on DEC. / 28 / 2011 | 0 comments
By Paul Marsala
My daughter and I study Tae Kwon-Do together and recently participated in a tournament. She is currently a brown belt and has been studying a little more than a year and this was her first tournament experience. I am a veteran of the tournament scene going back to the mid-1980’s, but in all truth and fairness have not attended or participated in sport Tae Kwon Do in many years. Based on my observations limited to this event, it seems that much has changed and it is not necessarily that positive.
Now, I will say that there are no sour grapes here; we both walked away with first place trophies in our divisions and events. This was nice, but really we had no expectations of placing. This was more to benefit my daughter’s experience – win or lose did not matter. Nonetheless, I must offer some criticism, as the bias observed by many of the spectators and fellow competitors was quite obvious.
The event was sponsored by a single school in the area and, in truth, was a very well organized event. In fact, it was one of the best events that I have ever attended, at least as best as memory serves me. It should be no surprise that the bulk of competitors were from the organizing school, but there was a fair amount of representation from non-affiliated locations as well. Disappointing was that a very large proportion (if not all) of the referees were instructors or directly affiliated with the organizing school and master instructor! In fact, it became clear that many of the referees were also competitors. How does this work? Shouldn’t the referees be banned from competing at the very event where they are deciding winners and losers? How do they fairly judge each other especially, when they are from the same school? Granted, I have been away from competition for a long time and perhaps things have changed to such an extent that this is now the norm, but it seems incredibly compromised from a competitive and ethical standpoint. It would seem that a tournament organizer in the interest of fair competition for all that spent money on the registration fee would request an independent panel of judges (i.e., AAU) or require that each school participating supply at least one referee.
The bias became very clear when it came to selecting division-grand champion winners. In the two events that we participated and placed first, the grand champion in each class was ultimately a student (or worse still a ref) from the organizing school. This was evident in other events as well! It could be supported if the winner was clearly the best competitor, but when losing balance and stumbling in the eliminations round for poomse competitions meets with a grand champion trophy, there is definitely something wrong!
If this level of compromise is common these days, it is truly a sad testament. If it is more the exception, then it is encouraging that future events may be less biased. We should always strive to do the right thing!