Why We Compete


            Many martial arts schools do not compete in tournaments because they believe in teaching self defense only. That it is also for the young and healthy and that tournaments are a sport, and they are only concerned with teaching an art. At MPKA, we believe that every one of all ages and various physical abilities should enter competition. MPKA students need to enter three tournaments before earning their purple belt, five for green, seven for brown, and ten for black belt. This very idea of competition stirs a lot of emotions of various martial arts schools. These instructors cluck loudly and spread their wings like a mother hen, gathering her chicks around her for total protection and submission. Of course, it is their choice to not display their style skill (most likely their lack of) on the open market for all to see. However, I believe that if you have something worthwhile to display, put it on the table for public view. Listed below are the positive and so called negative sides of the competition debate.


1.            Sparring (kumite) in class and in tournaments provides the chance for injury. In case you haven’t noticed, the martial arts is a combat and contact system.


            A.            There is always a chance of injury every time someone throws a punch at you in class training, or when you execute a technique on your partner. Injury can also occur every time that you step onto the mat.


            B.            The student who trains at a “shadow boxing” school, who never makes contact, and those who always pull their punches and kicks, will have an unpleasant surprise if they have to defend on the street.


            C.            It is a well known fact that the way a student practices in a calm situation (softly   training with a complacent partner in class), will be exactly how that person will react in a crisis situation (street attack). You simply cannot train one way by constantly teaching your muscles to react with restraint, and convincing the brain that this is how things are done, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, confront a real attacker and ask your body to do just the opposite of its training  procedure.


            D.            Those who spar in class toughen the body, build great reflex action & reaction, build stamina, and keep the brain stimulated and alert. These factors, in reality, will lessen the chance of serious injury, while also enhancing the chance of street survival.


            E.            Statistics show that there are more injuries to those playing soccer, football and basketball because of the constant fast action, brutal contact, and the lack of the many safety valves that are taught in the better martial arts schools.


            F.            Just performing class exercise and warm ups can cause injury if taught and performed incorrectly. Most arts would not eliminate exercises from their programs because they are needed to prepare the body and the mind for stronger physical demands that are placed upon it for daily class training.


            G.            If proper sparring techniques are taught, if kumite rules are obeyed, if a training instructor is on the floor, if all safety equipment is worn (headgear, foam gloves and feet, mouth guards and groin protectors for males, shin pads and chest protectors, if needed), and with experienced referees controlling the tournament event, then injuries should be kept to a minimum, and the majority of the time, do not occur at all. Using injury as a reason for not sparring is showing that one is not prepared to include this most important aspect into their training program.

2.            Sparring makes the student sweat, they become out of breath, and the training hall smells of body odor. True, now relate this to a street attack to someone who has not sparred in class or in competition, and here is what you have. A body that becomes weak and sweats from fear, breathing becomes shallow and uncontrolled, the body is not prepared for several minutes of combat if necessary, and the smell of the dojo is now the last thing that enters your mind.


3.            Sparring is for the young. In reality, sparring is for the young at heart. Everyone can spar in his/her own age and physical level. The only one you have to prove anything to is yourself.


4.            Competition is stressful. Yes it is, and so is taking tests or giving talks in front of your class. The point to remember is that everyone of your competition feels the same way as you do, so now everyone begins on an equal footing. Those who learn to control the stomach butterflies in competition will also learn to handle anxiety in other stages of their lives. Great athletes strive on pressure situations that force them to excel and move on to greatness.


5.            Competition is also fun, as it gives one the opportunity to win awards on an individual basis, allowing them to take full credit when they succeed. Friendships are made with your competitors that you will see tournament after tournament. This friendly competition drives everyone to improve, with each learning from the other.


6.            Competition creates losers and sadness. If one fails he/she must hold themselves accountable, make no excuses, and go back to the drawing board to see how they can improve. Many martial artists do not always win first place. Instead, they compete to continue their self-improvement, and any rewards they receive are simply frosting on the cake. Remember, failures are only stepping stones to success. Of course, a small child cannot understand all of this. On the up side, the more the student competes, the more chances he/she will have to win, and in time, everyone who competes becomes a winner. At MPKA everyone receives a trophy or medal for competing, a certificate, and can earn various patches just for trying their best. We do not produce losers, we create winners.


7.         I am too old to compete, or I have physical limitations. Everyone can compete in kata or in the weapons divisions. This is personal training that you do not need a partner for, nor do you have to face an opponent who is preparing to fight you. You can put your heart and soul into your kata, fight many imaginary attackers, while developing your own personal flair and style of performance. By putting your entire emotions and physical energy into kata, you can work up a sweat and create some endurance needed for street combat, even though it is on a lesser scale than kumite. Remember, your own objective is to compete to learn to handle pressure, to learn to perform in front of an audience, to learn to win, and yes, maybe fail once in a while, but in failure, to develop a method to correct your short comings, and finally, to eliminate them altogether.


8.         The judges are not always fair and are often biased toward their students or students of their friends. Unfortunately, this monster occasionally still rears its ugly head. This is because these dinosaurs are still living in primitive times, have not upgraded their programs and teaching skills, and do not have a moral structure for their students to live by. The good news is that these people and this attitude is slipping into the sunset. Today, most martial arts schools have a solid foundation that is taught in class daily. Most judges are honest and fair. If one competes enough times, the good events will far outrank the few bad ones. In fact, an honest judge is harder on his/her own students than they are on the competition. Most judges will back off and ask to be excused when they have a student that they have trained appear in the ring.


9.            Tournament competitors can become good teachers. An excellent instructor can relate to others in a more knowledgeable and compassionate level because he/she knows the pressures related to competition, understands what it takes to win, the time and physical demands needed to prepare for tournaments, the exhilaration of winning, the learning experience from failure, the friends made, the roads traveled, the memories created, the towns visited, and the excitement surrounding the various events.


10.       In conclusion, a competitor becomes a stronger and tougher individual, a positive and self-confident person. He/she realizes that it is not the end results that counts but, what is really important is the journey along the way. My suggestion to you is learn to compete, you will be a better person for it, and you will be more prepared to handle the stress that life throws at you.


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This page was last updated on 02/20/11    

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