Sasha Bradshaw 3rd Duan shares her thoughts…
Entering into competition is an excellent experience as it builds your confidence. Students will always feel a sense of personal achievement after having competed. For young students, especially, there are long-term benefits. Once you have competed as a child, the experience becomes normalised and increases maturity, confidence and lessens reservations going in to future competitions.
The greatest benefit of competition is that it puts the skills you have learned in training into practice. Free-sparring in tournament is very different from the training room, as you are under a lot of stress with your opponent trying to beat you. Fighting in this way requires a lot more courage as it appears to feel more ‘real’, even though it does not replicate a real life situation on the street. This experience will highlight your weaknesses, which provides opportunity for you to improve specific aspects of your training. Losing in competition even has its benefits, as all of your weaknesses are exposed which can motivate you to train harder and improve for the next competition. The annual competition provides an excellent goal to work towards.
If sparring is not your preferred category, you can still compete by entering in the forms competition. This allows you to watch others perform, taking tips from their performance. Competing in the forms category is good for beginners as it allows them to experience the competition without the stress associated with the free-sparring. Performing well will inspire you and help you gain confidence so that you can enter free-sparring in future competitions.
One of the most exciting things about competition is that you compete with students from other clubs that you may never have met before. When training in your home club you know the other fights, which may become repetitive and boring after time. Sparring with new people puts your skills from training into practice. Learning new techniques and sharing ideas with students from other clubs is the crux of the competition itself, underpinning the idea that we can enrich our own training by learning from and being inspired by others in Tang Sou Dao.
Even though it appears that the benefits of competition will far outweigh any apparent drawbacks, it is still important to consider the latter, nonetheless. Competition is a high-intensity environment and if not properly managed, there is a higher risk of more injuries occurring. Having a poorly organised tournament with bad judging and refereeing would also paint the style in a bad light to spectators. And the focus placed on fighting in competition can detract from the real purpose of the martial art, which is that of self-defence. Because of this, any spectators may be permanently deterred from joining the style if they see many injuries take place during the fighting.
The idea of getting injured is especially off-putting for beginners and children, as well as the parents/guardians who may not allow their child to compete in the future if they have bad experience. In addition, some juniors are likely to come away feeling highly disappointed if they do not win anything, even though they have performed well. Ultimately though, a poor experience in competition can be turned into a positive one if you use it to strive to progress further to perform better next time.
Sasha Bradshaw 3rd Duan trains with her father Mark Bradshaw in Chelmsford