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Competition: Is the tournament right for you?

By Rochelle E. Brenner

Should a shy/inexperienced/mediocre/ambitious/young/older /talented/scared/ exuberant/emotional martial arts athlete compete in a tournament? The short answer is yes. Healthy competition is a phenomenal life experience that pushes you to perform at your best, even as a beginner. But competition is not for everyone. Before you register for the Action Invitational Tournament, consider these outcomes:

1. Competition is not convenient. If you compete at any level of youth sports to college, you will find expensive, poorly run events that drag on for hours and hours beyond what’s needed. Action tournaments tend to be significantly less expensive, more organized and predictable, but you might end up missing another activity on tournament day or staying longer or getting there earlier than you needed to. Personally as a boxer, I had to make weight, block out my weekend, only to have zero opponents show up. My friends in youth lacrosse travel across the state for one game and have no idea if they’ll go home right after or stay two more days until the championship, dealing with hotels and rides and meals. In comparison, this tournament is a small investment to get the experience of healthy competition. Registrants are guaranteed to compete.

2. A tournament is like a museum of martial artists at all different levels. You get to contribute your own art, but the biggest benefit might be getting to see and admire other people’s best efforts. Take advantage of the time and think of it is as a chance to scope out other martial artists and expand your martial arts vision.

3. Fairness is the goal, but not necessarily the outcome. The Action tournament is ethical: No one is paid to be there and no one has any reward for any result other than the victory in of itself. It’s not an advancing tournament and there are no scouts. There is no motivation to cheat or to turn in a biased result. However, these are people judging people and part of competition is sometimes you do get a bad call. We apologize in advance, but please accept this possible result in advance of the tournament. Part of the challenge is reacting to what the target-holder, or sparring ref expects. Personally I lost two split decisions before I won a national championship in boxing and have seen many champs "getting robbed." You just have to accept you might get thrown off – champions adjust or live to fight another day.

4. Prepare for what to say to your child win or lose. The best thing to say is usually: Did you have fun? Did you learn? What can you do better next time? If you run into other competitors, those questions are much better than "Did you win?" It helps them process it.

5. Get better or get bitter. Those are your two options after the tournament. If you are going to get bitter and quit, you are ineligible to compete. Do not even consider it. It’s not worth sacrificing your martial arts career for a medal.

6. One of the worst scenarios is when you get first place, but didn’t do your best. That’s not fair to you. So do your absolute best.

7. Tears are very common and healthy. You will see the top competitors crying because they’ve invested so much in their performance. Sometimes they worked at the peak of their abilities, and still lost.

8. This competition does not determine your martial arts ability other than the category for which you are judged. There are thousands of benefits and skills of martial arts that aren’t part of the tournament, such as self-defense.

9. Tournaments promote personal growth, improvement and the development of skills and abilities. Unless you are actually challenged to present yourself at your best – in a competition – you won’t actually know what you are capable of. Sha’Carri Richardson can run all day and night, but until she lines up on that track against 5 other women, she will not be able to demonstrate the strength of her success.

10. Learn from your competition. Have fun and learn and get better.

11. Winning does matter. Everyone is there to win. But everyone can’t win, so there are other lessons that make the effort to win worthwhile.

12. Losing also matters. Losing is part of reality. The winner is the one who walks away with their confidence and determination in tact, regardless of the outcome.

13. For the youngest competitors, just showing up is the challenge. It’s an introduction to competition.

14. Tournaments are never required at Action Karate. Only students who regularly spar are invited to spar at the tournament. Everyone else is doing moves in the air. 15- Everyone gets a medal. Just like everyone gets a medal at a 5k. But there are no participation trophies. Trophies are for the top 3 students in the division. Be proud of the medal for having the courage to compete, and have a realistic expectation that it’s just one tournament and there are many, many opportunities to compete again, from the regular ring, to the green ring, to national competitions.

16. If you can nod in agreement with this blog, and understand the pros and cons of competing, we’ll see you in the ring.

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