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November 13, 2009

The WKA World Tournament—A Commitment to Excellence
By Lindsey MacMhaolain

Having officiated my share of events as a full-time WKA USA employee, notably shows in Delaware, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and New York, I was bursting with curiosity and excitement to see how the WKA, as the largest international organization of its kind, operated worldwide. When I got to Spain, I enjoyed the pleasure of meeting many new people from all different countries, with experience in all of the disciplines encompassed by the WKA, including many I have had little to no experience in, such as forms, weapons, and Knockdown Karate. I met Klaus Nonnemacher, the current WKA world president, and his predecessor, Paul Ingram, as well as the country representatives of many nations.

As WKA USA had been pushing for the inclusion for MMA as a division in the WKA’s amateur World Championships, the burden was on us to educate our fellow officials using the experience we have gained during our previous six years of sanctioning MMA in the US. On the first day at the officials’ seminar, WKA USA representative Brian Crenshaw gave an overview of Mixed Martial Arts and our activities concerning MMA in the States. He then turned the presentation over to me and I gave a briefing on the WKA’s amateur rules for MMA as well as guidelines for refereeing and judging MMA bouts. Later, when the matches began, I refereed some and supervised the refereeing of the rest of the bouts so that the chief Ringsports referee, Abdul Rahman El Rayess (Lebanon), could gain experience in officiating MMA. Despite the fact that this was the first year and there were a few “learning” hitches, the division as a whole went off smoothly, and competitors were prepared to fight and all fought well.

What impressed me most about the whole tournament was the lack of complacency. Though not a morning person, I was each morning at the daily officials meeting, the theme of which was always, “How did yesterday go and what can we do to make today better?” Officials and representatives expressed their opinions and concerns in turn, and fruitful discussion ensued as to how problems could be resolved both for the duration of the 2009 tournament as well as how larger aspects of the tournament could be improved for future years. With WKA Administrator Zuzana Valuchova (Slovakia) coordinating these meetings, she provided the invaluable forum for these discussions. In addition, she invited each official to a one-on-one sit-down with her at the tournament’s end to discuss observations, concerns, and potential improvements. The length of time each official was given to discuss his or her opinions on the tournament left me no other conclusion but that the head officials of the WKA Amateur World Championships are one hundred percent committed to making theirs the best tournament out there—and if it happens to be that already, there is no complacency on anyone’s part. The pervasive attitude was, “however good it is, we can make it better.”

I was also impressed by the competitors themselves. Naturally, as all competitors had to qualify in their home countries in order to attend this world-level competition, I expected to see some excellent fighting. But it was the attitude of sportsmanship, of professionalism, despite their amateur status, that really impressed me. Competitors did not merely touch gloves, hug after a match, and greet the opposing coaches as a formality, a procedure, but with heartfelt feeling. No matter how vicious and brutal a fight, at the end, fighters sincerely thanked each other and each other’s coaches for the opportunity and the fight. With so many competitors in one hotel complex, it was impossible for people who had fought each other to avoid running into each other in the streets. There were no glares, no stare-downs—only friendly smiles and an obvious, sportsmanlike respect. When the fights were over, former opponents could even be seen in the local bar buying each other drinks and making friendly conversation.

All in all, from both the perspective of a competitor, a WKA employee and fan, and an official, I was exhilarated to have been able to witness this high level of excellence in a tournament and look forward eagerly to next year’s WKA Worlds, whether I qualify to fight or merely go to work and to officiate. With all the judging of Full Contact, Kickboxing, K-1, and Thai Boxing I did (long tedious days) and the overseeing of the MMA, I missed the opportunities my teammates had to sightsee and souvenir-hunt—but I can honestly say that I do not regret it a bit.


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