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A great many of our friends and associates in the Martial Arts community see little value in tournament fighting. Many of them claim that competition fighting is so far from reality that it leads students to learn techniques that will not work in the street. There is a belief that the tournament fighter is deluding himself into believing he is tougher or more competent than he really is. The fear instructor’s face is that the student will believe the fighting style they need to adopt to be a successful tournament competitor will supplant the combat training they are receiving. I have seen many of my associates and fellow instructors put down tournament winners and champions and question their bona fides as a Martial Artist and even question their integrity. This is a terrible thing to do. And it is a fool’s errand.

Competition fighting is a valuable tool for instructors that should not be casually overlooked or summarily dismissed. I have found more often those who criticize tournament fighting to be more fearful of it than critical. Students who are allowed to participate in tournament fighting gain far more than they lose. It is true that the instructor must emphasize that tournament techniques are unique and not necessarily effective in a street fight. However, it is also incumbent upon the instructor to help the student use the principals and techniques they are being taught to compete and showcase their art. The true value of tournament fighting is in the experience itself. Anyone who has competed knows the nervous anticipation, the questioning of their training, the fear of injury and the doubt of their skill that comes with pitting their skills against another. This confrontation with fear is as close as most of us will ever get to a real combat situation and so there is value in having a student face that fear. Their personal growth from the experience within the context of your school or club is an absolute necessity. To deprive the student of this experience is detrimental to their Martial growth. At some point, all students must be pressed into some sort of opportunity to test their skills or else they will never learn nor will they develop a sense of courage.

In addition to the individual benefits a student gets from tournament fighting, the community as a whole grows from the experience. Instructors who participate as judges and referees gain respect among their colleagues. Bonds are formed within and among schools. Friendships are begun and reinforced. Communication among the schools is encouraged and barriers are broken down. Children and young adults are provided an opportunity to learn how to be gracious in both loss and victory. We instructors are provided an opportunity to demonstrate humility, honor, respect, sportsmanship, fair play and sound judgment. Most of all, our community of Martial Arts is bolstered and celebrated. Yes, there are those who will behave badly, brag, intimidate, gloat and use the tournament environment as a place to display their immaturity. But, that's how life is. How we respond to these challenges is up to us and it is in this response where we demonstrate our character. This is an important lesson for students both in Martial Arts and in life.

For those who choose not to participate, I ask “why not?”. With so much to gain for both you and your students, I can only surmise that you must simply be afraid. The fear of not performing, not behaving properly, or not winning dissuades you from participation and denies your students the opportunity to reap all the benefits available from competing. Maybe what you truly fear is that your students will see your lack of confidence and question the effectiveness of your teaching. Maybe that’s a good thing for them to do. Who among us is so perfect that they are above question? Not many. I say, there is too much for you and your students to gain to refuse to participate in tournaments. Let them play.

Views: 33

Comment by terry joven on March 30, 2011 at 4:07pm

Guro Lawrence.....

this is a great blog...

you are truly a gifted writer & martial artist.

I too believe there is more to gain than to lose!



Comment by Guro Lawrence Motta on March 30, 2011 at 4:12pm
Thanks Terry.  I have a lot on my mind these days.  Let me know if I post too much. :)
Comment by butch gargalicana on March 30, 2011 at 4:46pm
Excellent article,where else can you test your skills without being seriously injured or even killed
Comment by terry joven on March 30, 2011 at 4:50pm

We need your presence here on it just not just me & them... Leo's legasy is way bigger than us.

i wished i had your ability to communicate.

keep posting!



Comment by Guro Lawrence Motta on March 30, 2011 at 6:06pm
Thanks Terry.  I guess that college edumacation was worth something.
Comment by Salvador de la Cruz on March 30, 2011 at 11:32pm
I believe in the value of tournament sparring. It is nothing like a street fight but the speed is almost similar. People that have never done it will never understand. Awesome read.
Comment by Marc Lawrence on March 31, 2011 at 11:34am

Guro Motta,

I appreciate your honesty on this subject. I feel that FMA practitioners should complete in several types of divisions, but always respect the weapon as to not create bad habits. I believe in some ways it is harder to fight in tournament  as you must follow a host of rules.  You learn a lot from tournaments about fighting and about people. I find that those that do not compete really do not know if their methods will work when it time to make it work. Yes a good teacher will say to their students this is for the street and this is for tournament so they stay in the frame work.

Punong Guro Marc Lawrence

Comment by Al S on March 31, 2011 at 2:01pm

Well written essay. I also remember PG Lawrence fighting in a tournament with another master with no padding. I did not see any exhibit of fear. I was going to write about the few negatives of tournament fighting but your essay is a masterpiece.

Comment by Craig Sira on April 1, 2011 at 9:48am

Competitive sparring no matter how 'real' still has rules and develops a sportmindset for safety.  You are using water down techniques so you do not hurt your partner.  This is the exact opposite to how you want to train for the street.  Decide what your martial art goals are and focus on them.  Are you sport or self protection then train that way and be honest with yourself and your students are their training.  I often say 'martial arts is not self defense' and often hampers your self defense skills.  The FMA are much better then most but as more competitve aspects are added it will look more and more like TKD or other martial art sports.


Comment by robert small on April 2, 2011 at 10:44am

 Great topic... im 44 yrs old have been training in ma for over 37 yrs.. The fma since 82 and love it..i  think my skills are pretty good.. but recently (even at my age) have started testing myself in mma events... i know its still a sport, a game... but  i think the question we all need to ask is can we truely apply what we know? its not as easy as you might think...ive been to many tournaments and love the game but everyone from all these different styles look the same. so why practice if you can't apply your art to praticed combat(sparring,

 i think competition is good for challenging yourself.. to see where your lacking in training..

 evolve, grow, progress... make our art and ourselves better in all aspects

thanks for the toppic

 forever a student

Robert Small


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