Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tournament Time

Generally speaking, tournaments are not really a "thing" in my style's lineage.

Not that I mind much, personally.  I grew up doing competitive sports and competitions, back when participation trophies were not a thing (cheering, and track and field, and other things).  I'm also an outgoing type and one of the lucky few that doesn't get anxious when asked to get up in front of crowds of people.  I spent a lot of time in my youth in preparing for and participating in competition where I could (and did) lose.

Me, circa 1983.

I've grown out of it, so I'm sorta "meh" on the whole "gotta compete to win" thing.

Plus, there's no Arnis tournaments.  We're too small of a group that's too spread out across the continent to have them.  There are rare "stick fighting" tournaments, but those don't happen often enough to really prepare for on a regular basis.

I don't mind too much that there are no Arnis tournaments, myself.  But some people enjoy it, and it's something to consider when you run a school, especially if you have a kid's program.

If we are to compete, we have to go where the majority of participants in tournaments are in other styles, like karate and taekwondo.

This puts us at a bit of a disadvantage.

We don't point spar, so we have to enter in forms competitions.  Our anyos are like nothing they've ever seen, and they aren't sure how to appropriately grade them. We don't move like a karate or taekwondo person might - we're smoother and we "flow".

They simply don't know what they're looking at.

At my teacher's school, we do encourage our Arnis students to compete in tournaments along with the schools' taekwondo program. There's one our parent organization, AKATO, puts on each year, and there's a new series of  yearly charity tournaments now on its fourth year that we'll also participate in.

I still laugh a bit when one of our kids was told by a judge at a tournament to be "harder" in his weapon form.  It was Baston Anyo Isa, with a blade, and sharp bladed weapons don't require power, they require smooth motion, and that's how our kid did it - smooth motion.  Dude wanted him to do his form like he was chopping wood.

Yeah, that's not how blades work, sir.

Eh, that was the tournament where winning weapons forms included sword tossing and catching and spinning junky reflection-tape coated kama on their palms to music, sooooo.... yeah.  Not a tournament we returned to.

The two tournaments that we do attend aren't like that, though.  Weapons are "traditional" and there is no music, no sword catching, no tricking or gymnastics.

But we don't expect to win, because we understand that we're sort of exotic and strange to the judges.  They expect a lot of hard motions, a lot of posing and sometimes screaming, and kiyaaas, and that sort of stuff.  That's not what we do.  But we've had some luck at these tournaments in the past, and they're getting used to us, and how to judge us.

So why do we go, if we don't expect to win?

We go for the experience, we go to make connections and friendships, and we go to advertise our style to a wider martial arts audience.

At Mid-Cities Arnis, the sister school my husband and I run, we've never really encouraged tournament participation in the past.  But this year, one of our students expressed an interest in competition.

After some thought, I decided, heck with it, let's give our kids a chance to compete if they want to.  So we're going to enter Mid-Cities Arnis students in same tournaments this year that my teacher's school goes to.

Thus, we're starting to offer an extra hour of practice after Friday stick sparring nights to prepare for the first tournament, the Monica Lopez Open Karate Tournament.  This tournament is a little less cut-throat than others I've attended, so it's a good first start for our kids.

We made the announcement this week, and thus far, three in our family class have expressed an interest.

We're going to do extra practice class up to the tournament, then take a break for summer, and resume extra practice class in September in preparation for the AKATO tournament in November.

It's exciting because it's the first time Mid-Cities Arnis will enter tournaments as its own entity.

1983 me is pretty excited.

And since my own students are going to compete, so will I.  I am working on a translation of Baston Anyo Lima, our competition form, into different weapons (jo and nunchaku) that I'll use at both tournaments, and we'll see how that goes.  I may even enter in empty hand!

I've only competed once, in 2013, right after I was promoted to Dayang Isa (1st Degree Black Belt).  Yes, I'm the genius that waited until I had to compete in the black belt division to enter a tournament.

Hey, I got second place!

I'm hoping you readers out there who ARE competition heavy can help me out. 

What are some of your best tips for tournament preparation?  How do you prepare your self or your students mentally and emotionally?  Do you have any funny tournament stories?  Let me know in the comments!