The Value of Competition

"He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool..."
We have a tournament coming up (the Ken Tamai Classic in Beltsville, MD, on 10/15/11) so I wanted to post a few words about the value of competing.  Most - if not all - of the Akari Judoka are the so-called "recreational" Judoka - those with no serious aspirations of winning the nationals or going to the Olympics.  We learn and practice Judo because it is fun, and something we want to get better at.  We (generally) tap before we get hurt by an arm-bar, because it is more important to function well at work than it is to "win" in Randori or Shiai (tournaments). 

That said, I still think that it is vital for us to compete.

Why?  One of the things I love about Judo is the ability to test what you learn.  You can try it on your training partner in static or dynamic repetitions, and then you can test it in Randori.  If it works?  Great!  If it doesn't, you can keep practicing, figure out why, and tweak it until it does - or abandon it.  So we learn a bunch of techniques and then we figure out what we like to use.

But Randori doesn't teach you all that you need to know about the technique. 

  • Intensity:  Some Randori sessions may be pretty tense, and you both may be giving your all... but there is still something different about a tournament.  Putting yourself out there in Shiai is a different experience - and a necessary one to get the full benefit of Judo.  Just being out there is a type of training in and of itself - it's usually uncomfortable at first...  but the more you put yourself in the position, the less uncomfortable you feel - and this ability to stay more centered can be applicable in your Judo and beyond.
  • Different People:  There is a huge benefit to exposing yourself to different people (no... not that way).  I mean testing your Judo skills against folks that you don't normally see.  You're sure to see some new techniques, and get different responses than what you are used to.  Great learning.
  • Calibration:  Closely related to the last point - Whether you are the best at your dojo, the worst, or somewhere in the middle, this still doesn't tell you if you are any good...  Some dojos may be great, such that the 10th best in the club may be the 20th best in the world.  In other places, it may be such that the best in the club can't ever win a match...  So in getting out in the world, you can see how you stack up outside of your own pond. 
I'll be honest... reading this, it doesn't even come close to getting across what I feel is the true value of competition.  Judo was meant to be tested, and a competition is a great place to execute that test...even in a loss, you walk away with so much (perhaps more than in a win)...  And if you have the ability to compete with any regularity, then you can really use the time between your competitions to put some specific goals on your training (which then, I think, improves the quality of your training)...  Anyhoo... Compete.  It's good for your soul.

Lots of people have written good stuff on the topic.  Here's one article I found on (the best Judo website out there):



Patrick Parker said...

Good post. I agree, competition is good and useful. But I am still divided about getting my kids into it because it is a strange mix of positive and negative.

I also think it is very easy to get too invested in the tournament scene to the detriment of one's judo.

But again, I believe, and tell all my judo players and parents that competition is good - I'm just not interested in pursuing it much.

kodokanjudo said...

We must keep in mind that the true purpose of shiai is to measure the improvement of our personal path (do) in judo, not about winning a trophy or a medal.

kodokanjudo said...

Kano's words:
"Nowadays one does not see the same clear-cut technique as one used to do. All adopt a very stiff and defensive style and they appear to be entirely preoccupied with the idea of winning their contest, without any sign of aspiring to higher accomplishment. One who aims high for the future must not be concerned with present loss or gain.

The most important object in Judo training is to develop speed and free movement of the body. If one enters a contest with the sole idea of not being defeated, automatically the body becomes stiff and defensive - an unsuitable state for effective sharp action.

Whereas, if one regards all as a matter of captivating speed and free movement of the body, without being seriously concerned about being thrown, sooner or later one will develop the desired qualities, and be able to apply them for attack or defense, as opportunity offers."

The scary thing here is that he said that over 70 years ago.

Chad Morrison said...

@Pat: IMO - I agree that there is that mix of positive and negative, and it is a great opportunity to teach the kids about the appropriate value of a tournament. Also a good for them to be exposed to winning and losing in a non-team setting. I don't teach kids (yet), but I suspect that when I do, some parents may...hinder this education. Have you run in to that at all?

@Kodokan: Well put... I think that captures more of what I was trying to say... I think shiai is a tool to measure your progress in the "Do"

Mike Hoang said...

I hear ya about the losing and being better for it. Last night judo I'll never forgot...