“It's okay to lose to opponent, must not lose to fear”
1: Put your skills to the test
If you're training for competition then obviously completing is the final test to evaluate your skills. If you're training for self defence then a tournament is like a mock test. See how you fare against others who have had training and want to win! What's the point in practicing drills, punches, kicks, locks and submissions if you never get the chance to see how you do against others with similar training experience. If you're training for fitness or social aspects then there are plenty other benefits below!
2: Challenge yourself
Martial arts are all about improving on the old you, Constantly pushing and striving to become better. Just entering a competition can be a big step. Participating is another challenge and at each stage you will develop as a person and as a martial artist.
3: Up your game
Entering a tournament switches something on in your brain, all of a sudden you attend every class you can, you work a little harder and, you learn at a faster rate. You might look more carefully at your diet or exercise regime. You up your game from every angle so you can perform at your best on the big day. Even if your nerves get the better of you, you have accelerated your progress and it'll show.
4: Spar Somebody New
Competing in tournaments means your opponents are, on the most part, completely new to you. This makes you work that much harder! If you only spar against people you know you begin to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Sparring somebody new forces you to use all your skills and push you to the next level physically and mentally.
5: See the greater world of martial arts
Coming to class on a regular basis becomes familiar, the same faces are their each week and they gradually come and go. On grading days you may see the bigger family that your club offers, seeing faces from other clubs in the area who are ready for promotion. Competitions allow you to see the entire martial arts family in one place. It opens your eyes to the size of the group who share your interest in martial arts.
6: Team Bonding and Camaraderie
On the most part martial arts are solo events. Team demonstrations and katas are exceptions but none the less, in all events at competition, the camaraderie between club members is boosted 10 fold. Everybody will be cheering and willing you on. As an instructor competitions are one of my favourite parts because of the team spirit I see and the pride I feel.
7: Strengthen your Spirit
When you enter a competition, you hope to do as well as you possibly can and the ultimate goal is to win. But besides this, even if you come last or perform below your best you will still learn immensely from the experience. You will learn lots about yourself and how you act under pressure. Do you give up when you're down on points or do you keep fighting? Your spirit will be strengthened in a tournament and this transfers to everyday life too.
8: Learning Experience
A competition allows you to really review your skills, you experience new people who can expose your weaknesses. Sparring new people can expose an area which is weak that you didn't realise. Maybe your striking is one of the best in your class, didn't think you needed to work on that area and all of a sudden there is an opponent with better striking so you have to use something else.
9: Overcome Fear
To be successful in any situation requires you to not panic and remain calm. Succumbing to fear will rarely end anything to your benefit. Competitions enable you to act in a safe environment but one which still elicits similar fear and stress as a real self defence scenario. You have the audience all looking at you while your opponent is trying to defeat you. All this will cause an adrenaline rush and all your senses want you to run and hide. Overcoming this raw emotion is a valuable experience to have in life and is the trademark of a martial artist.
10: Gives you something to aim for
Everybody hits plateaus, it's a natural progression that will pass and you'll feel stronger for it, but having a competition or tournament ahead of you gives you something to aim for, something to strive to achieve. More than anything it gives purpose to your training when otherwise you might not see the point or not feeling up to it today. Thinking ahead to the competition week will give you drive to carry on. I know that whenever I'm fatiguing during a cardio session I just look back at a time I was gassed at a tournament and know I don't want to be in that situation again!
11: Get to watch the best in action
This benefit can be achieved by just attending a tournament to watch, but is really beneficial when you're an active participant or better yet, a fellow competitor. You get to witness the best martial artists in the area or country or even worlds competing next to you. It gives you something to aim for and shows you what can be achieved and other people outside your club. Learning from the best can give you great insight, motivation and Is a learning experience.
12: Represent your School or Club
This comes side by side with the team bonding element of competitions, representing a club is a responsibility most people take pride in. It allows everybody to perform their best and demonstrates the strong team links between members of a club. Some say martial arts are an individual engraver, those representing a club will wholeheartedly disagree.
13: 100% resistance
When sparring in class you can provide resistance at any level depending what you're working on. But even when sparring, full contact the opponent is your friend and team member first and sparring partner second. They are there to facilitate learning and not to beat you down. In class sparring if somebody accidentally pokes you in your eye or inadvertently kicks to the groin they should stop, know they may have hurt you and see if you are okay etc. In competition the opponent wants to win, they will be using 100% of their effort to resist and beat you. They may not be so inclined to care for your well being and this is an enlightening experience in your first time competing.
The family of martial arts extends to every single person present at a martial arts competitions, knowing you have this shared interest. Some you may not like as much as others but some will become good friends. The people I've met at competitions I always look out for, curious to see how they are and how they have progressed. You may even find a lifelong friend at a competition.
15: Become Effective Instructors
The best competitors in martial arts may not be the best instructors, being able to teach is a different skill entirely, but those who are good instructors have usually competed at a high level. It is very difficult to teach somebody martial arts if they haven't done so themselves. If you can't talk from experience you are only teaching what you was once told. Entering a competition allows you to teach others safe in the knowledge that what you know really works!
16: Bragging Rights
A reason many people compete is to show off to their friends and family! You may not win but saying you rank top 10 or top 5 is still an achievement worth telling people (as long as they are the right type of people). There's nothing like hearing the crowd cheer after a perfect throw or gruelling match. I've still got a video of a throw from my first ever tournament which I'm particularly proud of!
17: Reality Check
This is one of the more valuable effects of tournaments, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time. Sometimes getting beat can show you how much there is to learn and that you're not the best in the world! As long as you can learn from the experience it'll never be a bad thing. Humility and humbleness are important characteristics of the martial artist.
18: Confidence Building
On the other hand, lots of martial artists undervalue their skills. They might be really good but never realise how far they have come. Their progress is clear once you put yourself against another martial artist. It can serve as a huge confidence builder in some people regardless of how well they do. And hey they might realise they actually enjoy it!
19: Review your performance
Of course the only thing that matters is that you are better than you was before, the only measure is your previous self. But there's no denying the hard facts that come from tournament rankings. If one year you rise 3 places is is undeniably an improvement which you can congratulate yourself on. If not, then it gives you something to aim for.
20: Might just win a medal or title
Lastly, and probably also the least, you might just win a medal or title. This can be a huge confidence booster and motivation to carry on. On the flip side it can also make people over confident and think that there's nothing more to learn. And there is the added stress of attempting to retain your title at the next competition!
Have a look at our competition page here for results of the latest competitions and for more information about them. A post outlining the rules and different events is in the pipeline.