Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On the Road Again: Glitter Sticks and Musical Kata

Saturday, two of my female training partners, my sensei and I headed north to our state capital for a tournament. Billed as attracting martial artists from as far away as Canada and the mid-west, there were about 50 different divisions in everything from synchronized group kata and musical forms to creative board/concrete/brick breaking and about 300 competitors total. Although I traveled with my gear bag and competition headgear (I wear a shield for tournament kumite), the second I walked in, I'd totally changed my mind about jumping into the mix.

The biggest reason was because of the price: $60 for one event and $5 for each additional event. That is kinda close to the norm (usually about $50 in this area for two events), but waaaay steep when you consider that in the advanced (brown and black belt) female 35+ age division, there were probably only going to be a handful of competitors, if that many. So, I decided to stow my gear and watch the happenings.

Most of the competitors were from Tae Kwon Do schools. Not that there is anything wrong with TKD, but I think there were uniforms of every color imaginable in the room! Lots of competition glitter as well, mostly on the bo staffs, nunchakas and kama. The Shotokan (one competitor) and Kung Fu (three competitors) karateka donned more traditional uniforms and weapons is all I'm saying, so no hate mail, please, as I love my TKD sisters and brothers!

In the ring my sensei judged, we saw one bloodied nose (from a fluke head-butt), a badly strained hamstring that forced a competitor to withdraw and a knockout from a well-timed kick that was one of the most controlled techniques I've ever seen (no joke!). Of course that was all in the men's 18-34-yr-old divisions. The women's 35+ division had three competitors for kumite (surprise, surprise). Sigh...

I jokingly told one of my training partners that we should organize an all-female tournament in our area soon. She joked back that it would probably last about 10 minutes - and she's probably right. What is it about female martial artists competing in large tournaments? How come there just aren't many of us there?

For those of you who compete, what do you look for in a tournament? Low fees? Traditional vibe? Lots of different styles or just your style represented? Glitter sticks and creative forms? Close to home? Just wondering...


  1. Glitter would put me off. I used to compete as a gymnast (sooome time ago now. ...sigh) but only traditional classes. The ribbons and hoops were a turn off even then. I know as much skill is required to perform with or without glitter, but for me the form is important, not the performer.

    Fees are an aspect for me, as I was made redundant last year. I had to sadly turn down a tournament recently as the list of protective gear would have cost me too much to purchase - plus fuel, plus entrance fees. Close to home (middle of England)is better and many styles is interesting.

    Oh - I am over 35, and agree that is a shame that there are so few 'veteran' lady competitors. Earlier this year I was in a kata class of 6 ladies. Six - a big class : )

  2. Hi Felicia, I understand your frustration with tournaments totally! I've only really done kata competitions (plus 1 club level 'practice' kumite comp.). The worst one was when there were only 2 competitors in the category (that's after they'd condensed the categories down!)- me and a teenager - guess what? I got silver!!!!!

    The competitons I've entered have all been shitoryu/shukokai style and we're a fairly conservative bunch - white gis, no frills, no music, no weapons. Not sure I'd like all the bling stuff!

    I can never understand why, for kata competition, men and women can't compete together? There's no advantage gained from size or strength. What do you think?

  3. KC, it wasn't so much the glitter that threw me, but the light weapons the glitter decorated and the music that accompanied the forms. Like the kids there with blue mohawks (really - there were three of them there!), if you do all that, people are going to look and expect to see you "bring the heat." You can't be all bedazzled with blue hair and have sloppy form and no umph - but that's what I saw a lot of Saturday - ESPECIALLY in the advanced senior divisions if you can believe that. Perhaps I'm just much more of a traditionalist than I thought...

    I've been to a few tournaments, Sue, where women and men competed in kata together. Love it - because it seems to be judged strictly on who is the better presenter on that given day. The last one we went to at the end of April, a female took the shodan division for kata and finished second overall for the grand championship (she beat a nidan and a shodan - bested only by yondan!). As it should be, I say...

  4. Hi Felicia:

    One of my martial arts pet peeves...glitter, metallic tape or ribbons on weapons. The late Master Robert Nenow ran an open tournament but included a traditional weapons division. No flash, music or competition kama. Each competitor had to demonstrate two kata using different weapons. Men and women competed together. It was a nice tournament.

    Great post.