I might be way off in left field here but it is my personal opinion that every martial artist should compete at least a couple times throughout their martial arts journey (as long as there’s no health condition that would prevent them from doing so).
But Jacob, not everyone is the competitive type. Everyone doesn’t enjoy competing.
I get that, I really do, but my statement still stands. Whether you love it or hate it, you should still do it and here’s my reasons why:
It makes you a better martial artist
If you know there’s a tournament a two months out that you’re competing in, what is your initial reaction? Probably something close to “I need to train!!!” You become more critical of your forms. You do more conditioning. You give more effort in class sparring sessions instead of just coasting through. Regardless of whether you win or lose at the tournament, the journey has made you a better martial artist.
You learn to perform under pressure
Close your eyes and imagine this scenario… Hundreds of people are screaming in the stands. The other competitors are staring you down. The judges are intently watching your every move. It’s only you…standing in the ring… all eyes are on you. Chances are your heart speeds up a bit just visualizing this. It’s 100 times worse when you’re actually there. Learning to deal with this pressure will transfer over to your everyday life. While everyone at work is scrambling over a missed deadline, you’ll be as cool as a cucumber because you’ve been through worse.
You learn how to take a punch
Yes, you can take that both literally and metaphorically. Most people shut down after they receive a kick or punch to the face. Competing forces you to press on. After a while it doesn’t phase you. It might even psyche you up. Some of my friends had a long running joke that I wouldn’t really start sparring until after my opponent kicked me in the head. I just needed that little love tap to get me going. This can mean the difference between life and death in a self-defense situation. If someone comes out from the shadows and hits you with a haymaker, can you quickly recover from the initial shock and fight back? Metaphorically speaking, you learn what to do when life gets hard or doesn’t go how you had planned it.
It takes you out of your comfort zone
Show me someone who is at complete ease walking into the ring and I’ll show you someone who has taken one too many knocks to the noggin. Squaring off against someone who is capable and willing to knock you out is an unsettling experience. Too often in life we try to avoid uncomfortable situations. What we fail to realize is that those very situations bring about the best in us. My best sparring has always been in the ring. I have never been able to mimic what I’ve done in the ring in class, training, or testings.
You learn what actually works and what doesn’t
A lot of things sound great in theory but don’t stand the test of war. Many martial arts forums are chock full of keyboard warriors spouting that if someone they were fighting did this, they would do X, Y, & Z to win. They play the martial arts version of paper, rock, scissors without accounting for any other variables…
- Will it work if your opponent is much faster/stronger than you?
- Will it work if you’re exhausted?
- Will it work if you just fell for your opponent’s feint and he throws the attack while you’re still recovering?
The ring is the place to test it out.
Did I miss any reasons? Put yours down below in the comments section!