyone has a good sportsmanship attitude. I’ve seen it all too often where people want to downgrade someone else for their accomplishments or blame “the other guy” or cause the other guy to lose. Quite honestly, this is one of the ugliest sides of competitions that disheartens me greatly.

Just as it is important to find the right school and the right teachers, it’s important to find the right type of competition that avoids as much of the negative aspects as possible. This may mean you’ll never become a household name or worldwide recognized competitor -- but then again if you’re doing Martial Arts for the sake of Martial Arts, should that really be an issue?

I for one will continue to grow my Martial Arts and continue to compete as it’s good for my own development as a person and as an artist.


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Content copyright © 2018 by Caroline Chen-Whatley. All rights reserved.
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