Fitting everyone into tournaments

I want to talk about tournaments for a bit. Specifically, tournaments and segregation. The ideal of any martial art is that skill will win out over natural advantage. At the hobbyist level of martial arts competition this ideal is reflected in open tournaments, where everyone fights everyone. As long as there is a large disparity of skill, and an average disparity in size, there will be a tendency for skill to dominate. On average, tournament wins over time will be divided between the skillful and the naturally blessed. This has been reflected in my experience. When we start to deal above the hobbyist level, into amateur and professional sports, the assumption is that all participants will be skillful, but with different levels of natural ability and experience. The truth of any skill is that the big gains are made in the initial learning and polishing; the skill gap between experts…

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April 9 Tournament Wrap-up

Valkyrie had it’s first tournament just a little less than two weeks ago. Results can be found on our facebook page, and I talked about the format in a previous blog post. It’s been enough time that I’m able to put together some thoughts about how it went, and what we will change with the next one. We had 214 or so fights, and no injuries beyond the usual colourful bruises, scrapes and occasional bit of blood from a scratch. There was no conflict or bad feelings to be noted in the entire tournament. We only had three problems surface around the bouts themselves. Two where resolved on the spot to the satisfaction of both the fighters and the audience, and the third caused some mumbles afterwards but didn’t affect the fight at the time. One fight missed being tallied and included in the fighters totals at the end, and…

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Tourney Time

The bulk of my rapier training, before moving into full-time teaching, was for tournament fighting. At my peak, I think in a two year period I hit about 70 tournaments. Never won one, but towards the end I had a consistent habit of second place or at least in the finals. The preceding years saw greater and greater participation. My life was focused around competing and training for competing, and my marriage(s) and work history do reflect that. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time to make a five hour round trip to Seattle for a chance to spend half an hour sparring new people, and then head to Oregon that weekend for what amounted to about two minutes of sword time in a tournament. I admit to getting a little burned out on tournaments. I no longer have the fire to compete, and have found new…

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Dying at the Hands of Babes-in-Arms

I thought I would start this post off with a link to a funny video or two of people failing at chi/ki/energy flow martial arts, but I got pretty depressed looking through the available samples. I’m going to skip that. No one needs to start their week off with that sort of thing. The point I was going to make was that with the best of intentions, and sometimes even with the best kind of training, we can still wind up training in what Ameri-do-te would describe as “Bullshit.” Sparring is usually seen as the real test of a martial art, but even schools that invest heavily in sparring can wind up doing nonsense. There was a video not to long ago of a black belt exam in a large martial art school that featured some of the worst body mechanics ever seen, and some truly atrocious sparring…mostly flailing. A…

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Fighter 2.0

Now it’s time to get better. For better or for worse, today, you are the fighter you have made yourself into. It’s time to get better. Or else maybe consider taking up cello, or calligraphy or something. To improve, you need to understand precisely where you are now. The most common flaw in fighters is the flaw of assuming what you are doing is just fine, and that your development is great. When I say assume, what I mean is that there is a tendency to evaluate yourself based only on your feelings and perceptions. If I have two fighters spar for a few moments, and then individually ask them how they did, it’s not uncommon that their impression of their own performance will be wildly out of line with the touches that I took note of. Winners think they lost, and losers think they only ceded a few touches.…

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Familiarity Breeds Caution

Making road trips to small towns to teach fencing was always a special sort of fun. Inbred fencing is a real thing. In the world of SCA rapier, there are no standards, no rote lessons, no best practices. Everyone who can prove that they are capable of not hurting someone in a tournament is free to pursue anything they want, fighting in any style that strikes there fancy. Balancing that out is a community that only values winning. Small towns tend to make big-headed champions who feel like they are they greatest thing since sliced bread, and they love it when the so-called “hot shots” come in from out of town to teach. Sure, they’re happy to have them come and drum up some interest, but mostly…they want an opportunity to show that they should be recognized for being as good as the hot shots. Never mind that the hotshots…

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