It’s time to bring back the show…

Over the past few years I have noticed a disturbing trend happening at local Taekwondo tournaments. I attended my first event as a yellow belt over 35 years ago at St Pats High. What I fondly remember is that there was an aurora of excitement and anticipation weeks before the event. Masters would come from far and wide not only to show their support but to perform incredible demonstrations of power, timing and agility. It wasn’t just an event, it was a celebration of Taekwondo on every level.

Tournaments today seem to lack that celebration. The students arrive to the venue and form their own school groups and cliques. Very little interaction happens between schools, probably due to the animosity between the masters or the fear of one school trying to woo students from another (that’s a whole other blog post). In either case, you can feel the dissention and mistrust like it had a sprit of its own.

The events today seem to lack any real atmosphere or energy. Their motto should be “No Glitz…No Glamour”. Making money seems to be the number one driving force behind them.

Poomse (forms) competition seems to be the organizers Achilles heal, with the inconsistency in judging and the lack of qualified judges it creates more confusion than good. Poomse for some is Sparring’s ugly cousin that your parents invite to the party, you don’t really want them there but you have no choice. This is a shame because intrinsically Poomse has incredible value and purpose and is a pleasure to watch under the right conditions.

Sparring competition then follows. This is what the masses were biting at the bit for, you can feel the change in energy throughout the venue. The divisions are called for sorting and then whisked off to the competition ring. Here lies the problem; some of the competitors arrive without proper equipment, body pads that are outdated, no mouthpiece or groin cup and the best one, 50% or more without approved gloves. Why is this? Does this happen in other sports? Would soccer or football allow this in their game? Is it the instructor’s responsibility or the parents? Ultimately the instructor is the one who is morally and ethically responsible for their student’s safety and welfare.

Once the sparring starts, fair play, respect and integrity seem to have left the building with Elvis, with so much emphasis placed on winning, the “Martial Art” becomes more “Martial” than “Art”. Aggression gets to the point where it feels more like a street fight than a Taekwondo match. Some resort to profanity and intimidation, including coaches, students and the spectators. This seems to prove nothing except their true character. The referees do their best but at times are limited by their knowledge and experience, so they tend to get the brunt of it.

After attending events like this I feel a sense of disappointment, embarrassment and shame, mostly because I feel partly responsible as an instructor for exposing myself and my students to it. What I teach in my school about fairness, integrity, respect and character isn’t necessarily practiced in all Taekwondo schools.

I love Taekwondo, I love competition, I’m just tired of the crap. Martial arts can and should be so much more.

If I sounded cynical I meant to be, because it is cynics that create change and I for one am willing to fight for it. It’s time to bring back the fun, excitement & sportsmanship.

In closing I would like to thank the parents and students of my school who see what I see and who also yearn for something better.

By; Master Tim Bell


One Response

  1. […] am – Finished a blog post – It’s time to bring back the fun… 44.637534 […]

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