WHAT’S WRONG WITH KARATE TOUR­NA­MENTS?

Chuck Norris, Fu­mio De­mura and Ed Parker Sound Off on Prob­lems and So­lu­tions

Black Belt - - SCREEN SHOTS -

BLACK BELT: With the growth of in­ter­est in com­pe­ti­tion, there has been a lot of crit­i­cism about how tour­na­ments are set up. What are the ba­sic prob­lems? Parker:

Up­per­most is the fact that there are no uni­form rules from one tour­ney to an­other. This is re­ally a prob­lem — a man could win in one tour­na­ment through one way and lose out in an­other.

Norris: It’s get­ting bet­ter, but it needs im­prove­ment.

Parker: What I mean is that in one tour­na­ment, the karateka mak­ing con­tact by ac­ci­dent will be dis­qual­i­fied, while in an­other tour­na­ment, he will just get a warn­ing.

BLACK BELT: You mean the participant must know how to con­trol his punches in or­der to score with the judges? Parker:

If the man is a good, skilled participant, he will have con­trol of his weapon. Let’s say in the greenand white-belt [di­vi­sions], there’s ac­ci­den­tal con­tact. That’s un­der­stand­able. But in the black- and brown-belt di­vi­sions, there shouldn’t be con­tact, but they of­ten have it.

Norris: The fight­ers ought to be dis­qual­i­fied be­cause the lack of con­trol re­sult­ing in con­tact means that the participant isn’t qual­i­fied. It takes plenty of train­ing be­fore a man is ready to par­tic­i­pate in a tour­na­ment, and this con­trol is more dif­fi­cult to de­velop than lack of con­trol.

BLACK BELT: This lack of con­tact must make for dif­fi­cult train­ing meth­ods. Af­ter all, karate is sup-

posed to teach you how to arm your­self against an op­po­nent, and if you learn to check your­self, to pull your punches, isn’t it de­feat­ing your abil­ity to strike?

Norris: First, let me say that when a fel­low gets a bro­ken nose in a tour­na­ment, or even in prac­tice, he’s li­able to have a sour taste in his mouth. He might quit par­tic­i­pat­ing be­cause of it. When I go to a tour­ney, I like to be­lieve that I’m go­ing to come out of it at least some­what un­scathed. Parker: Well, there are ac­ci­dents. … Norris: Sure, but he’s talk­ing about in­ten­tional strikes. Look, when a man is pulling his punches, he’s not just pulling his punch. He’s got an ex­plo­sive thrust there, and you know just by look­ing at it that he could fol­low through. It’s that mark of con­trol — not fol­low­ing through, though you could — which dis­tin­guishes the bet­ter man.

De­mura: We must re­mem­ber that karate as it is prac­ticed in a tour­na­ment is a sport. Con­trol is ba­sic to the prac­tice. I re­mem­ber one tour­na­ment in Ja­pan. I was hit ac­ci­den­tally and got two black eyes. Ac­ci­dents hap­pen there, and I’ve seen many men get bloody mouths and bro­ken teeth. But this is an ac­ci­dent, an ex­am­ple of the lack of con­trol.

BLACK BELT: But doesn’t this con­trol fac­tor make the tour­na­ment dull to the Amer­i­can viewer who wants to see blood­shed? Parker:

Well, of course — if he’s that guy who goes to box­ing matches and yells, “Kill him!” But to the per­son who knows karate and un­der­stands the lack of con­tact and the full con­trol, it’s part of the rules.

De­mura: When­ever I am a ref­eree in a tour­na­ment, I do not hes­i­tate to score against a man who makes con­tact be­cause that is sim­ply poor tech­nique.

BLACK BELT: How do you train for con­trol? When you’re work­ing with a bag, you’ve got to hit it. Norris:

There are prac­tice ses­sions with an op­po­nent, too. A part­ner can help you prac­tice your con­trol.

De­mura: I be­lieve that most of the in­juries, at least half of them, are the judge’s fault. When he sees that the blows are get­ting too close, he should warn the man.

Parker: We have to be aware of the en­ter­tain­ment value to the spec­ta­tor,

for sure, but this comes in part with ed­u­ca­tion of the spec­ta­tor. We also have to talk about the length of the tour­na­ments. They’re just too long.

