Frequently Asked Questions and Expectations for Tournaments
Most people begin training or studying a martial art without thinking of the competitive component of the art but rather the components of self defense or simply the pursuit of learning a martial art. There does come a time in one’s training when the student begins to question how applicable the skills they are learning are to real life scenarios where adrenaline, fears and full resistance are present. It is at this point of a student’s path that participating in tournaments and performing on the competitive level can be truly beneficial.
When should I compete?
Some people compete within weeks of starting while others may only compete years after training, regardless of the timing; the feeling you get when you first compete is nearly always the same. Most competitors are always filled with nerves, anxiety, adrenaline, especially during their first tournaments. Therefore, we do not recommend that you wait to be good to compete; rather we encourage students to develop both the technical skills of the art and the mental skills necessary to succeed in competition simultaneously. To be a true practitioner of an art you need to take your skills, your gi and stand on a mat and defend yourself. Win or loss, the feeling, the rush you get is priceless.
How should I prepare for a tournament?
One of the first things you need to do is to determine what age division and weight division you will compete in and determine if you need to cut weight, maintain weight, etc. One of the most important things though is to not overdo the training so that you can ensure that you do not injure yourself prior to a competition or exhaust yourself and get injured at a completion. The focus should be on technique and figuring out your game, what positions you are the most comfortable in, reviewing escapes, sweeps and takedowns. It is also important to know the rules of the tournament you are competing in and the point system. If you have questions make use of the resources around you, whether they are higher belt students, your professor, taking a private lesson, etc.
What should I do the day before the tournament?
Make sure you have everything you will need at the tournament such as your gi, a protein bar, sports drink, etc. Your gi should be clean, have a academy patch so that you can represent your team and have no holes, tears, etc. It is good practice to get in the habit of taking a spare gi in case your first one tears in a fight and a sauna suit in case you have to cut weight at the tournament. You should make sure that you make weight with your gi on. The night before you should have a good meal although you need to avoid over eating and you should sleep early and if possible, alone.
What should I do when going to the tournament?
Get directions! Make sure you have money for a parking fee if there is one. Keep in mind that is normal to get nervous and try to keep yourself calm. The adrenaline you feel can be good for you, learn to use it to make you feel sharper and more focused but work on not letting it take over because it will make your body tense and eventually make you feel weak. It is good practice to allow yourself enough time to comfortably find the tournament location, get through check in and allow yourself time to warm up adequately.
What should you do once you are at the tournament?
Once you are at the tournament you should locate your team, check your weight to ensure that you made weight and return to your teammates to support those we are competing and to gain focus for your fights. Make sure to pay attention to the divisions they are calling so that you have sufficient time to warm up. If you did not make weight my recommendation is that you go run with a sauna suit.
Keep in mind that you will more than likely be nervous and that it is normal! Keep to your routine, do your warm ups and stretches but do not over do it. As your division is called keep your focus and if you need to talk turn to your teammates or coaches. Avoid talking to other competitors in your division prior to your fights as it can sometimes play with your head.
What to do in the fight?
Bow to the mat before getting in and shake the referees hand. Then turn your focus to the fight and your opponent. Remember that they are just like you, with two arms, two legs and one head. During a competition you may feel that your opponent is much stronger but that is normally a mental game. Focus on staying calm and focused and listen to your coach. A coach has an outside view of the match and can guide you more successfully but it is important to keep your focus on the match so only listen and try not to look at your coach.
There are two ways to win a tournament; one by submission and the other by points. That being said, the obviously is to try not to tap but to try to find a rhythm in your match where you have control. Keep in mind that points are either being given or won by what is happening in the match and try not to give points away. Also, maintain control of the energy to give out because often times you will have more than one fight and you will have to preserve your energy so that you can perform successfully in all your matches. But, do not worry about the amount of competitors in y our division or how many fights you will have, rather focus one fight at a time because you will not fight every guy in your division and if you do not win your first match you will not have a second and so forth.
Shake your opponents hand and show good sportsmanship! Once you are off the mat walk over to your coach, teammates, friends and family. Remember that they are there supporting you and thank them for their support.
What do you do if you win?
Great job! You were able to successfully apply your techniques within a competitive setting. It is always recommend reviewing your fight to see if there were mistakes throughout your fight or if you have questions. Enjoy your victory but with good sportsmanship!
What do you do if you lost?
Great job on be willing to test yourself within the competitive setting. There is much to learn from this experience so that you can be victorious the next time. It is very important to review your match so you can see what the mistakes were and learn from them. Remember to always show sportsmanship! You are representing yourself and your team and it is equally important to show your opponent, the mat, your team and yourself respect, as it is to win a medal.
What to do the week after the tournament?
The week after the tournament is very important because it is when the match is most fresh in your mind and you can review what happened and learn from it. Do not avoid the academy if you lost, rather make sure to train with your teammates so that you can congratulate those we won, get support for your own match and learn from the experience.
Always remember that a black belt is a white belt that never quit.