Tournaments Keep You Sharp
Let’s envision a world where you can quantify your karate ability and give it a number on some karate-scale. One component of that score would be your kumite (sparring) score. This score would indicate a mathematically sound, and universally accepted value of your sparring ability which is quantitatively comparable to other people’s kumite-score, K. For example, it can be computed that:
kumite-score(Phil) < kumite-score(Andy)
Whereby Phil and Andy are vectors containing the value of each factor of the function K. Now let’s think of the factors that contribute to your kumite-score: (a) natural ability, (b) athletic foundation, (c) general fitness, (d) sparring in class, (e) sparring after class, (f) motivation, (g) special training, and (h) competition participation. The factors all have an impact on your kumite score, making the score a function of these. For example, one input to K might be Phil=<1,2,3,4,2,3,4,5> and its output might look something like K(Phil) = 5.6. Now any good scientist knows that to examine the effect of a variable within a model, you first keep all other variables constant (that is, pick a reasonable value for these variables and leave them unchanged), and observe the behaviour of a function when changing the non-constant variable. As a thought experiment, let’s look at variable h: competition participation.
The question we explore is: how does participation in competitions affect your sparring ability, or rather, your kumite-score.
I’ve been in a few competitions or tournaments since beginning karate and I see the impact that preparing for a tournament has on my kumite-score and the impact of actually participating in the tournament. So I called in my team of karatologists to study my abilities and compute my score. While the function is a highly guarded and secretive one, they were able to give me the scores and show the impact of a particular factor on my kumite-score. My goal now is to ultimately reverse engineer these scores and determine the karate-score function! But not today.
Today I’m interested in the impact of variable h on my kumite score. So my team and I have set up an experiment. Every day for a year, my kumite score was evaluated and plotted on a graph which shows the effect of all kumite score variables. During that year, 4 competitions were held, each 12 weeks after the previous one. The results of my kumite-score are shown:
I don’t suspect its on a scale of 1-10, as I’m certainly nowhere near a 6 if it were. What the graph shows is that leading up to each competition, my kumite score began to rise. At the first competition (early in my karate career) it rises very sharply but less so with successive competitions. Although the lead up to the competition was less dramatic, it definitely went up. What is also apparent on the graph is that the peak kumite-score at each competition is slightly higher than the last. Hmm… perhaps then its a recursive function where each value depends on the one before it.
What we also see here is that the troughs between each competition are also less dramatic and that the kumite-score after a tournament remains a little higher than the score calculated before the competition. Clearly, the more competitions I take part in, the greater my kumite abilities. Additionally, the time immediately following a tournament saw the peak scores, indicating that there is a period following a tournament when kumite abilities remain very high, and slowly decline as time goes by, until the next competition is planned.
Before viewing the results of the h-variable impact, I hypothesized that with successive tournaments, the increase to my abilities lessens, but the ability is sustained longer. If I’m right, I’d see some form of monotonic polynomial decline in h scores with successive tournaments. This would make sense to most people if you think about the fact that as you get better at something, its generally more difficult to see improvement with time.
When I get the h-variable graph from the karatologists, it supports my hypothesis, but is inconclusive:
In order to know for sure if my hypothesis is correct, I’d have to take part in many more tournaments and obtain the evaluation scores from my team. What we can see for certain, though, is that participation in karate tournaments and competitions improves your sparring ability. What’s more, peak ability is increase with each additional competition and sustained longer with each competition. If h is determined by the number of competitions I take in, then h must be a function as well, h(competitionCount). Are there other factors?
Conclusion: tournaments keep you sharp. The other factors also play a vital role in improving your kumite-score, such as the increased training frequency leading up to a competition. However I see folks in my class that will train harder before a tournament to spar with those that will be competing, but not take part in the tournament themselves. This is potentially a lost opportunity to increase their kumite-score.