So, the tournament is over and done with. The experience was great and I learned a lot. I was able to experience the other side of the coin, going from spectator to competitor. Sitting in the stands is so much easier than participating. You are comfortable and cozy, relaxing in your seat and watching the others warm up and get ready. You watch the matches, cheer on your classmates, and point out things that other people are doing to your classmate sitting next to you. You are relaxed. As a competitor, here is what I experienced.
6:30am came early. I got ready to go, then drove to meet Mr. G, who I was carpooling with. At this point, I was already a bundle of nerves. We met up with several members of our sister class at McDonald's and had a good breakfast. Well, most did. I attempted to eat, but my appetite was gone, so I only finished half of my meal.
We drove down the street to the event, found a parking spot, and registered. Over the course of breakfast, Mr. G had talked to Ms. S about competing, so she signed up for the same events I did - Point and Semi-Knockdown.
We changed, warmed up a little, then Ms. S and I walked over to one of the Point rings and warmed up with a little sparring. Mr. G and I then spent a couple minutes sparring and I worked on my techniques. As more and more people arrived, I tried to see how many women would be in my division. It was hard to tell, because the few I did see looked like they would be in the Under 17 division, so I didn't get an accurate count.
10 'o clock finally rolled around and the age groups were divided up. I walked over to the 18+ group with Ms. S and waited as a couple black belts separated us all into our divisions. There were only a handful of women, and like I thought, a couple went over to the Under 17 side. I believe there was one yellow belt, one green belt, one blue belt, myself, Ms. S, and another black belt. The yellow and green belts were put into a division, the blue belt and I were in another, and the two black belts had their division.
I think I scared this poor blue belt woman half to death. Our class was the only Tae Kwon Do group there. I think everyone else were from various Karate styles. As such, they don't have a red belt in their syllabus, only brown. She saw my red belt and asked what kyu that was. I told her 1st. Her eyes went wide and she said "You mean your next belt is black?!?" I said yes, and she asked me how long I had been training. I told her eight years. Her eyes widened even more, and she exclaimed "I've only been training a year!" She immediately called a ref over and told him the situation. When he heard that I have been training for eight years, he sent me over to the black belt division, and she was grouped with the yellow and green belts.
Mr. G had mentioned that I may be sparring black belts, so I was prepared for this, and also pretty happy that I would be sparring "up" instead of down. All the kyu ranks went first, then our red/black belt division had our turn. Ms. S would be sparring Ms. M, then I would spar the winner. I ended up sparring Ms. M. That point spar went by so fast! I lost 4-1, which put me in 2nd place. What hurt me the most in that spar was that I backed up instead of going forward and the judges called a couple of her techniques as connecting before mine.
We had a long break as the rest of the point sparring finished and the mats were set up for Semi. One event completed, one to go. I was feeling a bit more at ease now that I had gotten the point sparring out of the way and Semi was next. Point sparring is just a totally different mindset from the continuous sparring that we do in class so I was feeling good about this next event because it is more like the sparring that I'm used to. Mr. R.S. had brought two target pads and he called me out on the floor for some Semi-Knockown warmup. He had me work on shin kicks to the legs and also some knees. At this point, the kids had started their semi-knockdown, so Mr. G, Mr. R.S., Ms. S, and I went down one of the hallways that led to the locker rooms and we continued to work with the targets.
Like I said, there was a forever long break while the multitude of kids sparred, so Ms. S and I spent about ten minutes doing some light sparring once we had our gear on.
Our division was finally called. The two mats that were set up for the kids had been combined into one large mat. There were only five women sparring this time, and we were separated yellow/green and red/black. The green and yellow belt women were asked if they wanted to combine divisions since they were so small, but they said no. I would not have minded because that meant I would fight more people if I won. The way it worked out, I was up first against the Karate black belt, and Ms. S would fight the winner.
The round was set for two solid minutes. Over the past several weeks, I had been drilling what to do and what not to do in this spar. No hand techniques to the head. Kicks to the head and the legs were okay. If you're knocked down, that's half a point or a whole point awarded to the other person depending on how long it takes for you to get up. The most common stance for Yoshukai karate is a front stance. We spar from a side stance or a modified back stance. I needed to be aggressive and advance - because the aggressive person is usually the winner. It would not be good if I went backwards or was too defensive (which is a bad habit of mine). I am a defensive, counter fighter. If I went toe to toe with the Yoshukai front stance, it would most certainly turn into a slug fest with punches, and I would probably lose, because that is how they train. I repeated to myself that I would not go there. . . . but....within ten seconds, I did. It was not pretty. The other girl was not hitting me hard, but she did whip a pretty roundhouse kick up to my head a few times. Also, I backed up and tripped over my feet once, and she got me with a front snap kick that made me fall. The round was called in her favor. I was not happy with how the spar went at all. It's like everything I said I would do (or not do) just went out the window. I didn't get in any of my hard kicks, and I mainly just traded punches with her.
Anyway, rant aside, it was a good learning experience. I'm determined to train hard, fix the mistakes I made, and go back next year with better results. I have no more "Well, it was my first tournament. . . " excuses. I was beat mostly because I was too defensive. I backed up and wasn't driving forward like I knew to do.
For the moment though, I'm ready to forget tournament style sparring and get back to the normal sparring that we do in class. None of the "don't punch the head," "Stop sparring when someone gets a point," "A tap is a point" rules.