I tend to harp a lot on visual depictions of the martial arts. As much as I love a good action movie, it’s very difficult to ignore some of the liberties and exaggerations taken by film makers when it comes to fighting. This is especially true in the case of two individuals taking and giving multiple strikes to the head or body and jay keep on fighting. It would almost be laughable if the adolescent in me wasn’t so immersed in the action sequences and storyline. But I digress…
As much as I’ve written about the differences between what happens in real life and what happens in the movies, it dawns on me that I rarely talk about the other important difference that happens in material arts circles; what happens in the dojo versus what happens on real life. Or what happens in a tournament setting, as the stakes are potentially different on a mat than in a dojo.
There’s no arguing that the dojo is a controlled environment. Accidents can still happen and injuries can still be sustained (as premised by the fractured rib I got, last spring) but for the most part, there’s structure, control and oversight. The goal is to learn and train. Practice takes place to ensure good muscle memory. Sparring takes place so that one can sharpen fighting skills and further develop that muscle memory but there’s always a control in place.
In tournament or on the street, such controls are not in place. The motivations and goals are different and therefore, a practitioner will use their skills differently. I believe an acquaintance of mine put it best where he explained that comparing a tournament to sparring in a dojo is like walking a high wire versus laying a rope on the floor and asking someone if they can walk on it. It’s a pretty apt comparison since almost anyone could walk on the rope while it’s laying on the floor. Tie that rope a 100 feet above ground and see how well a person walks across it, then.
Sensei has never been a fan of the tournament environment. As a result, I’ve never done more than dabble in it, myself. Karate, for me, has always been for the preservation of my life, both physical and medical, as well as for the protection of others. But in the interest of knowing one’s limits and understanding one’s skills, tournament can be extremely good as you may be exposed to aspects that you wouldn’t in the dojo. Food for thought… A shout out to Boris for the idea for this post. ☯️