Martial arts competitions are fairly common and are a fantastic way to gauge your skills against opponents you’ve never worked with before. Sometimes we get used to our fellow students in classes and learn to predict behavior and timing because we work with them all the time. This can lead us to a false sense of ability, and a feeling that we might have it all figured out, since we do pretty well in class against fellow students. It’s good to compete with those you don’t train with on a regular basis in order to get a sense of your skill level outside the dojang.
Although traditional martial arts tournaments are not as abundant as they once were back in the early 2000s, there’s still a few that students can attend to test themselves. Traditional martial arts, especially Olympic Taekwondo, experienced a rapid demise in competitions right around 2004, leaving many schools with no place to bring students who wanted to compete. The growth of Mixed Martial Arts along with the popularity of the Ultimate Fighter Competitions has also taken much of the focus away from tournament circuits run for individual styles of traditional martial arts. This of course has not impeded some dedicated to traditional styles from organizing and running competitions which usually occur annually.
Cost to enter these competitions varies but is usually around $50 to $75 per entry and will include one or more events in which an athlete can participate. Taekwondo tournaments typically involve three main areas of competition, sparring, forms and breaking. Most recently breaking events have declined and the main to categories remain sparring and forms (or poomsae).
Forms competition usually involves multiple competitors performing the exact same form simultaneously or one at a time in front of two or more judges not from their own school. High scores are awarded to those showing greater competence and proficiency in movement, technique, power and style while performing the poomsae.
You’ll likely run into two forms of sparring while competing; one known as Olympic style, where all strikes are usually full contact in black belt divisions and the round clock continues as points are scored, the other is called point style, where most strikes are light contact and the round clock stops each time a point is scored so the competitors can reset to their original positions. As you may have guessed this program trains students for Olympic Style type sparring which requires students to have a full array of safety gear.
Sparring divisions are normally divided up by rank as well as weight class and age. This assures competitors are challenging each other within an expected skill range. Depending on the number of entries, an athlete may have to compete against just one opponent or may have to engage in multiple matches before winning their division.
Breaking involves a demonstration of power, speed, agility, or all three combined while splitting pine boards or concrete blocks to outclass those competing against you. Commonly, those breaking concrete or pine boards get pitted against only those breaking the same type of materials, but, it’s not uncommon to group everyone together when there’s a limited amount of people signed up for breaking. Score is based on the difficulty and complexity of the break, the ability of the athlete to have success in only one try and really the overall impressiveness of the feat itself.
I recommend that all students enter into at least one competition if nor more during their training. The experience is well worth it!