Tournaments are scheduled to be an all-day affair, but I had never personally experienced one that was. Until Saturday.
At the Fort Lauderdale tournament last month, I spent four hours warming up and cooling down over and over and over again, before my event was finally called. It was a factor of having dozens of competition categories all slated for the same ring and not knowing exactly how many were ahead of mine.
In Charlotte on Saturday, rings were assigned on an ongoing basis, with none pre-assigned before the competition began. None. We waited more than four hours for the first of the three of us to be called for an event; it took an additional two and a half hours after the first call for all of us to be done on the floor. So from first stretch to last bow, we spent almost eight hours warming up and cooling down, over and over and over again.
I did a lot of quacking in Charlotte, North Carolina. The extreme test of patience made Saturday my best day yet at being a duck. Most surprisingly, I was not alone.
I like to say that my daughter is me without the filter. That missing filter is usually a very big deal. But with a little late-in-the-day help from a smart phone, her complaints numbered exactly three and lasted a matter of seconds. That’s in a day that was eight hours long – and followed immediately by a seven hour car ride home!
What keeps an experience that looks crazy on paper from being as insane as it sounds is being in a room with a couple of hundred other like-minded enthusiasts who’ve driven just as long or flown just as far as you have. A Florida man I made friends with in Lauderdale greeted me like we’d known each other for years, and my son left the building with plans to meet up early in the summer with a fellow competitor he spent most of the day talking with. It’s not just a competition circuit; it’s a community all its own – much like any professional sport. And that community is a fringe benefit to an experience that can otherwise try the most passionate of martial arts souls.
Next up Pittsburgh. I’m sure the gang – or much of it – will all be there.