Norris: All of this wait­ing also takes its toll on the par­tic­i­pants.

De­mura: The play­ers get tired, and by the time of the last match, they’re too tired to per­form as they might have per­formed ear­lier.

Parker: I’ve seen bat­tles where — well, Chuck here has gone on so late that in one match, he won, not tak­ing any­thing away from his tech­nique, but he won on stamina.

Norris: But stamina is part of a man’s tech­nique. This is part of his con­di­tion­ing and this wait­ing, the ten­sion of plan­ning on par­tic­i­pat­ing, is pretty dif­fi­cult, though.

Parker: You can train a man to fight karate, but that wait­ing is ter­ri­ble.

BLACK BELT: How many months does it take be­fore a man is ready to take part in a tour­na­ment?

Norris: That de­pends. Some fel­lows re­ally come up fast, learn the tech­niques and are ad­vanced over their fel­low stu­dents.

Parker: I would say about a year for most of them.

Norris: Some guys make it in nine months.

Parker: You start them in, but it’s about an­other three months be­fore you teach them how to free fight. Norris: Yes, I sup­pose.

De­mura: I be­lieve in [teach­ing] ba­sic spar­ring tech­niques be­fore their green-belt com­pe­ti­tion, then af­ter they have earned their green belt, they go on with free spar­ring. If you ad­vance them too fast, you find they’re push­ing and shov­ing and it’s not right.

BLACK BELT: Who makes the de­ci­sions about who should en­ter the tour­na­ments?

Parker: Nat­u­rally, the sen­sei since he knows which stu­dents are ready. There are many schools, many do­jos, where ev­ery stu­dent [is] thrown into com­pe­ti­tion. That’s ridicu­lous. I choose the best to rep­re­sent my do­jos.

BLACK BELT: What are some other things that need to im­prove?

Parker: You’ve got to con­sider the en­vi­ron­ment of the tour­na­ment. You’ve got to know who is spon­sor­ing the tour­na­ment and the rules of the spon­sors. You want to know who the judges will be.

Norris: Es­pe­cially if they’re from a cer­tain school and they have cer­tain train­ing. Frankly, I en­joy go­ing up against a

“If the man is a good, skilled participant, he will have con­trol of his weapon.” — Ed Parker

per­son from an­other school with dif­fer­ent train­ing meth­ods. This is where we are re­ally pitted against each other, and I try things which my stu­dents may know but which my op­po­nent may not.

Parker: Let’s face it — that’s where the fun is. Com­pe­ti­tion is won­der­ful, and ev­ery player wants to get in. The tour­na­ment is im­por­tant be­cause the first in­cen­tive is the belt clas­si­fi­ca­tion, but that soon loses its ap­peal. The tour­na­ment is the thing.

De­mura: This last year was my first year for my tour­na­ment un­der the spon­sor­ship of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Irvine, and it was re­ally well­sup­ported. The stu­dents loved it, and so did the spec­ta­tors.

Parker: Go­ing on the mat and fac­ing your op­po­nent — re­ally try­ing to fig­ure him out, out­guess him — that’s the beauty of it.

Norris: And there’s sports­man­ship there.

Parker: We used to have the play­ers come out and meet each other cold, but now we have them meet each other be­fore the match, when we’re se­lect­ing the com­peti­tors, and it’s re­ally quite nice. When a point is scored against them, they’ll say, “Oh, you lucky dog!” or “Good shot!” and that’s re­ally what it’s all about.

BLACK BELT: But are tour­na­ments re­ally help­ing the participant since he may not get a chance to know his op­po­nent, may not get a chance to get in a lucky punch? Isn’t it bet­ter not to know your op­po­nent and then, when you get on the mat, you go all-out? Norris: The meet­ings and the friend­li­ness have noth­ing to do with their ef­fort on the mat. When they get to work, it’s all busi­ness.

De­mura: And if karate tour­na­ments are a sport, then you must have sports­man­ship.

BLACK BELT: Is there a lack of show­man­ship at tour­na­ments?

Norris: To some ex­tent, you need show­man­ship, but you’ve got to ad­mit that in­ter­est in tour­na­ments is grow­ing, and since I came into the field, in­ter­est has grown at least 10 times to what it was then. And this is without any spe­cial show­man­ship.

