Plenty of times I am asked by my students why they should be going to a tournament, and plenty of times I see fear and nervousness in their eyes as they answer my “what are you doing at the tournament?” questions with a timid “I don’t know”. We have all experienced this fear, but as most things in life, the keys are simple, and the answer to why this is important is simple as well: it is to improve your training in the Martial Arts. But the real question is how. I have experienced that going to a Martial Arts Tournament can benefit you in 3 different ways.
The first one is confidence. It is hard to find opportunities to do what we do not like. Nonetheless, these opportunities are out there. Whether it is going to a theme park and getting in the tallest rollercoaster if you are afraid of heights, or going to the animal shelter if you are afraid of dogs, the opportunity to face your fears, and just a tiny amount of courage is all you need for you to eventually conquer this mountain. Martial Arts is all about building confidence, and we do it by taking small baby steps, one at a time. A small studio tournament is a great way to get started. The senseis are familiar to you, the environment is the same, the students are mostly the same you train with, and this way you can begin to get more comfortable competing.
The second is getting rid of stage fright. Since the tournament is a public setting where people are watching you perform, this is the same kind of environment as being in front of a group when you deliver a speech, being in front of your colleagues when doing a presentation, your friends when you deliver a toast, etc. What we normally do not realize is that in order to build this skill we need to present ourselves in front of as many groups as we possibly can. The Martial Arts gives you this opportunity by giving you a nurturing environment where you can win or learn and all of those watching will continue to encourage you.
And lastly, tournaments can create lasting bonds and friendships. I have been participating in tournaments for years. One of the reasons I keep going every time are the other competitors that I get to participate with. I get to see their forms, their sparring, their weapons kata and wonder how I can make it better, how can work harder to do it even better than them. I have seen plenty of my students describe to me how excited they are to compete against this one person, or defend their title from the last competition.
Being competitive is not an issue, being too competitive can be. Our tournaments encourage those that want to test their competitive spirit, but it also encourages those that are just starting their training. I have seen anywhere from little 3 year old white belts doing sparring, to advanced black belt instructors compete. Tournaments are about including everyone to participate and be part of a team.
For more information on upcoming tournament opportunities visit karatemv.com/tournaments/