Yesterday after teaching all morning, Erik, Molly, and I went down to San Jose and checked out the BASKA ‘Earthquake’ tournament. Eye opening. Can use.
Of course we arrived late into the competition, with our family obligations we couldn’t arrive until 2:00 so we missed the Kata and Self-Defense Divisions.
But we did see the sparring. Hybrid Kempo/Tae kwon do style, lots of bouncing and quick long strikes. Fast blitzing attacks were exciting to watch and the elusive footwork seemed very useful. A nice touch: unlike WKSA tournaments, the sparring surface ring area was padded and the score keepers made scores public by using flip-card boards. People seemed respectful and glad to be there in a crowded sweaty/muggy gym.
Overhand chops, tons of sidekick stomps. Bodies flying. Lots of kids went down…they all got up and kept going. Was someone in their corner saying, ‘Suck it up’ or perhaps it wasn’t as bad as it looked?
Erik commented that the faster you ask kids to go, the more chance of collision and injury. The face & chest guards we saw at the tournament are probably a good idea to avoid nose bleeds, etc., but that type of equipment would be difficult to integrate into our classes due to the fact that we work on grappling.
Besides, when our kids start to move this fast and get aggressive, most our of spectator parents get concerned, “slow down, be more controlled.” So we watched and wondered, would our school be interested in this type of competition?
We could both imagine some of our kids competing this way. The names that came immediately to mind: Jared D., Max, Ellis, Jessica, Nick R., Kyle J., Ryan L. They all could definitely could rise to the occasion…
But would they want to? And what about the divisions split by age. Definitely a disadvantage to older, small competitors.
We came away thinking the majority of our kids would not want to change over to this format, but again, it is difficult to make a decision without having more input from parents and participants.
It is definitely something that the kids who think they might be interested should plan to watch and see for themselves, so we will keep you posted on upcoming events.
AMAPA kickoff Jan. 23, Deer Valley High School, Antioch.)
The big picture:
In conclusion, SBN Lee feels that the day was eye-opening and that we can use a lot of the skills we saw. This type of tournament sparring is very specific with a particular style of footwork and attack and defense strategies. That being the case, practitioners are very good at what they do. If we took our kids as they are right now, and tried to defeat these kids at their own game, we would have a hard time.
However, this type of sparring is just one (admittedly highly refined) aspect of what we do in class to prepare ourselves physically and mentally as well-rounded martial artists. As appealing as it is to train hard and fast, SBN does not want to dramatically change the format of what we are doing because he believes strongly that his overall approach is beneficial and correct.
Because we work with a very young crowd, SBN feels that the important thing at this age is to be well-rounded by including grappling and wrestling into the sparring. From experience, SBN knows it is nothing short of a miracle that we have as big a group for sparring as we do right now. If we move toward a more competitive mindset, people tend to start dropping out, and now who benefits but a few. SBN likes the level that everyone is working at right now: it’s fun, it’s vigorous, it’s plenty challenging, and everyone is making amazing progress.
For example, Max O started training as an incredibly flexible and supple student. Now, while retaining his suppleness and flexibility he is strong like crazy. That’s great progress. There are also the kids who progress at their own pace like Vido. Vido has been doing his own thing for quite a while, then just last week he came in throwing straight punches and incorporating boxing moves in a surprisingly mature and articulated way. Obviously he’s been listening, who knew when his new cerebral knowledge would translate into actual ‘moves’? When working with kids the switch goes off when it goes off–a deadline doesn’t necessarily help. The trick is to keep trying until that moment happens.
It goes back to the 85th percentile idea. SBN likes to feel that he can bring his kids to the 85% level, then, at that level, they can specialize if they like. Sylvester Youngblood is great example. He got his black belt, then decided to move on and specialize in full contact sparring. While SBN didn’t prepare him for those specific venues, Syl still says that his background in Kuk Sool helped his eventual success.
However, if we find that there is a pool of students who want to pursue these tournaments (after due diligence, having watched a few on their own), we could perhaps consider creating a specialized team. Time will tell.