Sunday, May 04, 2008

Tournament support

I attended my daughter's tournament this weekend, and I witnessed things that I feel inclined to give my impression. Of course, I will not mention all of the wonderful, positive moments because I could fill the weblog with those. I appreciated all of the good things that I saw, and I want everyone to know that my daughter walked away from the experience with great memories. However, there are a few things that I would like to mention that I feel could be done with more focus on the positive. Please understand that my following thoughts come from the various tournament experiences that I've had in general, and not from this specific tournament that my daughter attended. Attending this tournament just brought forth some personal considerations in my mind:

A)Noise behavior: It astounds me that the crowd feels that roaring at the competitors helps them perform. Personally, I couldn't understand this need to scream "GO.. Hit HARDER! KILL them!" at the people sparring... so instead, I stood quietly, and witnessed the moment with a deep respect to the effort, and courage of both competitors. As I stayed there with that deep silent calm filling me inside and out, a picture flashed in my mind. I remembered the movie "The Karate Kid" when the character, Sensei Miyagi, was a still presence of power amongst the noise of the crowd watching Daniel-san fight. It felt so proper to do this, to be silent and to witness with every ounce of energy, and showing both fighters the same respect. When the encounter finished, I exploded in applause, and sound cheering both for their performance. I valued the skill shown by the ones who had trained for this moment, and I encouraged them to continue working on their efforts.

B) Parental/Instructor behavior: I witnessed positive support, and cruel pressure. I have to state that I disagree with threatening a child with punishment if they do not win a medal. I also have to state that there is no justifiable reason for treating a child badly before, during, or after the tournament.

C) Competitor behavior: I watched a negative scene where the winner crowed in triumph, high fived his fellow students, and showed no respect to his opponent. I can understand feeling the thrill of winning, but in my opinion, we are martial artists, not football, or soccer players. There is a different philosophy, and meaning to what we do. I turned to my daughter and spoke to her in severe warning. I said "If I EVER see you treat your opponent in such a manner, I guarantee that I will refuse to allow you to receive your medal, we will leave the tournament immediately regardless of where you rank, you will receive a lecture all of the way home, and probably will hear of my displeasure for the rest of the year. Karate centers on "Rei". Without courtesy, and respect then you are not doing Karate, and I would be greatly embarrassed by your actions."

D) Judge behavior: Perhaps it is my youth in Martial arts that is speaking, but I feel that being a judge in a tournament is a honor, and a responsibility. No matter the age, or skill of the person performing in the ring, it is his/her expression of her ability. A judge should give an honest, and unbiased assessment of the competitor. In my eyes, this is a moment of truth, and that needs to be respected. Points should not be given based on friendship, compassion, or other reasons. Reality is that such things do happen. I can only state that if or when I am asked to judge, I will live up to my values as best as I can. Perhaps, in the situations that I have witnessed in the present, it would be better that I avoid being a judge at a tournament.

Personally, although I am aware that it was only a movie, I want to imitate the honor, respect, and courage that I saw portrayed by the characters of the Karate Kid movie, Sensei Miyagi, and Daniel-san during the tournament scene. I feel that the Cobra Kai dojo portrayed in the movie reveal all of the attitudes, and behaviors that I would ashamed to see in myself, and in my children.


Mathieu said...

Here here!

This post images my feelings precisely.

They are not called sports for nothing. people behave as they do in sports.

Your comments are positive. I like them. May they be heard far and wide.

Steve said...

You highlight some interesting differences in culture, and I think some even more interesting similarities.

First the differences. At a BJJ/Grappling tournament, it's not uncommon for a competitor to jump up, pumping a fist or otherwise being excited. That's usually the first reaction. The second is for the ref to raise the hand of the winner. This isn't considered disrespectful, and I would take no offense, as I would know that none was intended.

After that, when the adrenaline is fading, the competitors will often hug and then the winner and loser both go over, thank their opponent's coach and shake his/her hand, as well. Hugging is optional, but often spontaneous, but a hand shake to my opponent as well as to his coach shows respect and good sportsmanship.

Judging is a tough one. I think they're in a bad spot, and it seems that no matter how well they perform, someone accuses them of bias at some point. It's a tough, thankless job. I presume it's the same in Karate as in BJJ.

Noise: Cheering is great. For me, it's not the volume of yelling; it's what's being yelled. When I'm competing, the one voice I'm listening for is my coach's. He's giving me instruction and encouragement as the situation merits. I don't hear a lot of, "Kill him." That's a little over the line. :)

Parent/Instructor behavior: Nothing would make me angrier than to see something like you describe.

Lizzie said...

How come you didn't participate in the tournament like your daughter?

If I was in a tournament, I would like it when people cheered for me.

supergroup7 said...

