What happens at an ATA Tournament?
An ATA tournament has LOTS of opportunities to try different events! Some students find they enjoy some events more than others, but there are enough different events that most practitioners will find something for them!
This blog post is meant to explain, in detail, exactly what happens in each event! For a detailed explanation of the tournament rules, please visit www.atarules.com. However, for the new student, let’s go over each event, and what they do.
By the way, most all students compete in the staple events, Forms and Sparring. Some students who, like me, love weapons training, will also choose to add either Protech (weapons demonstration) or Combat Stick Sparring (with sparring gear and a padded stick). Leadership members can compete in any of four additional events, Creative Forms, Creative Weapons, Xtreme Forms, or Xtreme Weapons.
(ONE MORE THING! White, Orange, and Yellow belts may choose between Point Sparring, with the gear, or One-step Sparring, with no equipment but also no contact. I’ll explain below)
Only die-hards (myself and a few of my past and present students) compete in all 8. Most pick and choose what they like.
I recommend starting with Forms, Sparring, and maybe weapons or combat weapons. I don’t recommend just “trying” the leadership events until you’ve been to a few tournaments and watched those events.
Now, let’s explain what events on available!
The competitior demonstrates a pre-taught sequence of moves and is graded in comparison to the other competitors.
There are three judges.
Judge A scores the student on the quality of their kicks and stances.
Judge B scores the student on the quality of their strikes and blocks.
Judge C (Center Judge) scores the student on the overall quality and presentation of the form. In competitive division (NOT novice division), they are also watching for memorization…they are the only judge who will mark a student down for incorrect memory or forgetting a move.
Students perform one at a time. The first two students will not be scored immediately. Once three competitors have demonstrated, the judges will call all three up and, one at a time, give them scores comparing them to each other. After this, each competitor (4th, 5th, 6th, etc.) will be scored in comparison to the standard established by the first three.
Tigers: The tiger goes to tournament with a slip from their instructor, telling the judges exactly what they are doing and if they will need help or not. The tigers are not “scored”. They are encouraged for the things they do well.
Novice division: Again, remember! Memory is not a factor in their score. In fact, if they don’t know the form, the center judge will tell them what to do next!
Competitive division: No help can be given. If the form is incomplete, the center judge MUST give them a 9.1 (scoring goes from 9.1-9.9) However, the other judges do not penalize for memory. They are ALL about the quality of whatever technique is thrown.
ONE-STEP SPARRING (White, Orange, Yellow belts ONLY):
Competitors will perform two different pre-set combinations towards an opponent, without hitting or even making any contact on that opponent. Judges will award a point to whoever has the higher quality technique.
Attacker will always do this: Step back, left low block, step forward, right punch.
Defender will do the “one-step”. (A preset combination taught by their instructor)
Tigers: Once again, the slip the tiger takes to tournament will have all the assigned information on it.
Novice: Once again, memory is not a factor in grading, and the center judge may help the student.
Competitive: Once again, no help can be given.
Competitors, wearing full sparring gear, are attempting to make light contact to legal target areas (hand techniques to body, kicks to body or head), while preventing their opponent from doing the same to them.
Colored belts: Contact is not required to score, but the technique must come close.
Punch or kick to chest protector – 1 point
Kick to head – 2 points
Jump kick to chest protector – 2 points
Jump kick to head – 3 points
Pretty much anything else – penalty (no hits to back, no punches to head, no low blows, no elbows, knees, grabbing)
Sidenote: Remember, this is not pure self-defense yet. This is a sport, which leads to self-defense. The rules of sports are meant to prevent injury, thereby prolonging the health/abilities of the practitioners. The rules of self-defense (hint: there are none) are meant to do the exact opposite.
The game goes to either 5 points or 2 minutes.
Tigers: No contact. Judges are watching for their techniques, to reinforce the behaviors and techniques that they do well!
Novice: While the rules do not change, the judges understand that students often compete in novice if the feel nervous. So while it is always the judges highest priority to ensure safety, the judges give their extra concern to safety in a novice division.
PROTECH (Weapons demonstration)
Colored belt students will have 30 seconds to demonstrate a freestyle or a created form with an approved ATA weapon of their choice.
Black Belts must demonstrate a Black Belt weapon form appropriate for their rank or below.
Colored belt freestyle: Student cannot release/toss the weapon, nor can they do any acrobatic techniques.
Just like forms, competition, there are three judges who will compare the first three competitors to each other, and then compare every competitor after that to the first three. But all three judges are judging overall presentation.
Tigers: Once again, not scored. Rather, “reinforced.” Watching for good behavior, good attitude, and good technique, so judges can reinforce it.
COMBAT STICK SPARRING
Competitors wear full sparring gear and use the combat stick (not just the padded one, but the SUPER padded one).
The rules and slightly more complicated this time (don’t worry, the judges know them) and the game goes to 10 points or 2 minutes, not 5 points.
In order to simplify the rules, I have divided the into “rules of three.”
First of all, basically everything is a legal target area with a few exceptions. So assume that EVERYTHING is one point, except for the following rules of three.
THREE ways to score a bonus point
- Jump when you strike
- Opponent drops weapon
- Hit a bonus target area
THREE bonus target areas
- Weapon forearm (elbow-to-hand of the arm holding the weapon)
- Thrust to front leg (rare technique, and an advanced fencing technique. In self-defense, if you could make your opponent unable to put weight on their front leg, you have effectively eliminated their offensive capabilities.)
THREE illegal target areas
- Any thrusting techniques to the head
So those are the rules in a nutshell!
LEADERSHIP-ONLY EVENTS – The reason that Xtreme and Creative are for Leadership is because part of learning to lead is not just “doing-what-you’re-told” (doing the form you were taught) but rather, learning to create your own form. While one might think “wow, you should be less nervous because you can’t do anything wrong!”, quite the opposite is true. Students often feel more nervous because making your own form makes you feel more self-conscious, like it’s an expression of yourself.
Here are the four events!
- Competitor creates their own form based on traditional taekwondo techniques.
- Optional: They may do the form to music if they choose (instructor must okay that the music is family appropriate)
- It must be 2:00 or less. If it is 2:01, they are disqualified and no score can be given. (Shorter forms are not penalized based on time.)
- Any jump spin kick that goes 540 degrees or more is illegal, leads to disqualification
- Any acrobatic technique (cartwheel, round off, gyro, illusion, wushu butterfly, etc.) is illegal, leads to disqualification
- Competitors MUST be competing in traditional forms in order to be allowed to compete in Creative Forms or Xtreme Forms.
- Same rules as creative forms, with an ATA approved weapon.
- Weapon releases are not allowed (weapon must remain in contact with the body at all times)
- Competitors MUST be competing in Wraditional Weapons (Protech) in order to be allowed to compete in Creative Weapons or Xtreme Weapons
- Same as Creative Form, but now there are no illegal techniques.
- Same as Creative Weapons, but now there are no illegal techniques. Also, weapon releases are allowed.
If anybody has any questions about tournament, let me know! This is meant to be the fastest explanation. For a more detailed explanation, go to http://www.atarules.com!
Hope that helps, and I hope that anybody who has even a twinge of interest gets to try tournament at least once! (Of course, what I really hope is that you get hooked on it. They’re fun!)