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To Compete Or Not To Compete, Some Important Questions To Ask!

Jan 4, 2008
A significant number of people get into karate to be able to participate in tournaments. Are you one of these people? Or did you start karate and then discover that you're actually pretty good and you want to test your skills against different opponents? Either way this article looks at some simple ways to see if you're ready for tournament participation. Here are the questions you should ask yourself and your instructor:

Do you have any idea what a tournament is and how it is run?

In general a martial arts tournament is a venue in which you can test your skills and ability against other like-minded athletes from either the same style (as in a single-style competition) or multiple styles (as in an open competition). The usual method of holding a tournament is to start at around 9am and then go on all day until the last event is finished which very often can be as late as 7 or 8pm, or even later.

So you should not plan on doing anything else that day other than focusing on the tournament if you want to do well. The tournament organizers define the different categories such as forms, sparring and weapons, and then define the various divisions within each category usually by age and rank. Participants sign up for their respective categories according to their level and experience. A draw is then made to determine the order of appearance for the forms and weapons category or who fights who for the sparring category. Then the tournament begins; the referees judge; and the winners go home with medals or trophies just as you would expect.

What are the typical rules of your style of martial arts?

This is a very important question to ask because there as many different rules for tournaments as there are martial arts. Even within styles there are different rules based on the governing body or organization hosting the event. The best way to prepare for this is to ask your instructor about the different rules used in your style and then to get a printout of the official tournament rules of your chosen event.

Any good tournament director will have a website for his tournament with downloadable rules sheets, as well as other related information including application forms, division lists and even recommended hotels in the area.

Is the tournament full contact, semi-contact, or no contact?

This question only applies to the sparring category but it is an important question to ask, especially if you are the parent of a young child entering a tournament for the first time, or simply a parent worried about the safety of their child.

Pay attention to the following advice. DO NOT EVER allow your child to compete in any tournament that does not require safety equipment and protection as well as qualified medical personnel on hand! ALL sparring matches have the potential for injury! A simple fall to the ground can result in a sprained ankle and a mistimed punch that wasn't intended to hit can easily land on your child's nose or mouth due to the erratic movements of the competitors.

As for full contact, semi-contact, or no contact this is your choice as a parent or as a competitor but I would venture to say that there is NO SUCH THING as a "No Contact" tournament!! Understand of what you're getting into, take necessary precautions and be prepared. The bottom line is that any type of active sport involves the chance of injury. Don't let this chance deter you or your child from the potential success and enjoyment of competition.
What is your ultimate goal for tournament participation?

The final question to ask is what do you want to get out of your tournament participation? Do you want to win a medal? Do you want to gain some experience? Do you want to see how you perform under pressure? Do you want to test your skills against unknown opponents? All of these reasons are valid; you have to decide which one matches your level of training.

As your level increases so does the intensity and quality of your category and division competition. So if you just want to have some fun be careful of your opponents because they don't all share that same goal when it comes to tournaments. The majority of them are there to win!
To compete or not to compete, what is your main goal?

For more information on these individual elements of Karate check out the following FREE Report "Achieving the Black Belt: How to Successfully Take Your Karate to the Next Level". You can download it at http://www.freekarateinformation.com.

Good luck and best wishes on your journey in karate.
About the Author
Paul A. Walker, is a 4th degree black belt karate instructor with over 25 years experience in the martial arts. In 2003 he attained his 4th degree black belt, after studying with the legendary Karate Master, Hirokazu Kanazawa in Tokyo for three years. Get more info at http://www.freekarateinformation.com
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