Competing – what’s it all about?

3 Apr 2024

The first competition that I went to was as a white belt, and it was one of the earliest, if not the first, CMA competitions (or the Dragon Cup as we know it now). I’d been doing Taekwon-do for about 4 months and mostly just wanted to give the high kick a go. Fast forward 12 years and I’ve done more competitions than I can count, from smaller club tournaments not too far from home, to World Championships on the other side of the world. 

I’ve always been quite a competitive person, so competitions appealed to me when I was younger as an opportunity to win something shiny – but there are so many more reasons than that to compete. 

Practice. If nothing else, competing gives you a chance to try out your patterns or sparring techniques in front of some very experienced people. You wouldn’t always get this much focused attention in class, so it can be a really good opportunity to get feedback. For me, I’ve always been more of a patterns person, but I’ll still give sparring a go every now and then as I know it’s useful practise for gradings, and no matter how much I build it up in my head, nothing disastrous has ever happened. After 12 years, I’m yet to win gold in sparring, but I’m normally happy if I can score a head kick or two! 

Motivation. I think it’s always good to have something that you’re working towards, that makes you want to turn up to training and put in the effort. Maybe you’re a few months away from being eligible to grade again? Great, work towards a competition instead! I think this is especially true for adults – I found that after I finished university, working towards some kind of educational goal was no longer taking up headspace as it had done for 10 years or so, and I needed something to fill the gap. I’ve found training and competing does just that. 

Community. Competing is a really great way of spending more time with the people you train with, and you get a sense of camaraderie – shaking out the nerves together and cheering each other on (this was especially helpful when I was trying to make friends at university). Once you start to compete more you also recognise more people from other clubs, so it becomes a nice social experience too. Competing internationally means weekends away in some interesting places, and getting to meet practitioners from other countries. 

Personal Development. Unfortunately, not everyone can win, but competing can teach you a lot about patience and perseverance, and importantly, how to be a gracious loser. I’ve put on a brave face many times when shaking the hand of someone who has just beaten me. Equally important is to not gloat in the face of someone you’ve just beaten, as they’re probably putting on their best brave face too. And of course, these are good qualities to have outside of martial arts too! 

More than ever, I think we’re in a great position at CMA to get lots of people involved in competing. There are lots of experienced competitors and umpires around, who are always happy to answer questions and lend a hand. The club is also able to support people more than ever – I know competing can be expensive but often there is subsidised travel available and the club fund is there for more expensive trips too. 

If you’ve never competed before, or are a bit out of practise, I’d really recommend giving the Dragon Cup a go on the 13th July 2024. The atmosphere is so welcoming and supportive, and you’ll likely end up competing with your class-mates so will see plenty of friendly faces. Hope to see you there! 


Charlie Draper, 3rd degree