By Sifu Lee Yokota
Tournaments usually mean fierce competition. They are used as a means for judging and awarding the “best of the best.” Let’s face it, tournaments can create bitter rivalries, make or break spirits, and encourage or discourage competitors. At most martial arts tournaments you will see school pride, talent, good sportsmanship, and all the other positive attributes that martial arts has to give. What you will not see a lot of, is students from different schools conversing with each other.
The American Chinese Martial Arts Federation (ACMAF) had this very thing in mind when they decided to hold an annual martial arts tournament for Eight Step Preying Mantis practitioners. The ACMAF has grown today to over 30 active certified instructors and has schools all over the country. We even have Sifus teaching Eight Step Preying Mantis and Shyun Tai Chi in China! The goal of the ACMAF is to spread the techniques and knowledge contained in the Eight Step Preying Mantis System including martial techniques, Abimoxi (martial arts medicine), Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and meditation. While the ACMAF enjoys its current successes, its goal of keeping students and sifus within the federation a close knit family has become even more important and challenging. “We want to keep the ACMAF like a family,” says ACMAF president Grandmaster James Shyun.”
Due to the ACMAF’s phenomenal growth, many students from different schools do not have a chance to meet each other until they go to the ACMAF National Sifu Certification to become certified as sifus. This annual tournament provides a chance for students to meet each other on a yearly basis and see how each other grow and develop within the system. The main goal of this tournament was for Eight Step students to create lasting relationships and support groups within the Federation.
The first ACMAF tournament was held on April 6th, 2008 in sunny West Palm Beach, Florida. Students came from all around the country to take part in this event. As I watched student after student complete their form, I noticed that the other competitors were clapping and cheering on the competition! I even heard students telling each other that they did very well. When students made a mistake, the other competitors would clap and encourage them. The students made sure that the judges had a very tough job as they all did very well.
I could tell many relationships were created during this first tournament, and I believe we are off to a great start! As the ACMAF grows, so too will the tournament. However, we will continue to keep the spirit of family in our martial art alive. As I am writing this, I am truly getting excited and looking forward to meeting old and new friends at next year’s tournament which is scheduled for March 28, 2009, in Madison, South Dakota!