The World’s First Online Martial Arts Tournament

A decade ago, the GMAU was one of the first legitimate online schools to begin offering internationally accredited home ranking courses. As an organization, we are always pushing the boundaries forward to create the best and most realistic training experience possible for our global students. A few years back, I had a crazy little idea to hold an online tournament. I decided to shelf the concept into the recesses of my brain for some time. Earlier this year, it resurfaced, and we set out to engineer and host the world’s first online martial arts championships. Now our online students can compete against one another (and any other martial artists) to prove themselves on the world stage.

How Can You Compete Online?

The first obvious question, is how can you compete online? So, let us be clear, we are only holding forms (kata/poomsae) divisions. No sparring. Maybe in the future we can use VR technology to host an online sparring tournament, but for now, we can only do forms. What we realized is that at a live tournament, the judges (and spectators) simply watch with their eyes, and then score the form. The exact same thing can be facilitated with video, without reducing the accuracy of the process or standards of the competition.

How Does it Work?

If you are interested in competing in the Global Martial Arts Online World Championships, here is what you need to do:

  1. Register. Simply enter your information and choose which divisions you want to compete in. We have divisions for all ages and ranks within the major categories of: Karate, Taekwondo, and Weapons.
  2. Film & Upload Entry Form. On the day of the event (on August 3rd or 4th), you will login to the GMA World Championships website. There will be an obvious “record” button that you will click for each division that you are competing in. Get a handy smartphone tripod for your phone, or ask a friend to hold your phone (or you can use a webcam). Before you begin your form (kata), bow, then state your name, your rank, your school’s name, and the name of the form. Then demonstrate the form, and finish with a bow. The video will then be uploaded for scoring.
  3. Judging and Results. The judges will then score your form, and you will be able to see their exact scores and any written comments. You can also watch any other of your competitors’ videos, and see their scores. You will also see in real-time where you are on the scoreboard. After all judging is completed, you will be notified if you placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd; and if so, you will receive a medal in the mail. All participants will also receive some gifts for taking part.

Judging Rubric

Below is the scorecard that judges will use while judging your entry. As an open style competition, judges will do their best to score a participant on these overarching martial arts proficiency principles.

  • Technical Proficiency – Correctness of strikes/blocks/kicks.
  • Power – Strength/intensity/effort.
  • Stances – Posture/leg bend/stability.  
  • Spirit – Presentation/attitude.
  • Degree of Difficulty – Level of challenge.  
  • Flow – Control/timing/fluidity. 

The Styles

Karate

The first major category in which you can compete is Karate. This is an open-style competition, which means that any style of karate is welcome to enter. You might train in Goju-Ryu, Kyokushin, Shito-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, or something else. You can enter the competition using your favorite kata. The judging rubric is based upon principles more than the judge knowing your specific kata. The divisions are separate by age and by experience level. You will be competing with other martial artists within your same age group and belt rank group.

Taekwondo

Another major category in the World Championships is Taekwondo. Again, as an open-style competition, any style of Taekwondo can be used in the poomsae/pattern demonstration. Whether you train in International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), Global Taekwondo Federation (GTF), American Taekwondo Association (ATA), Jhoon Rhee system, World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), or something else – your poomsae can be entered.

Weapons

This category is specifically “traditional weapons” rather than extreme weapons. We did not name this “Kobudo”, as weapon styles from non-Japanese/Okinawan based systems can also be entered and demonstrated. You will demonstrate a weapons form/kata of your choice, with a weapon choice. For this category, focus on the stances, traditional techniques, and less on spins/twirls/tricks. Some popular weapons that could be used: bo, nunchaku, sai, tonfa, kama, katana, 3-section-staff, and jo. If you hold rank in a specific weapons style, such as Ultimate Bo or Kobudo, then you need to enter a division with that rank. If you hold no rank in a specific weapons style, enter a division with the rank of your main traditional style.


Why Should You Compete?

I can just feel you visualizing yourself throwing down and putting it on the line, giving it your all, and feeling that sense of confident victory. I then notice a withdrawal, a fear of ridicule, a fear of losing, a fear of not sizing up. Competitions bring out the best and worst of us at times. I urge you to use this competition as a catalyst to ratchet up your training. Use it as “an event” – something that you are working toward, and that will give you tangible feedback as to how far you have gone. A few benefits of competing in this online tournament:

  • It will force you to amp up your training. If you are a GMAU student, or if you attend a local dojo, you are going to train harder over the next few months. Absolutely no question. You will work harder, push yourself, and really dig in. The event will motivate you.
  • To bring you outside of your comfort zone (to grow). Whenever we confront fear, it is reminding us of some invisible fence that we set, maybe that we set in our childhood. We’ve felt safe within the fence, and are not sure what would happen if we cross the line. By crossing the line, you will do something that you didn’t think you could do previously. What else will you overcome? Becoming fearless has innumerable positive effects on your psyche, as long as it is grounded in reality.
  • To get real feedback as to where you stand. You will be judged by some of the world’s top martial arts instructors and black belts. Your score will really open your eyes to your strengths and weaknesses, along with the written comments that judges can make for you – you will get some incredibly useful feedback.
  • Learn from your fellow competitors. A unique feature of the GMA World Championships, is you can watch everyone else’s video and see their scorecard. Maybe you don’t win 1st place, who did, and why? You will have a unique opportunity to see differences in their form, style, and capacity.
  • To win (or learn). Look, it really isn’t about winning and losing, but rather winning and learning. When you win, the world is simply signaling to you that you have put in the energy, the effort, and others are recognizing that. It doesn’t mean you are perfect, but that you are doing a lot of things right, and it is good to know what those things are. If you don’t win, that doesn’t mean that you lose. It means that you learned something, and you will be one step closer to winning the next time

Register Now

Ready to do this? Register now for the Global Martial Arts Online World Championships.

Written by Michael Hodge
I am a Lead Instructor at the Global Martial Arts University. I live with my three energetic kids and wonderful wife on a prairie in Texas. I also lead The Abundance Projects.