Parker: He means like in box­ing or in foot­ball — things like that. The thing that it needs is some­thing I plan to in­tro­duce: a sports an­nouncer to tell the au­di­ence what is go­ing on. Norris: Sounds like a good idea. Parker: If you have a man call­ing the shots — like a blow-by-blow an­nouncer on the ra­dio, tell the au­di­ence why the fel­low got this point, some­body who can speak fast enough to de­scribe it — I think that’s pretty good.

De­mura: Much of the show­man­ship, as you call it, ac­tu­ally is in Ja­pan where they have one ma­jor tour­na­ment which every­body looks for­ward to and where they have lo­cal elim­i­na­tions. In this one tour­na­ment, there are as many as 56 dif­fer­ent styles all be­ing put into com­pe­ti­tion.

BLACK BELT: But they must have many dif­fer­ent con­tests go­ing on at the same time. Norris: Some­times they have as many as 12 con­tests go­ing on at once.

“And if karate tour­na­ments are a sport, then you must have sports­man­ship.” — Fu­mio De­mura

De­mura: But you see peo­ple are al­ready in­ter­ested in the mar­tial arts, and they know about these tour­na­ments.

Parker: That’s what I mean about ed­u­ca­tion. We have to bring the mar­tial arts down to the level of what the Amer­i­can spec­ta­tor is used to see­ing. Now, I took some film of the In­ter­na­tional Com­pe­ti­tion, and I’m go­ing to have four video­tape cam­eras run­ning at my next tour­na­ments and have — like in foot­ball — a video play­back of key plays. This will tell every­one what’s hap­pened, and the au­di­ence will be able to see the penalty and see the score. BLACK BELT: Are there any things that could make con­tests more in­ter­est­ing? Norris: One thing, cer­tainly, would be to stop all of the run­ning around the op­po­nents do. Parker: And pe­nal­ize all of the ac­tors in the con­tests. …

BLACK BELT: Ac­tors?

Norris: That’s re­ally some­thing to watch. They pre­tend that they’re hit in a match, but they’re not. They just want to dis­qual­ify you.

Parker: Some­times … the guy will pre­tend that he’s been hit and will start cry­ing and shout­ing that he’s hurt, but out of the side of his eyes, he’s watch­ing the judges to see if they’ve no­ticed.

Norris: One time, I saw it … a fel­low acted like that and dis­qual­i­fied an­other player, but as soon as the match ended, he was back, bounc­ing around as if noth­ing had hap­pened.

BLACK BELT: I would imag­ine that the choice of ref­er­ees is im­por­tant, ref­er­ees who wouldn’t fall for that.

Norris: The se­lec­tion of qual­i­fied ref­er­ees is im­por­tant to the match. Too many ref­er­ees and judges re­ally don’t have in­di­vid­ual opin­ions.

Parker: Look at them, and they say one thing, and then when an­other judge says an­other thing, they change their mind. I’ve seen them raise one flag, look at their fel­low judge, and then raise the other flag and try to dis­miss their first rul­ing. A lot of them are just “me, too’ers.”

De­mura: The one who is a ref­eree should be the high­est-rank­ing black belt so that he knows what is go­ing on. Un­for­tu­nately, there is too much dis­sen­sion here, too many judges who don’t judge fairly and ac­cu­rately.

BLACK BELT: Is a “hard” judge more re­spected than an “easy” judge?

Norris: I don’t think that’s the ques­tion here. Re­ally, a happy medium is the only an­swer. Too many judges are set in their ways and won’t yield. For ex­am­ple, many judges won’t score you on a front kick and re­verse punch, but oth­ers will and I think they should. One of the things nec­es­sary in a use­ful tour­na­ment would be a set of rules which are abided by at the be­gin­ning. I also think that the man who is think­ing of set­ting up a tour­na­ment should meet with the dojo sen­seis in his area and work out the terms of judg­ing. When I set up my tour­na­ment, I re­ceived a lot of ad­vice from Ed, here. His ex­pe­ri­ence was in­valu­able.

