- This article is written for ndees. To learn about organizing a tournament, see: Tips for Tournament Organizers
Taekwondo tournaments typically consist of multiple different types of competition:
- Sparring is very often one type of competition held at a tournament. See main article Taekwondo Sparring to learn more about competition sparring.
- Forms competitions are also very often seen at tournaments; this sometimes includes Creative Forms competitions and Group Forms competitions
- One will often see breaking competitions as well
- One will often see Demo Team competions also
Tournaments are held at local, national, and international levels, including even the Olympics. Local and regional tournaments are generally held in smaller venues, such as high school or local college gymnasiums.
Participating in Local Tournaments
Typically your taekwondo school will announce when a local tournament is upcoming and will solicit volunteers among its students to compete in the tournament. You can choose which type of competition you want to participate in (sparring, forms, breaking, etc.). Competing in the tournament usually requires an entrance fee. Typically your taekwondo school will schedule extra classes for students who wish to compete in the tournament.
Even new students can compete in students, as their are tournament divisions specifically geared toward lower-belt students. In fact, most compeitions are divided into multiple categories:
- Different divisions for different belt colors
- Different divisions for different genders
- Different divisions for different age groups
- Different divisions for different weight classes
So even though there may be many hundreds of people competing at the tournament, only a few dozen might be competing in your event / belt level / gender / age group / weight class.
Preparing for the Tournament
- Attend the extra practice sessions at your school if you can
- If you're sparring, make sure all your sparring gear is ready well before the day of the tournament. Don't forget to fit your mouth guard before the tournament (usually done with hot water to make the mouth guard pliable).
- Much of the day at the tournament is spent waiting -- waiting for your chance to compete. A book, an iPad, some snacks, water bottles -- all worth packing. Don't pack too much stuff though, as most tournaments are pretty crowded and you're not going to have a lot of elbow room.
- Typical Packing List:
- Taekwondo uniform (and possibly bring a spare just in case) -- or wear your uniform to the tournament
- Belt (of course)
- Water bottles
- Fruit for after the competition.
- Small towel(s) - sparring especially is sweaty work requires one)
- Bleacher cushion (for the parents -- you're going to be sitting for a long time too)
- If you'll be sparring, depending the style remember to bring:
- Mouth Guard
- Chest Protector
- Groin protector
- Forearm / hand protector(s)
- Shin / foot protector(s)
- For a full, detailed list on what to bring to a tournament, and how to prepare prior, check out Iron Wood Productions' video, The ULTIMATE Competition Prep Guide.
Arriving at the Tournament
- For local tournaments (often held in High School gymnasiums) many competitors simply wear their taekwondo uniforms to the tournament. Others prefer to wear street clothes and change into their uniforms in one of the high school bathrooms or tournament changing areas.
- When you arrive, you will usually have to sign-in at the registration table and get a badge. Spectators (such as parents) often have to pay a small admission fee to enter.
- Competitors -- just like spectators -- usually watch the tournament from the stands until their time to compete arrives. Typically students, parents, and instructors from the same school will also sit together in the stands. (This helps, because you'll want somebody to keep an eye on your belongings when your turn to compete arrives.)
- Just as with most sporting events, there are usually food stands, tee shirt stands, etc. at the tournament. A custom tee shirt representing just that tournament is usually on-sale, and these are always popular items. When the tournament is over you'll have a tee shirt that lets the world know "I competed in this tournament."
- Many tournaments incorporate with an "Opening Ceremony", either first-thing in the morning, or at the mid-day break. Some competitors intentionally arrive late however if they know that their competition isn't slated until much later in the day.
- Typically a loudspeaker system announces to the audience (including the competitors) when the next event arrives. Listen for your event, then report to the Waiting Area. The Waiting Area is usually a room set off to the side somewhere so that all the competitors for the next competition can congregate and prepare before the next event. If you are sparring, the Waiting Area is where you put on your sparring gear. Sometimes parents are allowed in the Waiting Area to help their children prepare -- but not always.
- Pro-Tip: It's really hard to hear many of the loudspeaker announcements. Gyms tend to be loud and echo-y. You'll have to strain to hear many of the announcements, but try to develop that habit -- you'd be surprised how many of your friends will ask you right after the announcement, "What did they just say?"
- When it's time to compete, competitors are taken to their competition mats. (Parent's don't follow children the mats -- they return to the bleachers to watch.)
- Once at the mats, there's still more waiting. There might be a dozen or so competitors at your mat, and you have to wait for your turn to come up. For small children, this can be especially boring.
- When all the competions on a given mat are concluded (i.e., when each of the dozen or so competitors have had their chance to compete, and when the winners have been determined), you can return to the bleachers. IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE WINNERS you will usually be directed off to the side where you can pick up your trophy, have your photograph taken, etc.