While considered a young school, being open only 1.6 years, we decided to enter our first open tournament. On September 10th, I am proud to say, we had 13 students attend the KICK/USA South Region Qualifier. While the school’s emphasis lies primarily in self-defense and character education, I knew the tournament would be a good experience to keep the students sharp, motivated, and working as a family. Being a former competitor myself, I saw the value in that! That being said, I did remember all the negatives of past tournament experiences, ie., bickering coaches, long waits, adversarial parents, etc. Sometimes, even school owners and parents went to blows. Much like some of today’s youth baseball leagues. Talk about forgetting what the Martial Arts are all about! Needless to say, I was excited about the event but with some reservation.
As my first students began to arrive I could see the look of excitement in their eyes. I could also see the “Deer in Headlights Look”. It was funny to watch. I don’t know who was more nervous though, them or me. I felt the same butterflies and adrenaline rush of when I use to compete! What had been considered a novelty, an abstract concept of going to a tournament, just like in Karate Kid, was actually taking place. They were there and now they were all feeling it. It wasn’t a fun movie to watch anymore, they were living it.
As my youngest competitor at five years old was called up to start the day’s events, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps seeing all of his 7 year old classmates that he is use to sparring with, lined up behind him outside the ring cheering him on. I get chills just writing about it! While the referee stated the rules they were all patting him on the head psyching him up. He was no longer the youngest, cute kid in the class, he was their boy and they were there to back him up 100% of the way. He was family and they were going to bat for him! I couldn’t help but think to myself, how cool it must of felt for him, at only 5 years old, to have the support of the older kids standing right behind him. He had been very nervous at first, but the support gave him the strength and energy he needed.
As the days events continued to unfold, I saw much of the same. The students would gather together to support their fellow students in every match. Our parents followed suit, with countless cheering and applause for a job well done. Our presence was definitely felt! The MMA family was strong and it was evident.
Other than one negative “Hit him hard! You already have him crying” comment overheard by one of our parents from one of the opposing school’s coaches, the experience was an overall success. As for that coach, I guess he has yet to learn the values of the martial arts. Along the way, in addition to everyone receiving great competitor recognitions, we picked up the following medals:
(1) First place – Fighting
(3) Second place – Fighting
(1) Second place – Forms
(1) Third place – Forms
(1) Fourth place – Fighting
(1) Fourth place – Forms
(1) Fifth place – Fighting
Most importantly, it solidified my view on Martial Arts education and its role in the development of a child. In one day, they learned how to conquer their fear and exhibit courage; they learned about modesty/humility through the realization of their own weakness or limitations at their current stage of development; they learned about courtesy by showing respect to their opponents and their coaches before and after each fight or form exhibition; they learned about integrity by sticking to a course of action and seeing it through; they learned about perseverance through the ups and downs of tournament competition and continuing to strive even though tired or a little bruised; and finally, they learned what it means to have an indomitable spirit, the heart and fire to put it all on the line. All of the tenets of the Martial Arts! What a great foundation for the development of future champions in life.
I have played practically every sport my whole life and love them, but as I have always stressed, unlike seasonal sports, the Martial Arts should be viewed as your second school. Where else can you derive all the benefits and life-long lessons inherent in the Martial Arts. A discipline, a way of life, a sport, and an art form that you can practice your whole life.