Parker: You’ve got to ask [for] ad­vice, and ad­vice should be given freely. Af­ter all, even though Chuck and I may have dif­fer­ent tour­na­ments, I want him to suc­ceed be­cause when he suc­ceeds, that in­creases the in­ter­est in karate and in tour­na­ments. I know that when Chuck has a tour­na­ment, or Fu­mio, I want to be there and I

en­cour­age my stu­dents to go. We get to­gether on the dates so that the tour­na­ments don’t con­flict. Tim­ing is very im­por­tant in the suc­cess of a tour­na­ment. You don’t want them sched­uled too closely be­cause, frankly, the au­di­ence and the stu­dents couldn’t af­ford to go.

De­mura: l agree. When I set up my first tour­na­ment at the uni­ver­sity, I found many good an­swers to my ques­tions, but I did in­tro­duce some­thing of my own. I think you should find some­thing which you can con­trib­ute. In the lower ranks, the green- and white-belt com­pe­ti­tions, I set up the con­tests for team play. In foot­ball, base­ball and other sports, it is the team, and cer­tainly in the early stages of the par­tic­i­pants’ com­pe­ti­tion, the team method is very good.

Parker: The tour­na­ment sit­u­a­tion is con­stantly evolv­ing. I plan to have my com­pe­ti­tions set up in rounds like in box­ing. Maybe two rounds per match, about three min­utes each. What­ever sys­tem is used, ba­sic rules should be set up so that one man go­ing to many tour­na­ments can train and know what will bring him points and what won’t. Too of­ten, the guy goes in and then it’s all over in a mat­ter of sec­onds. He’s ei­ther won or lost, and the au­di­ence feels cheated.

“One of the things nec­es­sary in a use­ful tour­na­ment would be a set of rules which are abided by at the be­gin­ning.” — Chuck Norris

BLACK BELT: Should a man set­ting up a tour­na­ment start off small?

Norris: He should de­cide based on the num­ber of peo­ple he thinks will par­tic­i­pate and come to watch. Frankly, if he rents the high-school gym­na­sium for one night, maybe at $100, that should be suf­fi­cient to start off.

Parker: Too many guys want to start at the top at a big arena. That de­pends, re­ally, on where you’re go­ing to have it. What [re­gion] are you in and how many do­jos will be rep­re­sented from that area?

Norris: No mat­ter what size he starts off with, it’s a big un­der­tak­ing. I would rather see an over­crowded gym­na­sium than one big au­di­to­rium with few peo­ple.

Parker: When I started my tour­na­ments, there were no tour­na­ments at that time. l needed a lot of pub­lic­ity and I had a large mar­ket to draw from. I spent all of $12,000 my first year. For­tu­nately, I broke even.

Norris: You re­ally don’t have to spend that much these days. If you’re in a large area where they’ve had tour­na­ments or even a small area where they’ve never had tour­na­ments, you must count the con­tes­tants and then the schools in your area. De­mura: For­tu­nately, when I set my tour­na­ment up at the uni­ver­sity, the ex­penses were taken care of. The au­di­ence were the stu­dents, and the pub­lic­ity was the stu­dent news­pa­per.

BLACK BELT: Is there suf­fi­cient in­ter­est for more tour­na­ments to be set up?

Parker: Def­i­nitely. I would en­cour­age any­body to have a tour­na­ment pro­vided they set them up with uni­form rules. They should in­vest in valu­able tro­phies and prizes. I know that Henry Cho pre­sented in­di­vid­ual tro­phies, and that cre­ated in­ter­est. He also pre­sented a color tele­vi­sion set to the win­ner. His tour­na­ment was well-planned and well-pro­moted.

Norris: I’ll tell you how im­por­tant the set­ting up and or­ga­ni­za­tion is. Last year at a new tour­na­ment, l com­peted and won, but it was so poorly man­aged that it left a bad taste in my mouth. This year when it was staged, I didn’t even go back to de­fend my crown. I just passed it up, and be­lieve me, I love tour­na­ments. How­ever, I un­der­stand from those who were there that the tour­na­ment was even worse this year. Now, that helps kill a tour­na­ment both for the com­peti­tors and the spec­ta­tors.

Parker:

If they go to one tour­na­ment and they don’t like it, they just dis­miss all com­pe­ti­tions. We who are in­ter­ested in the sup­port of the peo­ple can­not af­ford to lose one spec­ta­tor.

“If they go to one tour­na­ment and they don’t like it, they just dis­miss all com­pe­ti­tions.” — Ed Parker

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