Competitions are like eating healthy foods. Sometimes they’re unappetizing but you eat them because you need to. Downsides: spending the whole day waiting to perform, feeling anxious or nervous, feeling disappointed at the lack of competitors or questionable judging. Upsides: meeting other martial artists, raising your competitive spirit, having a goal to work towards, improving your performance year after year. Competitions are good for you if you have the right outlook.
To be honest, I didn’t properly prepare this year. The competitor in me wants to win against good opponents, but the martial artist in me just wants to train to improve and that was my focus. Consequently, I chose a barehand sequence that I was unfamiliar with and I didn’t realize my Short Rods was under the time limit :p (Ironically, I was helping others make sure their sequences were within the time limit.)
- Winning Pushing Hands by default. I had a feeling no one would sign up for my gender and weight class. It’s not like I was super prepared for it because I’m more used to centering than pushing with competition rules, but I wanted to see what it was like to push with other students. I asked if they would let me join the guys, but they declined.
- Lack of competitors for the advanced female 18-39 division. It was just me and Kathy (East Coast natives! Where are the locals?). We’re trying to figure out why there are so few female competitors. They have other hobbies? They don’t train for competitions? I don’t know, but this needs to change. In my 3 years of experience, I’ve competed against 2 others at most, but often times it was just me. I hope the organizers consider mixing gender divisions next time. It used to be that way.
- Lack of traditional judges. We were supposed to have 5, but like last year, we had 3.
- Fair scoring. I felt my ring gave fair scores that were varied in range. Big improvement from last year when we all scored 9.95 and above for each category. The Wild Aid and Grand Champion judges also gave fair scores.
- Relaxed attitude. I enjoyed myself more this year.
- Improvement in performance.
I caught a cold on Thursday and for 2 days, my body ached and my nose was runny before it became stuffy. Luckily, I recovered enough in time and my nose miraculously cleared up during my performances.
After not competing in Pushing Hands in the morning, my first category was Northern Fist (barehand). I chose Taizuchangquan because it’s one of my favorites, it’s advanced with nice techniques, and over the 1 minute time limit. I’ve been having trouble with the 2 parts that require me to balance on one leg while striking at the ground. I came through that day, although I still look like a dog relieving itself. Otherwise, it was pretty horrible. I practiced it less than 100 times so I’m not surprised. It was rushed, stances were high, and the power wasn’t getting out. I realize now that in order to do better in competitions, I need to slow down and make it clean rather than perform it like I do for endurance training.
Qi Men Jian for Short Weapon went better than I expected. I finished learning it last winter and it’s twice as long and twice as difficult as the other sword sequence I know (San Cai Jian). I love Qi Men Jian with all the fast and sharp techniques and the flow, but it’s long as heck and I don’t have the endurance, body structure, power, precision, or sense of enemy yet. It will take at least another 2 or 3 years before I start to feel better about it. Here’s my rough, shortened version:
Short Rods (Shuang Jian) for Other Weapon was okay. A judge checked my weapon and said what I knew he was going to say. “These look just like the legs on a table I have at home. Haha!” My performance wasn’t crisp, but it was probably the best I could do at this stage in a competition environment. It was familiar enough where I could lose myself and fight my imaginary enemy. At this speed, I held back on shifting to Deng Shan Bu because I was worried about my knee and so I lost out on expressing more power. It needs many more years before I can get the jing out.
The judges complimented my form and I think I earned some respect for the weapon that looks like table legs. However, they had to lower their scores because I was 9 seconds under. It never occurred to me that I would be too fast. (For some reason, I finished the last move turning while standing up instead of facing my original position, so don’t do that.) Maybe I will compete with the metal Short Rods one day and I’ll surely be within the time limit.
I lost to Kathy in Northern Fist and Short Weapon and “won” the Other Weapon category against no one. I was relieved to be done for the day and looked forward to relaxing, or so I thought. Later on, Gene announced my name to compete for Grand Champion so I wasn’t quite finished yet. Doh!
I knew I would probably lose to Kathy again. Actually, that relieved the little pressure I had. There was one other competitor from the female 40+ division. The finals were on the stage with some big name masters as judges. I was going to go all out with Shi Zi Tang, the barehand sequence I’m most familiar with. I feel this one. I make the sounds. Not the superficial yelps from the throat, but those that come from my center. Shi Zi Tang is shorter, so I have to pause. I paused once, but then I didn’t care about the time limit and finished the form fast and strong. (Except before and during the “8 steps to chase the cicada” jumps where my foot dragged on the sticky and squishy mats.) It wasn’t my best, but I was mostly satisfied with what I showed on the stage.
Do I feel like I could’ve won Grand Champion but Kathy came in and took it away? Not at all. I’d rather lose to her than win against someone at a lower level or worse, no one at all (which happened once). It’s not about the results but about pushing each other and improving together. Other people’s performances don’t affect my own, I just do what I can do. Besides, I want to beat someone at her level some day :)
After my performances, Dr. Yang surprised me and said I improved a lot. That’s all I need to hear when it comes to competitions. I obliged my growling stomach with a delicious crepe that I couldn’t really taste because of my cold, stopped by the after party, then went to bed early.