Ultimate Winner

By Derek Cheng

Last month was the third year in a row that I have been organizing the sanshou competition in the Tiger Balm tournament. As the centre referee, I get to see up close how people are fighting, and every year I gain experience both as a judge and as an athlete.

This year, however, one incident stood out in my mind clearly that is difficult to forget. In one ofthe 70 kg division fights, one competitor (for the purpose of this article, I am going to call him Brian; this is not his real name of course) Brian got knocked out by his opponent during the first round.

Before the start of the match, I knew who was going to be the winner of the match already. Brianlacks both skill and experience compared to his opponent, and I was prepared to end the fight any time. Just as I imagined it, Brian didn't keep his hands up during the fight, even when he was in a defending position, and his opponent kicked him right in the face with a right back leg round house kick. This knocked Brian almost unconscious and ended the fight.

After the kick, Brian was disoriented for almost a minute. He wanted to get up, but he was too dizzy to do so. He was still swinging his arms and growling while he was on the floor. His coach rushed to help by lying on top of him and holding him still while shouting "You are okay Brian, just hold still and relax. You just got kicked in the head. Relax. I am here to help you." I called the first aid attendants over right away. Even his opponent came over to help. After another minute or so, Brian began to regain his senses and with the help from his coach and the first aid attendant, he stood up on his feet again.

During the whole time the audience watched intensely, and as Brian stood up and walked out of the ring by himself, the whole crowd cheered and clapped for Brian.

But that was not the most memorable thing. The most memorable thing happened afterward, when Brian's coach came up to me and complained. He blamed me for not telling him that it was a full contact fight. He told me that on the registration form it stated that it was supposed to be a semi-contact competition. "My guys could have hit a lot harder," he said " if they had known that his was a full contact competition. I have been telling them that it's only semi-contact. Don't go too hard." He had another student who just lost similarly in another weight category. "That was Brian's first competition," he continued, "and now he is going to stay out of competition forever."

What he said spoiled the entire experience. I did not have time to get into a lengthy discussion with him,so I just sent him off to talk to the organizer. But now that I have more time to think about it, I would like to point out to him how inappropriate his remarks were.

First of all, I have never heard of any coach who would ask his students to hold back during a fight,regardless of whether it was full-contact, semi-contact, or even a point fighting competition, especially when it was your student's very first competition. Saying something like that to your student only inhibits your student's performance. Compared to my Sifu, who, in a similar situation, offers only three words of advice - "must be win," Brian's coach really didn't have much experience coaching.

Secondly, who can judge what the "appropriate level of intensity" in a fight should be? Maybe the other guy was only using half his strength, and that was enough to knock his opponent out? That thing about "my guys could have hit a lot harder if they had known" almost sounded humorous.

Finally, Brian shouldn't feel discouraged about the knock out. There is a saying in Chinese - "knowing yourself and knowing your opponent makes a hundred victories out of a hundred fights." Knowing that there is always someone out there who is better than you motivates you to become stronger. Brian should use this experience as a benchmark for his skill and improve upon it. Part of going to a competition is to learn how to face your competitor, as well as your inner self.

After all, the crowds weren't cheering for the person who gave the knock out, they were cheering for the one who took the hit and stood up afterward.

It was a win-win fight.