2008 has started off with a number of interesting events for FMA practitioners here in northern California. That’s the good news. The bad news is how little support these seem to be getting.
Sometimes such events are scheduled in direct conflict with each other. For example, April 20th saw both the Golden Gate Internationals tournament in Santa Clara and the Disney qualifier tournament in Stockton, California. Both were worthy of consideration, either as a competitor or spectator. While the two events were perhaps 80 miles apart, the number of regional FMA competitors is not so great as to fill divisions in both at the same time.
Smaller turnouts dilute competition. This robs fighters of the opportunity to gain experience through more rounds of competition. Spectators have fewer chances to watch and evaluate performers, while less skilled players can advance when a greater benefit would be the opportunity to test against and learn from those more skilled, thus elevating their own experience in the art.
This is even more apparent to me when watching forms. At mixed tournaments, where there are rings side-by-side for various arts, I see few FMA participants who match the speed and precision of many karate performers. Weapons are our specialty, so why do karate or TKD students regularly turn in more spectacular performances? Experience is a big key, and many of these schools are geared towards competition. They go to more events throughout the year and often have more participants in their events, creating more potential for quality performers to emerge.
Currently there are several other upcoming events, some of which also conflicts with each other. Remy Presas Jr. and Kelly Worden have a seminar in San Pablo, while an FMA tournament is being held in conjunction with the Pista Sa Nayon Festival in Vallejo, about 10 miles away. Frankly, if I were promoting the seminar, I’d try to reschedule for the following weekend, and hand out fliers at the Festival, which anticipates a turnout of about 25,000!
I know from experience it can be hard to line everything up perfectly. Sometimes the date is hard to set, other times venues aren’t available. Still, in any field those at the top are a pretty small circle, and the FMA is not a large community. It would be great if local leaders could work together more progressively to avoid these conflicts, as well as encouraging their students to participate and support outside events.
Perhaps part of the problem is the nature of martial arts. We train for conflict, not cooperation, and this fosters divisions between groups when the larger picture is that we’re all on similar paths. Imagine if classes regularly had 20+ students, or how it would feel to walk into a tournament and see 50 fighters in a division? The energy would be tremendous!
By the way, I just received a notice this morning for another event, a Saturday seminar and Sunday tournament, to be held this coming weekend in San Francisco, which I’ve placed on the calendar. It isn’t a cheap event, and five days is pretty short notice for people to put on their schedules. Coming on the heels of these other recent events, I wish a lot of luck to the promoters!