First Tournament - Tomorrow

Well, tomorrow is d-day. Tournament time.

Tuesday night was my last real class before this tournament. My instructors told me that was to be my last workout before Saturday's tournament because they don't want me getting bruised, pulling a muscle, or getting hurt right before the event. Speaking of bruises, on Tuesday, I received one by striking Mr. Mc's elbow with the back of my hand. It swelled up immediately, but I iced it after class so it doesn't hurt so much now. The  the bruise looks pretty impressive though. That is example 1 of why "No more workouts until after the tournament!" is in effect.

Last night I ran a few laps with the kids during the warmup and then just assisted Mr. Mc with teaching in class.

Since my last post, I have been getting mentally ready for the tournament and working out strategy. I have a good idea of what my game plan is going to be, but it's hard getting an exact plan when I don't know who is going to be competing in my division. Hopefully there will be more than five women, but who knows. Last year I think there were three in the point division and only two in the semi-knockout. . . .

Nerves are an issue. I haven't had a big event like this since my red belt test back in March. I'm a little nervous, which is to be expected with this being my first time competing, but I think I have it under control. At least, I think I do. I'm constantly going over strategy in my head and repeating the rules and legal striking areas for both divisions.

This past week, I've even caught myself sizing people up as I walk around campus and thinking about what techniques I would use on them, how I would move to get inside their range to be able to hit them, and how their height would cause me to adjust my guard so I can cover up when I'm hitting them. Not that I would actually attack them of course! My mindset is just on a constant repeat of "tournament, tournament, tournament. . ."

I'm meeting my instructor early tomorrow morning and driving up with him and the others from my class. I'll have a full report of how the tournament went soon.

Countdown to First Tournament - 9 days

With just over a week to go until I compete in my first tournament, the nervousness has finally set in and I think it's here to stay.

In other news, my instructors advised me to buy cloth hand pads for the semi-knockdown portion of the tournament. Yesterday, I also found out that I'm required to have cloth shin/instep guards for semi-knockdown. I've been looking around for a good deal online, but shipping is expensive at most websites. I didn't want to pay 9+ dollars for it if I could avoid it. I found a pair of shin/instep pads at Academy Sports and Outdoors, but they're very limited in the martial arts gear department - other than MMA gear which they have plenty of - and they didn't stock the hands pads I need. Well, they did, but it was a hand pad/forearm pad combo that felt strange when I put it on. I'm just not used to having anything on my forearm and it just felt wrong. If I had it my way, I wouldn't require the shin guards, but it's not my tournament, so I don't have a say in the matter. Anyway, here are the shin/instep pads I bought.

Finally, I caved in and ordered a pair of hand pads from Century. Early birthday present!

In class, we've been doing some point sparring and going over the rules and etiquette in the tournament. Last Tuesday, Mr. G and I talked about the semi-knockdown sparring. I think it's 2 minute continuous rounds, no stopping for points. If the refs don't decide on a clear winner, they make you spar a one minute round, and if needed, another one minute round. Endurance is key! Mr. G put me doing rounds on the heavy bag for part of class, then we sparred.

There's not really any way around the constant clashing of forearms and knuckles hitting forearm and upper arm. Semi-knockdown is an up close and personal kind of spar, and I've heard that most of the competitors like to spar head on, just trading punch after punch, so bruises are quite common. The lesson I learned from this was: utilizing angles is important!

Over the weeks, I've had my head filled with tip after tip for both kinds of sparring, what to do to condition, and been given ideas of what techniques work well, which ones don't, thoughts on strategy, and I've been told I need to have game plans. I'm still working on these. In fact, I have an email sitting in front of me with advice of what I need to be doing this last week before the tournament. Some of these are:

1. Run every day. (Bleck)

2. Attack a heavy bag for 2 minutes solid. (3 rounds)

3. Condition thighs and shins.

4. Stop all workouts after Wednesday night. (Tournament is on Saturday)

5. Run Thursday morning, then rest all day and Friday.

6. Load up on carbs for Saturday morning. Whole grain is good.

7. Pack bag with snacks for the day.

Other advice from those who have been in and around the tournament scene would be very much appreciated!

Self Correction: Video Project

Self correction is something I need to work on more at home. I've gotten into the habit where "practicing" consists of doing a form in its entirety without giving much thought to the details. I need to stop that. There's a time to practice at full speed, but right now there's details I need to fix that require pausing and checking every tiny, little thing - stance, positioning of the hands, body alignment, weight distribution, etc, etc.

Frustration sets in quickly when I slow down and self correct. I'll be working on a form, and something will just feel wrong, or I'll check my stance and notice something off. I start from the beginning and try again, paying special attention to correcting my mistake, repeating until the problem is fixed. Sometimes that correction takes only a few repetitions, sometimes it takes days/weeks/months, especially if it's breaking an ingrained habit. Some days it makes me want to pull my hair out.

Tonight, I started videoing myself during parts of my at home practice. I don't have access to a good mirror at the moment (I'm working on getting one for the house), so the next best tool I can use to help me self correct is video.

Video lets me see myself from the point of view that my instructors see me from when I'm in class. There's nothing like watching yourself from a third person perspective. It shows me how I move, if my transitions are smooth, and I can also concentrate on what I'm doing, rather than watching myself in a mirror as I'm attempting something. I can also pick up on things that I might gloss over by using the "Does it feel/look right?" method.

Unfortunately, it also lets me see that there's some areas where my performance of a form or execution of a technique isn't as awesome as I felt it was. Whether it's "Oh, that transition wasn't smooth," "That kick really sucked. My knee wasn't high enough and I swung that kick," or "I look like that when doing ___?!?" video is unforgiving.

Most importantly? Video lets me really see improvement. That is what I am really hoping to notice the more I practice and record myself.