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Showing Off Your Martial Arts Skills in Competition

So you belong to a school that allows and even encourages students to enter competitions, but you're not sure if you should do it. Many martial artists shy away from organized competition because they're afraid of making fools of themselves. This is for good reason. Falling down while attempting the jump-spinning-wheel kick in the (relative) privacy of your instructor's training hall is one thing, but doing it in front of a panel of judges and two thousand spectators is another matter altogether. But you should risk it anyway.

Getting the hang of it

The purpose of entering competitions isn't to garner fame, glory, and an action-movie contract. The purpose is to help you develop your martial arts skills.

Training for competition gives a little extra kick to your ordinary workouts. Knowing that you're going to go head-to-head with others at your rank can give you the extra incentive that you need to really get those kicks head high or to really sharpen those throws.

Naturally, if you're going to be performing forms for judges or sparring other competitors, you want to do your best. So, spend extra time working on areas that may be weak ahead of time. You can set goals and challenge yourself to achieve certain results in time for the competition.

Finding out who's doing what

Martial artists are successful so long as they achieve to the best of their own abilities — no matter what the other guys are doing. Spending too much time comparing yourself to others is counterproductive; however, an occasional glimpse of what the other guys are up to can be healthy.

Competition helps everyone become better, and constantly pushes the envelope of what people can do. At one regional tournament, a competitor did a double-jump-spinning-wheel kick through a board, breaking off one third of the board on the first kick and another third of the board on the second kick. No one had seen this particular board break before. But at the next regional tournament, everyone was doing that board-breaking kick or some variation of it.

No one — even the pros — makes much money competing in martial arts tournaments, but entering and doing well in competition can add luster to your credentials as a teacher or coach. Therefore, a tournament is worth the investment even if the medals that you receive aren't worth more than a buck-fifty each.

Beating the jitters

Participating in competition is nerve-racking: You fork over a bunch of money, stand around in your uniform for a couple of hours, then suddenly have to perform your techniques in front of a group of judges who don't appear to be even looking at you, and then stand around some more to see how you did. If you enter more than one event, this process occurs repeatedly. Competing is enough to turn you into a couch potato.

So why do it? Nerve-racking competition is good for you. (Bet your mother never told you that.) You're a martial artist. You're learning skills that you hope you can use one day should a mugger grab you and drag you down an alley. Now that can make you nervous. If you never practice your techniques when you're nervous, then when the time comes for you to use your skills in real life, you may not know what to do.

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