I'm going to explain why I don't like Olympic Taekwondo sparring and relate my reasonings to personal experiences in the past.
Firstly, it is incredibly unrealistic and ego enhancing. Ever since the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, far to much time is spent on sparring for points in Taekwondo schools, when in my opinion a martial artist should focus on surviving a moment in time that threatens to end his or her life. This creates a world federation of sport players, not artists. People sometimes claim it to be a practical means of actively applying self defence techniques to a situation. Then why is do people get told off by a referee when punching to the head, but praised by the judges when kicking to the head?. How many times does anyone kick somebody in the head in real life self-defence?.
One time in class I was told off (deduction of points) by my instructor acting as a referee. I took no notice of it because I didn't think I did anything wrong and I care not for points (I can't remember what I specifically did but no one was hurt). My instructor then told me that I should acknowledge the referee when I am being 'told off'. But told off for what!?. It's not like I'm going to be told off for defending myself in any way I choose in the street.
Another happening that I feel is worth bringing up is when I had to participate in a match against too other guys in class. It was everyone for themselves. My instructor said that it would be a "good way to develop an awareness of the people around me, which is an aspect of self-defence". In that case, I decided to do as Mr. Miyagi said in the classic Karate Kid movies, - "The best way to block a punch is not to be there." With my self preservation mentality on, we began. There was a tall 13 year old kid in the trio who was clearly the aggressor. He strategy was simply to attack. For some reason he never came over to attack me, but focused his attacks solely on the other guy. I was a bit confused about that because it was free for all, but I was proud that by remaining quiet and staying out of the way, I was surviving without throwing a punch, which felt like victory. My instructor was not happy with me though. As the round was commencing he told me to "get in there and fight". I replied "It's not a fight, if it were a fight someone would be seriously injured by now. He also said "You need to spar for your second degree black belt grading. You do want to grade don't you!?". I replied "The desire to excel should not be from external trophies such as belts, but our own intrinsic desires to better our selves body, mind and spirit, and to enjoy training in the moment.
I realised that the mistake I made was not showing enough respect to my instructor. After the class I apologised to him.
I train to fight so I do not have to fight. When I train at home on my BOB XL, many of my hand strikes are directed towards the face and neck when in close quarters. I always feel afraid when I practice TKD Olympic sparring because I find it hard to abide by the artificial systematic rules, and fear I will cause someone harm. I do not implement any limitations in my developing expression of Martial Art. TKD Olympic sparring has more illegal target points than legal one's. I often feel like I am a lion with my claws and teeth removed, and yet still told to fight proficiently. There was an instance when I was sparring with the guy I mentioned earlier who would only attack. He tried to close me down by getting up close to me, leaving his body shield wide open. I punched him three times rapidly. The first two went to the shield, then he bent down. So where his chest was, was now occupied by his neck. My eyes made contact with his neck and a split second later, my fist was there. He flew back a metre or two and then started crying. I felt bad about it happening. My instructor told me not to be too hard on my self as these things happen. But for what.?, I asked myself.
I think that Taekwondo Olympic sparring is too yin and other martial sports are far too yang. It is commonly perceived that martial artists use their skills in competition, which they can in turn use for self defence if need be. This is false. I don't understand why people want to turn art into sport. In my 5 years of practice it has made me a less competitive person, calming my spirit.
I am going to transcribe a text that stood out to me from Morihei Ueshiba's book 'The Art of Peace' on pages 33/34 in my copy, with a few annotations (in brackets) below:
"There are no contests or organised competitions in Aikido because it is not a sport(It should be this way in Martial Art). Practitioners take turns being the "winner" and "loser" and try to cross the finish line hand in hand:
Sports are widely practiced now days, and they are good for physical exercise. In Aikido (Martial Art), too, we train the body but also use the body as a vehicle to train the mind, calm the spirit, and find goodness and beauty, dimensions that sports lack. Training in Aikido (Martial Art) fosters valor, sincerity, fidelity, magnanimity and beauty, as well as making the body strong and healthy. In Aikido (Martial Art), we train not to learn how to win; we train to learn to emerge victorious in any situation."
I believe that competitive tournaments are artificial; they are situations made for specific purposes. They are not drawn from every day life. It's important to incorporate Martial Arts into every day life in a way that enhances ones being. Martial Arts becomes life. Competition is a dangerous distraction from this. I have never been to a tournament and I never wish to waste my time doing so.
Thank You for reading my blog.