IntroCompetitions allow students to pit their martial arts skills against unknown fighters in a safe but competitive environment. When you only fight classmates, you know what to expect and you tend to develop bad habits. In competitions, you still might fight some of your classmates, but you also face opponents you may have never fought before.
To compete successfully, martial artists must be in top physical condition, have good form in their techniques, have an overall fighting strategy, and be skilled in different fighting tactics. Competitions keep you from getting into a training rut and getting bored. Many times, competition is a wakeup call to tell you that what you have been doing is not working.
The purpose of competing is to win; nobody enters a competition to lose. However, not everyone can win, so competitions help students face the reality of the real world. Losing, and even winning, helps students develop humility and sportsmanship. If you compete for the joy of competing, you will have fun whether you win or lose; however, if you win, you will have much more fun.
ProceduresCompetition sparring is conducted between two fighters. Since the competitors wear the same uniforms, they are identified in some manner. In taekwondo, one competitor is designated slong (red) by having a red ribbon tied to the belt. The other competitor is designated chung (blue) but wears no ribbon. This helps scoring officials differentiate the two fighters.
Protective hand and feet pads, shin guards, elbow protectors, protective helmet, groin protector, and mouth guard are usually required. Some competitions also require a chest protector.
Usually, only punching and kicking techniques are allowed, no grabs, sweeps, or throws. The front of the body from the clavicle to the belt may be attacked with punches and kicks. Some organizations allow punches and kicks to the head protector, some only allow kicks to the head, and some do not allow kicks or punches to the head. Kicks below the belt or to the back are usually forbidden.
There is always a referee to officiate a match. There may be two or more corner judges to assist the referee in scoring, or scoring may be done electronically.
Different organizations have different competition procedures and rules. Your instructor will inform you of all these before you enter a competition.
Criticism of competitions
- Martial arts sparring were not designed to be showpieces to display grace and beauty. Another viewpoint: Some martial arts were designed to be just that, and others have evolved to be that way. That’s why they are called martial “arts.” If you don’t like these martial arts, there are plenty of others in which to train whose only purpose is fighting and self-defense.
- Patterns are useless so we do not perform them. Another viewpoint: If you don’t like patterns, that’s okay. People are different and like different things. Some people don’t’ like the physical contact of football, so they play volleyball. That’s one thing that’s good about martial arts competitions, if you don’t like one part of them, you don’t have to participate in it; you can just compete in the sparring and skip the patterns competition.
- Our art is too deadly for use in competitions. Another viewpoint: Competitions have rules to prevent injury so the practitioners can complete every day if they so desire. If your art is so deadly, how are you able to keep students. Aren’t they constantly recovering from injuries? Also, do you kill every person who assaults you? If a person pushes you away, do you break their arm? Members of the military’s Special Forces don’t kill everyone that takes a swing at them in a bar; they are trained to control their skills and react appropriately.
The main reason you do not see many of the eclectic arts in competitions is that their techniques do not work against other skilled fighters. Taekwondo martial artists can fight in a karate competition, using karate rules, and score, and vice versa. I contend that the reason many martial arts claim that competition fighting is useless is that their art is useless in competitions, mainly because their techniques are based on some pseudo philosophies that are mostly smoke and mirrors and will not hold up to scrutiny in the ring.
Sparring is a gameIn free-sparring, you safely use everything you have learned in training to spar with an opponent. Within the safety guidelines of your organization or school, almost everything you have learned is permitted. The fighter that is considered the better fighter in a match depends upon who is making the decision. Each fighter, each judge, each instructor, and each spectator will have an opinion about a match and they will probably disagree on the winner. However, only the opinion of the center referee matters.
Some rules may favor one opponent over another, such as when kicks to the head score more than kicks to the body, which tends to favor the taller fighter. Techniques best suited for your height, flexibility, and way of fighting may not be permitted. To win, you must be a good fighter, but you must play by the rules of the game and be able to use the rules to your benefit.
In sparring, it not necessarily how powerful you are or how proficient you are at sparring, it is how well you play the game. This means you must understand the game and all the rules and learn to play by the rules while using them to your advantage.
If you don’t win, you loseSome instructors stress that competitions should be fun, that winning is not important. This is hype to keep the students training and keep the money flowing in the school. In any type of sport or job, if you don’t play to win, you are fired. When you compete, even if you do your best, sometimes you lose. That’s life. The martial arts teach you to accept your loss with dignity, train harder, and do better at the next competition.