I didn't participate because I was there to support my daughter, and to witness her first tournament. All of my energy, time, and resources were dedicated towards her experience. I helped her to warm up before the event, I helped her to calm down by massaging her feet, I helped her to learn about the environment, and rules, etc.

Cheering? Cheering is great for sports. If my daughter was running track and field, or playing baseball, you could bet that I'd be cheering her on. "RAH! RAH! Rock 'em! Sock 'em! GO GO GO!!!"

Karate is not a sport for me it is an Art. It is an expression of the person's inner spirit just like a painting, origami, a dance, the Japanese Tea ceremony, theater, Calligraphy, or sculpture. One stands before this expression with a feeling of awe, and appreciation. You respect what is happening before you. My daughter knows that I will not "cheer" for her in Martial arts, and the reasons that I have for being the strange kind of Mom that I am. She also knows that my silence includes the deepest respect, attention, and support that noisy cheers could not express.

Lizzie said...

I haven't been at many tournaments; however, all of them felt very sport like. I heard that one preforms kata in front of judges, one can change it slightly to make flashy or have more illusion. I mean one can make it look more good to the judges; however, that can be detrimental because one slight change of the body can be the difference of it applying to bunkai and in real life situations. If one changes kata for flash, probably one would make it useless. It would be just a dance. Kata just teaches one how to move their body properly.

Then, how would the judges judge over the kata that they don't know? Probably, they will look for flash and glamor.
This is the same thing with point sparring. They just use moves so quickly none of them would work in a real life situation. Are you allowed to contact when sparring?

What about the UFC? They yell and do all kinds of stuff. They are excellent fighters and grapplers. Do you know how to grapple? Do you like to spar?

supergroup7 said...

Hi Steve,

I agree response to events is very cultural, what is acceptable in one country could be considered rude in another. I'm sure that this can be the case in Martial Arts also. Hugging, bowing, shaking hands, raising the hand of the winner these are all different ways of showing acknowledgement.

When it comes to cheering, I am confused about that aspect. When the crowd is roaring in support, how are you supposed to hear the important commands of the referee, or the helpful suggestions of your coach?

As for parents, I can only state what I will not allow, and what I stand for in my parenting, I cannot choose for others. As I read through my posting I noticed how in the parenting behavior section I mention how I disagree with threatening a child, and then in the competitor section I noticed how I turned to my daughter and severely warned her about respect. (This could have been seen as a form of a threat.) However, I realized that my action of warning my daughter was to express the values that I have within me, and the borders that these values create in our home. Similar to stating things like "as long as you live under my roof you will do your homework, you will not smoke, etc."

supergroup7 said...

Lizzie, I find it hard to speak about effectiveness, and flashiness. I think that it all rests in the minds of those who perform, and the goals of their movements. I can tell you that I would have a very difficult time judging a pattern as I have different expectations of what each movement does, or does not require built into me from the philosophy of my Martial art.

Am I allowed to contact when sparring.. in Kyokushin? Yes, it is a full contact karate. In Shotokan? No, the goal is to have control (but contact does happen at times)

What about the UFC? To be honest, I don't know much about that. I just stumbled across some articles about Georges St. Pierre's upcoming fight in Montreal a little while ago, and I watched his fight against Matt Hughes. That's as much as I know about UFC.

Do I know how to grapple? Interesting question.. let's say that I'm learning about such things, but I wouldn't want to test my knowledge on the street at this point in time.

Do I like to spar?
Sparring is part of my Art, and I embrace it's challenges. I cannot say that I "like" it in the same manner that I adore kata. However, I have seen it's value in helping me to understand kata.

Steve said...

When it comes to cheering, I am confused about that aspect. When the crowd is roaring in support, how are you supposed to hear the important commands of the referee, or the helpful suggestions of your coach?

Funny, that's never been a problem at all. He says, "Walk your leg over and take the arm," and I do.

As for the sport vs art thing... well, I guess we'll have to disagree on that point. I think that the distinction is largely academic. I will admit that my hackles rise whenever someone distinguishes between "martial art" and "martial sport." I think this is because whenever the distinction is made, it's in order to deride "sport." Whether to imply that "sport" is less noble, less effective on the street or for self-defense, or less beneficial to one's spirit, the distinction is only ever made when it's to basically insult martial artists who train in specific arts such as BJJ, wrestling, western boxing, muay thai, or even Kyokushin Karate.

supergroup7 said...

Hi Steve,

I'm going to have to write a posting on what I feel about "sport" compared to "lifestyle" because it's far too much for a little comment to contain.

I'd like you to know that I personally do not consider sport centered Martial art training as lesser than lifestyle centered Karate training. I just see them as two different things.