This past weekend I attended the Summer Smash tournament held in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was a well attended event, fair rules and great judges as well as some very good competition. The divisions offered were Forms, Weapons and Sparring…all traditional events at every open tournament but there seemed to have been a SNAFU in the black belt division.
During the Mens 18-40 1st to 3rd degree weapons forms a young man ran a form using an umbrella as his weapon. Yes, you read that correctly, it was an umbrella. Not only did he run his “traditional” weapons form with an umbrella he also took first place. Now, I am not going to take anything away from this young man. His umbrella form was very impressive, showcased a lot of skill, planning and it was easy to tell he had worked on it for a long time. It was very impressive to watch…but it didn’t belong in this tournament, nor should he have earned 1st place.
Why? You may be wondering…well, even though it was a unique idea, it is not a traditional weapon and his form was not traditional either. It was “creative”. This means he made it up. Most events offer some sort of creative or demo division for this type of thing because it is not permitted in the traditional weapons divisions because, for lack of a better stereotype, it is not traditional. Now, before all you modernist and eclectic ninjas jump my case about what I just said remember that weapons are defined for traditional forms divisions.
Can a person use an umbrella for a weapon? Absolutely. I have seen people run weapons forms with silverware, axes, pencils and more…but never in a traditional division nor would they ever had been able to win it either. It was always in a creative division. Heck, I was once at a tournament where a guy came out and performed a two steak knives kata, one in each hand, and at the end of it he pulled out a cap gun and fired off three rounds to an imaginary opponent. The judges all jumped, we all laughed and he didn’t place even though it was in a creative weapons form category.
There are a couple of things to consider with what happened this weekend. All personal preferences for the art of Kobudo aside, this man was very inventive and creative. His form was choreographed very well and he had skills. That being said it was evident he never considered how disrespectful it was towards the other competitors who had spent just as much hard work on their traditional weapons forms. Also, the flier didn’t state anywhere what was permitted in the rules to be considered a weapon but that still doesn’t make it alright to run a made up form with a modern weapon ideology against others who are running proper Kobudo. Another thing to consider is that many people, after seeing his unique form (and that he won) may consider doing the same thing in traditional divisions at other events and get upset when they are disqualified or lose because of it.
Was it cool? Yes it was. Was he skilled with his umbrella? Very much so. Was his form decent? It was. BUT none of that qualifies it as a traditional weapons form…at all. The real thing I don’t get is why the judges would have gave him the win. Since when did having a unique and cool form qualify for extra points? In a traditional tournament it wouldn’t however this was an “open” event. Open events are not regulated nor do they have any circuit standards to abide by. Quite often some of the weirdest things called martial arts pop up at these events. Everything from self made forms to cartwheel kicks and flips in traditional divisions appear from time to time.
Regardless of it being an open event or not the issue should have been addressed with the young man and promoter. It should have been cleared with the other competitors and judges before it happened. It was apparent the other competitors thought it was cool but were very disappointed that he won…and rightfully so. I did speak to the promoter and said I would have thrown a fit had I been that division and he needs to add a “creative forms” division to his tournaments if he is going to allow it to continue…and I am not the only who felt that way from this situation.
Luckily he didn’t win grand champion that day…and proud to say my student, and one of my senior black belts, did running a very traditional open hand kata against the other competitors. If the umbrella guy would have won I don’t think my student would have been as cool about it as I was…but that would’ve been another interesting story. Needless to say there is a line that was crossed by the promoter for allowing it as well as by the competitor for doing it…and, as for the judges, well I will leave that be since I wasn’t one of them but I will state this…I wouldn’t have scored him very well because it was the proper place nor time for an umbrella…oh and I guess no one ever told him never to open an umbrella indoors…hopefully Karma was watching 🙂