Tournament competition is about more than just winning trophies, it is an essential element of your training!
If you haven’t competed in a tournament yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. The benefits of tournament competition are so great, that if you asked me “What does it take to become a great martial artist?” I would respond with “a good teacher, lots of practice, and tournament competition.”
Why are tournaments such a vital part of your training? Here are 5 of the countless benefits:
Reason #1: Tournaments let you test your skills.
You spend hours in class and at home developing your skills, drilling your throws, holdings and escapes, learning effective competition strategies, working on your strength and flexibility… isn’t it time to put that training to the test? Tournaments offer a safe and positive environment for you to showcase your abilities and learn about what you need to improve. You will get feedback from the judges, as well as other competitors, on what you did well and what you should work on.
Reason #2: Tournaments help you overcome your fears.
One of the benefits of martial arts training is the ability to stay calm and clear headed in stressful or dangerous situations. So how can a tournament help you to stay calm instead of panicking? Just ask anyone who has competed. When you step into the ring your adrenaline starts to flow. Your pulse quickens, you feel butterflies in your stomach, and your legs will feel heavy. This is a result of the “fight or flight” response, and in a tournament you will literally be conditioning your body and mind on how to handle these stresses. With each competition, you’ll become stronger and more confident. Tournaments force you OUT of your comfort zone, and while that doesn’t always sound pleasant, it is necessary for true growth.
Reason #3: Competition helps you stay motivated.
Like everything else in our life, our level of motivation never stays constant. We see this the most in children who are still learning about self-discipline, one day they are extremely motivated future black belts, the next day they want to quit altogether. Tournaments can help keep students motivated by providing them with “mini goals” throughout their training. Once you commit to competing in a tournament, you start to train harder. And then when you do compete, you feel a tremendous amount of pride in what you have accomplished.
Reason #4: You get to watch and learn from others.
When you train in your school, you usually end up competing with the same people, over and over again. You eventually get used to the way they randori, and can start to anticipate them. Going to tournaments allows you to compete against new people that can challenge you. Remember that even inside of a single Judo organization, each school will have its own unique style and personality, due to differences in the master instructors. So another benefit is that you may learn or see something you wouldn’t have seen just by attending your classes.
Reason #5: You will become closer to your fellow students.
Tournaments offer a unique bonding experience for students. As you train together for a common goal, travel to competitions and then compete with and cheer for each other, you will become closer. You will also have the chance to meet with and create friendships with students from other schools. Nothing brings people together like a shared experience.
In the end, the benefits of competing in tournaments are much greater than any reason you could have not to. It’s about more than just competing and winning trophies and medals, it’s about taking your martial arts journey to the next level. If you do have any reservations or concerns about competing, I urge you to talk to your instructor about them. I know that once you experience all that tournaments have to offer, you’ll be hooked and looking forward to the next one!