Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My First Tournament Experience

Oh tournament. The event was more or less like I expected, however the experience was not.

My day, started pretty well. I was actually excited to go, even though I had been secretly dreading it all week.

My first event was sparring. Sparring. Dead last place. Yep. There is no good way to put it. I choked. Not in the sense that I didn't do my best, but in the sense that I let the situation overwhelm me and I held back. Having never been to a tournament before, and having no idea what to do, and being up to spar first, I listened to the judge. He said to just relax and take it easy, he just wanted to see what we knew, little to light contact, he didn't want to see anything overly aggressive at all. Well.... I'm a very aggressive fighter. After that I was completely freaked out and worried that I was going to get in trouble for excessive contact or being overly aggressive.

I'm not making excuses. I have a lot of thoughts about what to do differently if I do go to tournament again. Because tournament sparring is a completely different beast from combat. Its a whole different type of objective and tactic. I get that a little better now, I think. Even though Nick has told me on many occasions that tournament sparring is like playing tag, you don't really understand how much so until you go do it. The judges can also only call what they see, so if they are on the far side of where your hits land, they cannot call a hit, etc. Watching the way people in my division were sparring after I was out, it was pretty ridiculous.

I was discussing it with a friend of mine, and he said that point/sport/tournament sparring, or really any sport fighting (he mentioned fencing) is pretty lame in the fact that you have to do unrealistic things to win. Things that would probably not work in real life, at all. So I have decided to work on practicing some pretty ridiculous tactics in order to freak my opponent out and secure a victory. However, I do this full well understanding that this is NOTHING like real violence. (Normally my one issue with sparring, the fact that it really doesn't prepare you for real violence.)

Anyway, so sparring was a learning experience. Not one I really liked, but I did come away with some ideas.

After sparring, I was a little upset, I was VERY disappointed in myself. I don't know if it was nerves, or what, but I felt pretty sick. And after I bit, I went to the bathroom and barfed. : /

After that, I went to my kata ring, and competed in kata. I placed second! Which was pretty good. Then I threw up again.

And again in the car on the way home.

I cannot tell if it was nerves that had me so worked up all day, or what. But I'm not eager to go to tournament again. I probably will, just to see if I can get over my fear a little more. And probably learn something else. But it was an experience.


  1. Congratulations on your first tourney! It really does take an awful lot of courage to get in the ring and compete in both kumite and kata...

    I was absolutely terrified at my first tournament. All of us were 8th kyus, but I was so afraid I wouldn't make it through the round either from exhaustion or getting hit too hard (I know, right?!?). But everyone was so timid - afraid to get in close in the ring because of my long limbs. I won, though - and a passion for tourney sparring was ignited. Where my goal once was to get through it without getting hurt/collapsing in an exhausted heap, my goal now is to win my division and fight for the grand championship always. My, how things change :-)

    I was even MORE nervous in that first tourney for kata, though. The idea of being JUDGED freaked me out! I didn't barf (almost, but no cigar), but I remember shaking really, really hard and rattling my teeth. Finished fourth and had a blast - once it was over...

    Ring sparring IS very different from actual combat - you're right about that - but for me, it affords me an opportunity to match wits and abilities against an unknown while s/he is trying to hit me. It's kind of exciting - and is the closest I ever hope to come to having a real, live punch or kick come at me from someone I don't know who is trying to do me harm. I'm totally cool with that :-)

  2. Sparring in a tournament is not so much about the physical conflict as what it reveals to you about your state of mind, which is the most important aspect of martial arts training that carries over into the world outside of the dojo.

    Having had the experience once, you'll grow from it whether you step into a ring again or not.

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Felicia - I'm not sure I'll ever have a passion for tournament sparring, but it is an interesting medium to try new things out and play around, try combinations etc on someone new/outside the dojo without being aggressive. I have been thinking and reflecting on tournament since Saturday and I have some new ideas, strategy/tactics I would like to begin working on. Mainly I think it really helped me see that smaller people DO have to fight like mosquitoes, not bulls. ^.~

    What I do have a passion for is Kata, I was much less nervous about that than sparring. Kata is something I want to excel at, for a variety of reasons, and I like practicing it.

    Rick - I can see what you mean. I think that tournament sparring is as much, if not more, a mind game than anything else. Psyche your opponent out, mess with their head a little bit, get them mentally unsettled and you win.

    While I am not a huge fan of tournament, I may return again, because it IS definitely a learning experience and has given me a lot of food for thought. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of new things I want to work on, try out, and experiment with based on how my sparring match went last Saturday. I am looking forward to growing. ^.^

  4. Hi, SG:

    You said, "My first event was sparring. Sparring. Dead last place. Yep. There is no good way to put it. I choked. Not in the sense that I didn't do my best, but in the sense that I let the situation overwhelm me and I held back."

    I say, you came out ahead. You have experienced it and can "see" it for what it is so guess what? You came away with the experience to grow and become more ... awesome!

    To my view the true and only benefit of tournament competition is to compete with yourself and to test your fundamental martial principles to polish and refine.

  5. Thats what I'm starting to figure out. Thank you for the encouragment Mr. Charles James! ^.^