Three lessons from the Kids Tournament

I try, after every class I teach, to write down one thing that I think I could have done better, or one thing that worked particularly well, or one thing that completely flopped (and I should avoid in the future), or an idea that a student brought up, or… You get the idea – I try to write something down that will improve the quality of future classes.

I do this for the tournaments that we run twice a year as well. I try to write one thing down for each of the three events (grappling, forms, sparring) that will make the event run more smoothly. I decided to type those thoughts up into a blog post in hopes that other people might also have ideas on how to make things better.

With all this talk of making things better, I hope this doesn’t give the impression that I think the tournaments are a disaster. No way. I think our tournaments are pretty awesome but I also think that there is always room for improvement.

For grappling, it appears that we need to do a better job communicating to the parents exactly what is involved in sport grappling. Over the 8 or so years we’ve been running these events, on several occasions, parents have been shocked to see their children out on the floor choking another child, or being choked. For those of us who have done lots of grappling, this seems like an obvious thing but why wouldn’t, as a parent, you freak out if you saw this happening and had no idea as to the rules of sport grappling? So, I will do my best at the next tournament to explain what the goal of sport grappling is – submitting your partner – and how tapping out works, and how tapping keeps everyone safe. The kids know this already so the explanation will be for the parents, so if there are parents who haven’t sat and watched a class where their child participates in sport grappling, they know what is happening and what tapping out looks like. Maybe it would be a good idea to adopt the Sambo rules around verbal tapping which are (I think) any noise or word is a tap – but that seems a bit on the oppressive side to me.

For forms this time, it was really cool to see the kids do improvised forms during the mystery division. What made the improv forms so interesting was that they looked more like a real fight than the memorized forms did! What this tells me, as a teacher, is that we need to add pad hitting and partner work into our forms so that students are more likely to visualize the fight when they are performing. (It was Sifu Allen who noticed the “aliveness” of the improv forms and pointed it out to everyone, full credit goes to him.)

For sparring, it finally dawned on me that everyone has a Roundhouse kick. In fact, the Roundhouse kick seems to be the ONLY thing that some students have in their toolbox. As a result, pretty much everyone knows how to defend the Roundhouse kick. What to do? Keep the Roundhouse kick but build up the other kicking angles so that the poor Roundhouse kick isn’t left all alone in the toolbox. Front kicks, side kicks, hook kicks, axe kicks… all the kicks!

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I appreciate all the feedback I got this time from students, helpers, parents, and teachers. Let’s work together to make every tournament better than the last!

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