March 23, 2009

Tiger Balm Tournament 2009

We ventured northward this past weekend for the 2009 Tiger Balm Internationals in Vancouver, BC.
Run by John Funk, and billed as one of Canada's premier martial arts tournaments, participants came from all over Canada (even the Yukon!!), and the pacific northwest to compete in everything from forms, to weapons, to sport jiu jitsu, to San Shou, to BJJ, to grappling, to Pancrase, etc. One of the draws of this tournament is that it encompasses so many different genres and styles.

And perhaps that is where the problem really lies. I attended the 2004 Tiger Balms and overall the event was not very organized, nor ran very tightly. Too many competitors, not enough rings was the main issue. Spectator seating was limited and overall the tournament fell victim to the same woes many tournaments do.

This years tournament was being touted as "more organized," "better run," and overall supposedly a faster-better tournament. I must admit it was more organized than 5 years ago. Seemed to be the same number of competitors, and roughly the same number of events. I did not compete in the same categories this year as 2004, so it is hard for me to give honest criticism in those regards, but here are more overall impressions of the tourney in general:

Across the board all judging and refereeing seemed to be intelligent, fair, and by the book. I heard no complaints nor arguments from anyone. My only complaint is that we were told their would be a separate rules meeting from the kids BJJ, for the adults, but that never came. Had to chase down "officials" (the head BJJ official was not wearing any clothing nor name tag that designated him as such) to ask about rules.

San Shou
To begin with we had an excessively long, and hard to hear rules meeting. Within that 1/2 hour we were informed of a number of rules that were different than what is posted on their website! It was joked off as the "website has not been updated in the last 8 years." Which is the biggest bullshit excuse I have ever heard! No excuse for that to happen now days, especially with one of the biggest tournaments in Canada! The rules were significant in our training and preparation for the tournament. Though the outcome was not won nor loss because of the rules, it is in every ones best interest, and safety mind you, that rules are updated and participants are well aware of them!

There was only one ring for San Shou, which to say the least was not nearly enough. The division began at 10am (an understandable 1/2 hour late), and the advanced division was not staging until 3pm in the afternoon! Obviously a lot of interest, a lot of competitors, therefore we need to allocate more room for additional rings.

Overall I think there are way too many people and not enough rings. There is no easy solution I understand, but perhaps the organizers should consider breaking up the tournament into smaller, more specific tournaments. For instance the majority of the karate forms people were not interested in Chinese forms divisions, San Shou, nor BJJ. And vice versa!

The presence of Albanian-like security with ear pieces and intimidating stares was a bit over the top in my opinion. If they are TRULY needed (which I doubt) then they should hire someone more professional, and less "thugish" looking. I worked security for many years, and all but two of the guys I saw were not very professional.

The addition of charging coaches to be on the floor and coach their guys is complete and utter bullshit! $40 to simply get on the floor and coach your students! I cannot believe more coaches did not complain! I am not sure how strictly this was enforced, but it is a very greedy move to charge for such things. Shame on the decision maker for that one!

The timeliness (as mentioned before) needs to be addressed. Especially for those who are fighting. For meals, rest, and prep time to be most efficient, events need to start within a certain time frame. I think an hour is an acceptable buffer, but when there is a 5+ hour difference in when something is supposed to go on, and when it does..... that is ridiculous!

The competition was solid from what I experienced and saw in all categories. People were very respectful when fighting others, and the overall vibe I got was positive (though the above complaints were shared by pretty much everyone on the floor!). The Tiger Balms need to update websites, make directions more clear, and start running a tighter ship if they want to maintain their current participant base, let alone bring in new talent. I for one will most likely not participate in next years event for these reasons.


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