Recently there was a post in a forum about spectators hoovering around a ring at sport martial arts event with questions about such things. Most events I have been to in my 30+ years of competing do not permit spectators on the competition floor at any time, but it does happen regardless. It happens because people are disrespectful to the promoter and rules of the event. Let me say that again…they are disrespectful period.
I have been promoting Karate tournaments since 1995 and competing at them for around 32 years. Just like many I see the strong values of tournament competition for myself and my students. These values such as learning how to be graceful under pressure, lose with integrity and win with honor along with learning how to face disappointment and overcoming it are all traits that build strong character. That being said there have been many events I went to where spectators were on the competition floor and they always got in the way…sometimes even dangerously so.
In the late 90’s I was a tournament and during the adult brown belt men fighting there were spectators standing outside of the ring. They had been asked to move twice and both times they just went to a different side of the ring. As anyone knows the brown belt men’s fighting division is very rough and heated. They are there to prove they are worthy to step up into the black belt rings. They fight hard and go at it very quickly. During this one match, which I was a corner judge at, two fighters flew out of the ring during a fast attack exchange. While this does happen quite often, especially in that division, this time two of the spectators (who had been told to leave the floor twice) were in the path of the fighters. One of them got knocked down and their head slammed into the floor. They were taken out on stretcher with a severe concussion.
A year or so later I learned that both spectators sued the promoter and won. I was appalled and shocked by that statement. They were told to leave and chose to ignore the rules thus resulting in the injuries that happened. That is pathetic that any judge would allow them to even sue because they caused their own problems, not the tournament, not the fighters, not event. Heck, one of the fighters who broke two fingers because he tripped over one of the spectators didn’t sue…says something about the quality of a martial artist over a spectator I guess…anyway…
The point of this that rules exist for safety…in the dojo, at a tournament, in life. There is a reason why rules are in place and to not respect them means you are the problem, not the rules…even if you don’t agree with them, sorry but that is FACT of the matter. In the 40 years I have been training I have been to countless dojo, seminars and tournaments. There were rules I didn’t agree with but I was a visitor, much like being a spectator, so I had no say and I respected those rules. Even sometimes as a judge at some tournaments I would disagree with the rules but it was NOT my event so I respected them. As a competitor I disagreed with a lot of rules (especially in the earl 2000’s) but I had to respect them, abide by them, in order to win the event. Respecting the rules seems common sense to me, not sure why it doesn’t for others.
When I host my tournament we are always asking spectators to leave the competition floor. We are very polite until we can’t be any more. Typically we never have a problem but there have been a few times where some black belt who is in street clothes throws a fit about being told he is not allowed on the floor. They always emphasize that they are a “black belt”. So when I asked where is your uniform and why aren’t you out here judging / helping out I get all the same excuses. Sorry but you are not on the floor, in uniform, judging or competing so you will leave the floor period. Being a black belt I should never have to tell them this but I guess some missed the part of martial arts training about respect, which is sad.
A few years back I asked a couple of parents to return to the seating because they can’t be on the floor. The look right at me and told me off since they were “paying” to be there. I looked right back at them and said “Leave or be thrown out, your choice”. They were in shock but they left the floor. It is posted at the entrance to my event that only competitors and judges IN UNIFORM are permitted on the floor. When the one parent went to the registration table to complain my students showed them the sign. They still demanded that be given a wrist band to be allowed on the floor. I was called over and I grabbed the $5 they paid, handed it them and said have a nice a day, please leave. Even with that we still had to escort them out. Of course they came back in begging to be allowed in because their child was competing to which I said “Then set the example for your child and RESPECT the rules”. Luckily they did just that the rest of the event but I am sure I never saw them return to my event however I did see them at other events and when they saw me they always left the competition area LOL.
A couple of people posted that spectators should be allowed on the floor. They are not promoters but rather instructors who take students to the tournaments. A photo was posted of a Judo tournament which showed competitors on the floor, judges too and spectators in the stands. One individual said that it looked liked “boring tournament that they would not go to” as well. Well, as I see it, if you have never promoted a tournament then shut up about it because all insurance companies REQUIRE that NO ONE but competitors and licensed officials are on the competition floor at any time.
Martial arts tournaments are not biddy soccer, they are not t-ball. People can get hurt and spectators on the floor are dangerous for everyone. Back in the early 90’s I was fighting for a grand championship prize. The cash was $200. As a college student barely scraping by I needed that money. During the fight I stepped back over the out of bounds line and twisted my ankle on a spectator who had no business being there. I finished the fight but I lost because I couldn’t put full weight on my ankle. To this date I am still pissed at that person who stood there socializing with a friend and didn’t pay any attention to the fight in the ring. I would never want to see this happen to any competitor at my event so I am very strict on the no spectator on the floor rule.
In all honesty I shouldn’t even need to write this out but our society today doesn’t see rules as something requiring respect. People like to challenge the rules, they want everything their way, as they see it, and immediately act like little children when they don’t get it…and yes I am talking about grown ups. That is not being an adult and all it teaches kids who witness those actions to do is act like they are above the rules. Rules are not made to be broken…and quite often, especially at martial arts events, they exist for the safety of all competitors, judges and even spectators. There is a reason for them and no one if above them at any time. Respect the rules. Act like responsible adults. Set the standard for your kids so they grow up understanding how to become respectful adults. Well enough on this subject, I have more to do that is more important like planning this weeks lessons at my dojo so I can educate my students on what truly is respect, honor and integrity.
Steven Franz, Shihan
Rokudan Shorin Ryu Shorinkan