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If you're involved in karate or martial arts, you may have a tournament in your future. Charlie has been taking Tang Soo Do classes for two years now and he has participated in several tournaments already. As a parent, there are some things that you should know before you go to your first karate tournament.
1. Register early
Your martial arts school will likely have a bulletin board or handouts with upcoming tournaments that your student could attend. By registering early, you'll likely get a discount on the tournament fee. This should also speed up your time at the registration table.
2. Block off the day
Unless you live in a huge city, you're likely going to have to travel for these karate tournaments. Most of the tournaments we've attended have been about an hour from our home. I don't think that's too bad, but it is two hours of travel time.
Depending on the size of the tournament, you could be there for three hours or six. It all depends on how many events you're competing in and if you stay to watch others.
3. Spectator admission
Make sure you have cash on hand for admission. You may have paid the registration fee ahead of time, but you'll need to cover your own admission now as a spectator. There may be different rates for adults and children. We've also been to some tournaments that younger children are free (always a plus in my book).
4. Know the rules
Before the tournament actually starts, the black belts in charge will go over the rules. That said, I do think it's important to know rules ahead of time. These rules are especially important for sparring. While some schools allow hits to the head, many tournaments do not. Each tournament will have its own sparring rules and if you do not follow those rules, you'll usually be warned and then disqualified.
5. Bring Food
We've been to tournaments that had concession stands, but we've also been to tournaments that did not have food available for sale. We bring cash to potentially purchase food, but we always pack food also.
Between all of our sports and activities, it seems like we're always packing a cooler bag for on-the-go. Sometimes that means meals in the car and sometimes that means snacking while waiting on someone's game or event to begin.
I stocked up on Armour LunchMakers® + Drink packs at Acme, but you can find them at other retailers like Albertsons, H-E-B, Meijer, and Safeway.
I love that these little boxes can be thrown in our cooler bag and offer a better-for-you option when the kids (or mom and dad) need a little something to get them through.
The new LunchMakers® + Drink includes fruit punch made from 100% juice. And don't forget about the snack bars! They're made with real fruit that kids will like and come mom-approved.
The kids love the Pepperoni Pizza LunchMakers® + Drink, but I think the Ham & American Cheese LunchMakers® + Drink or the Turkey & American Cheese LunchMakers® + Drink are a little more mess-free and better on-the-go options.
6. Find your ring
Martial Arts tournaments can be packed and there are not always enough chairs or seats for everyone. When you get there, try to find out what ring your competitor will be using. There may be a map, a list, or you might need to just ask someone and have them point you in the general direction.
Have your student practice and warm up in their competition ring while you snag a good seat nearby.
7. Keep sparring gear close
Sparring is usually saved for last. When the judges dismiss competitors to get their sparring gear on, they need to be able to get it on quickly and return to the ring. Make sure they have all of their sparring gear labeled (we use a silver sharpie on our black gear). Judges will likely check that everyone is using a mouth guard before sparring begins.
8. Your kid will get hit
This one is hard, but your kid is going to get hit. While the sparring rules may say that there is no contact to the head allowed, each ring's judges will determine what they call as a penalty. Charlie has been punched in the face and it still wasn't called. I've seen kids fall to the ground and start crying. It's hard to not jump out of your seat and go all Mama Bear, but… take a breath and sit tight.
9. Trophy charges
Your kid won a trophy! Woohoo!
While you could take the trophy and run, there may also be an optional charge to have the name and what the trophy is for added to the actual trophy.
10. Stay for the black belts
At a karate tournament, the black belts are the judges. At the end of the tournament, after all of the other divisions have finished, the black belts compete.
By this time, the majority of the crowd has cleared and only the die-hards remain. Pass out those extra snacks you brought for the kids and let them see what their hard work could turn into.
If you have any tips that anyone should know before heading to a karate tournament, I'd love to hear them!