Now folks, I speak on this subject because of what I have recently witnessed. There are a lot of tournaments out there these days. Now I have a lot to say about this, so I am going to jump in and see where we end up.
Now, in the old days, I used to love tournaments. But things were a lot different then. In the old days, there was a gym full of simple white gis, maybe with one patch on them, several teachers of note, and a lot of intensity. The safety equipment, when it was finally invented was crude and functional. It was definitely a room full of warriors, both men and women. The rules were few and simple. Modern day bushido( warrior ways) at its best. There were hard punches, hard kicks, and yes the blood did flow. And that was okay. The competitors knew that you cannot learn to swim without getting wet. Excessive contact was a laughable concept back then. It may sound brutal, but this was not just about a trophy, it was a testing ground.
After the months and years that the students spent conquering their fears, the unbearable dojo heat, the grueling workouts, this was where they determined their mettle. There were butterflies, nervous laughs, and mouthpieces chewed in anticipation. The battle was coming, and none showed any fear.
The battle, once commenced was short and intense. Improvised strategies , and shuffling feet moved fit, tight bodies out of the range of crushing kicks. The attacks were crisp, and the effects of them obvious. Downed bodies were shown only minimal concern as warriors slowly regained their feet. The 3 minute waltz of violence brought awed spectators to their feet in suprise and amazement. But those days are done.
I recently watched a tournament, and I was ashamed. Gone was the intensity of warriors facing combat. In its place was an atmosphere reminiscent of a circus. Gaudy lights, techno music blaring and glow in the dark weapons for sale showed just what commercialism does to martial arts. Gone were the seas of clean white gis. In its place were star and striped, camouflage, and two-toned pajamas that I would not wear to sleep. Fat, out of shape instructors jiggled around, telling tall tales about who they used to train with, and how skilled in the deadly arts they were. Did I mention the 8 year old black belt division? Instead of true weapons mastery, graphite staves and sickles with strings attached allowed flashy but ineffective weapons routines.
Sparring? One could call it that, but I wouldn’t. Forget the reverse punches and snap kicks that cracked ribs and expelled air from laboring lungs. There was light to no contact allowed. Techniques that had the potential to batter opponents into submission were replaced with pitty pat moves that failed to wrinkle the gi of their opponent. There was no need for evasive moment, the “fighters” wore enough armor to classify them as Round Table knights. There were no flowing combinations, no evasive movement. Only slow, predictable linear attacks that failed to rouse the blood of those in the stands.
Am I bitter? Heck yeah I am. Bushido is a thing of the past at most tournaments. Forget the respect that the fighters used to have. Forget the courtesy, whether you won or lost. We now have to deal with loudmouth teachers complaining that their fighters were cheated. Tiger striped “gi-jamas” clad kids sported ill-fitting black belts. Is there an end to the defilement of bushido? For the love of god, I hope there is.