$25 for a couple minutes of competition?

The schedule for tomorrow’s events is here.

Money is tight for everyone these days, and when I handed out flyers a few weeks ago for our sister school’s annual Kata Competition, I understood that some folks would opt out on financial grounds. Completely understandable – and come to think of it, the lessons you teach your kids about responsible budgeting are absolutely vital.

I’m a martial arts instructor, though; so the topic of this post is the value of participation – or, what you get for your money when you take part in a competition.

I happened to overhear a parent in the hallway exclaiming, “What! Twenty-five dollars for one kata?” I was busy teaching class at the time, but a part of my mind wandered back to my own past tournament experience (back in prehistoric times) – how, after completing a kata and receiving my scores in 2 minutes or less, it could seem like a lot of build-up for very little action.

But of course, if you think the 1 or 2 minutes on the floor, or the 3-minute round of sparring, is what it’s all about, you are forgetting the hours of preparation beforehand, the extra practice, the stepping up of effort, the camaraderie and mutual support of participating with your dojo-mates, the chance to see and learn from others who get up to perform, the struggle with (and overcoming of) fear or stage-fright, the inspiration of seeing the older or higher-ranked students perform; or, if you are one of those older students, the chance to appreciate how far you’ve come and what a role model you are for the younger kids.

There’s a lot more to it than two short minutes of action.

As for the preparation beforehand, at Redwood Dojo the whole class benefits, because we all do some tournament-style practice during the lead-up to the event. But it’s easy for me to see the students who really mean it; their effort gets a visible boost. They know they are going to be putting themselves on the line in front of judges; they really want to do their best (and maybe win!). These students step it up, and the benefits long outlast the tournament.

Just for fun, let’s revisit that $25 entry fee – fairly typical for this kind of event. I notice it’s only $5 more to add an event. As instructors, we love it when students compete in multiple events. It means more engagement, more training, more excitement about martial arts. A competitor could conceivably perform in three events for $35 – making it just under $12 per event. That’s getting down pretty close to the cost of the trophies – which, by the way, must be bought and paid for in advance, before all participants have registered. These small, local tournaments aren’t money-makers. The organizers work hard to put them on for the benefit of the students. If there’s some profit at the end to help keep the school running, so much the better!

Back in my day, tournament participation was required. I didn’t always like it, but I learned valuable lessons that I’d now like to pass on to my students. At Redwood Dojo, participation in tournaments is entirely optional. But I do hope every student – and parent – will appreciate the value of participation, and at some point give it a try.

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4 Responses to $25 for a couple minutes of competition?

  1. Chris B says:

    Sensei Didi,

    Like yourself, I am not big on tournaments for children and I generally participate in less than one a year with my kids. Naturally, I’ve heard similar complaints from parents about the experience.

    You seem to have hit on all of the points that I would have used to answer, “Is that all I get for $25?” except one.

    I agree that the preparation, the group spirit boost and the adrenalin rush of competition, (no matter how brief) are all valid benefits for your money, but by no means the most important ones.

    We can’t always win.

    That’s a life-lesson too, and one that’s well worth experiencing.

    I tell my students flat-out, that you’re not -supposed- to win. You’re supposed to go to see how you stack up. Go to scream your head off for your classmates. Go to watch your assistant instructors/Brown-belts actually sweat and struggle.

    4 minutes of performing kata and sparring = $30
    4 hours of watching the best that your art can offer, and dreaming of what it will take for YOU to be the best = priceless.

    It’s not about cost, it’s about a basic equation:
    Effort x Time = Reward

    • redwoodojo says:

      Thank you, Chris, for expressing so well that most fundamental lesson of competition. And I love your equation, too.

  2. Millicent Morris Chaney says:

    Sensei Didi –

    Thank you to you and all the folks who organized Redwood Dojo’s tournament. We appreciate very much the commitment the Cuong Nhu community exhibits. Lucas looks forward to the next opportunity to improve his skills. Gratefully yours, Millicent

    • redwoodojo says:

      Yes, a big thank-you to Rohai Dojo for organizing and hosting. I only helped a little bit!
      Thanks, too, to the parents who support their kids and drive them to events! And I was very proud of all the Redwood Dojo members who took part.
      – DG

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