At The Tournament, Part 1

Tournament pics 1Last weekend, Easter weekend, I attended a tournament in Columbia, Missouri. In this week’s blog, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about the experience.

This is the first of many blogs to come that go down a different path. I want to explore another area of my life, my martial arts background, a little more. I would like to explore the many aspects of martial arts, some of the life skills that it teaches. Will I relate them to writing? Maybe, but I’m sure any authors reading them should be able to find some way, a personal way, to relate the topic to writing if they should desire to do so.

Friday afternoon my troupe, which consisted of four members of a family who take my classes, arrived at the motel and ate a hurried dinner so that I could be at the tournament site by six when my competition was to begin.

Actually, we didn’t line up until almost 6:30, but I wasn’t too annoyed because that’s how many tournaments run. The in-joke is that ATA, while standing for American Taekwondo Association, also means All Times Approximate when it comes to tournaments, business seminars, and camps. I’m not blaming anybody for the delay and I would like to thank the host, Master Hockman, for running an excellent tournament. The thanks also goes to the staff members, and those at the head table processing competition folders.

My ring consisted of only three competitors. We are all friends and have competed together at previous tournaments. We knew each other’s styles, strengths, and weaknesses, and the results turned out pretty much the way I envisioned. Okay, I expected to earn a first place medal in the forms competition, but a brain glitch on my part near the end of my form bumped me to second.

As I discussed with another gentleman, my excitement about competing has waned in the last few years. I don’t mind competing and I go to have fun and the for the last couple I’ve worked hard to place in the top three in my ring. However, as the years pass, I have an attitude of, not apathy, just waning gung-ho. I’m not out for points; I’m not out to kick some butt; I’m not out to dominate. I’m there to have fun and if I win, I’m satisfied. If I lose, then I realize that I need to work harder the next time.

I attend tournaments to help others have fun. I enjoy being a judge and, more especially, being a center judge. Center judges control the pace and help create a positive attitude for the ring. Not saying the two corner judges don’t play their parts, but the center can make or break a ring. So, Saturday morning I was assigned to Ring 1 along with three other judges but sat on the sidelines for the first set of competitors.

The second set featured the Special Ability divisions. These competitors have either physical or mental problems that warrant them a special ring. Some of the physical problems could be: wheelchair bound, deformed limb, or, in the case of one sweet girl I assisted on Saturday-blindness. The mental, or cognitive, side includes: Down’s Syndrome (as one of my students has) or other form of mental retardation. These students, despite, their limitations in other areas, are intelligent, eager, and yearning to learn, and just want to have fun…just like everybody else. They may work a little harder to fulfill their desires, but the effort is worth it and the results are fantastic.

I helped with this ring, shadowing the competitors if they needed assistance on their forms and being a sparring partner. As usual, I was amazed at their abilities but not because I thought they couldn’t do anything, but because they reaffirmed the notion that martial arts is for everybody. Not just the athletic or the high flyers or the prodigies, but everybody from 3 to 103, whether you can kick above your head or only at knee level. Whether you can perform a step jump spin outer crescent kick or need a cane to get out onto the floor.

I must write about the blind girl. Just 13, Chloe was inquisitive and would talk your ear off if you let her. She asked the name of anybody nearby or anybody who helped her. That’s how she remembered individuals, by their voices. One of the wonderful things about her was that she asked that we remember her the next time. I supposed, in one sense, living in a world without light, one may tend to feel alone, even in a crowd. Because of the lack of sight, the blind have lost one sense to enjoy the world around them and some may feel they are ignored.

And maybe I’m wrong, but I learned from my great uncle, who suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side and all but completely blinded him, how much caring I have to give. At a reunion, I made sure I sat next to him and talked with him whenever others drifted off.

I salute Chloe and wish I could spend more time just talking with her, learning about her, understanding her. Unfortunately, time and the tournament responsibilities denied me the opportunity. I did tell her that she was unforgettable and that I would remember her at the next tournament.

However, I know I did my job well because her mom and another couple of parents thanked me for helping to make the experience fun for their children.

That’s what it’s all about. That’s why I attend tournaments. If I don’t win a medal or a trophy, I’m not disappointed. If I can help a blind girl, a girl who has motor processing problems, or a Down’s Syndrome kid have fun; if I can be a sparring partner and allow myself to get whacked with a padded combat stick, then any inconvenience I experienced throughout the two days paled because I know some wonderful kids-and adults-went home smiling and satisfied.

Did I get to sit in the center chair? Yes, and that’s what I’ll discuss next week.

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