Why do we do tournaments?

Scott Redden, 2016 AJJF Convention Freestyle Tournament 1st place winner Nidan and Above

Senior Instructor Scott Redden Throwing

Senior Instructor Scott Redden Throwing






I wonder if new students understand why we do Kata and Freestyle tournaments. I also wonder if some of the senior students and Sensei remember why they did them as well.

I started doing Judo and Kata tournaments when I was a new student at seven years old. As a junior student, I really didn’t think much about why I was doing a tournament other than it was fun and Sensei said to do it. When I was young, Sensei said, “get a partner, we are doing a tournament,” and you got a partner. If you didn’t get a partner, you went in as a single.

Not doing the tournament wasn’t a choice. What I did not understand is what I was learning from being in a tournament.

I believe the tournament itself is more about seeing how well your training went, seeing what you could improve in your training, and building friendships with others. Many of my best friends in the AJJF have come from meeting people at tournaments. I know one of our students has a few good friends in the AJJF that he would not have if not for going to tournaments.

How do we learn to do an art? I believe the best way is to do the art over and over. So what do we do in a Kata tournament? We take the arts we are going to do and do them over and over to make them the best we can get them. Can we do this without being in a tournament? Yes we can. Do we usually take weeks to work only four arts? No, we do not. As a junior student, I would pick the arts I did best for my elective arts, as an adult I would pick the arts that were my worst arts so I could practice them. Most of them became some of my best arts because I had the chance to work them over and over for two or three weeks.

Some people are more than happy to get up in front of others and perform. I was not one of those people. I have found that getting up in front of a group of people and doing my thing really helped me in my adult life working and dealing with others. To me, this is one of the most important things you get out of doing tournaments. I have heard people say, “I don’t want to do a tournament because I am not a competitive person,” or, “I don’t believe in competing.” To me, that is not really what the tournaments are about: the only reason for having placements in our tournaments is to measure yourself. If I want to be the best I can be, I need to try to be the best. I may never be the best but if I don’t try to be the best how can I be the best I can be? Learning to deal with the stress and pressures you might have thrust upon you in life is a priceless lesson.

So that is some of why we do Kata, why should we do Freestyle? I know what you’re thinking, all the same reasons right? Yes actually, but there is more. Once again how do we learn to do something? If I want to be able to use the arts I have learned by doing my Kata over and over, I need to train defending myself over and over. When I first started doing Freestyle, I would do the same thing every time a person punched or kicked. As I continued to train and do my freestyle, I learned to see the openings for my other arts. Prof Hager says position keys the action, and if you do your freestyle on a regular basis you will start to see all the positions for your arts. Being able to do freestyle well will prepare you for your real life situations. You do not want to get in a bad situation and have to stop and think about what you are going to do.

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