3. Running the Knockout

This guide is just for the "show" part of a Fight Night tournament, the three or four rounds of one-on-one knockout matches. It presumes you have already run a round-robin qualification or open qualification, and put the resulting seeds into a knockout bracket (though this can also be part of the live event).

It's your job to make it fun, though! Bring in a DJ playing music, do it late at night in the gym or on stage as a show event, whatever fits your festival, convention or other juggling event's style.

Before we begin

From hard-won experience, I know it takes three people to run a successful Fight Night combat tournament. Plus the players, of course, but ignore them for now. The three people must do three different jobs; three jobs that one person should not attempt to do on their own.

Job 1: Tournament director.
Job 2: Score keeper.
Job 3: Host/announcer.

So if you want to run a Fight Night, pick one of those jobs and find two other people to do the others. If you want to take part in the tournament as a contestant, you can still do that as the tournament director. If you're going to be the host as well take part, find someone who can take over the announcing while you're playing, but that person shouldn't be the score keeper or director.

Even if each person doesn't do the same job throughout the entire tournament, try to always have a minimum of three people sharing all three jobs at any one time. Do not try to do it with fewer than three. Really.

If the host tries to organize the event and note down the scores at the same time as communicating with the audience, all jobs will suffer. The host can't be distracted from the action on stage. If they are unsure of the score at any time, they should keep their eyes on the action and ask the score keeper.

The tournament director will be the one who is working out who will be playing whom next, and making sure they have that information ready to pass on to the host.

The score keeper's job is purely to keep a record of what is going on, and be ready to pass that information on to the host or tournament director if needed.

The physical space

Note: if the tournament is taking place on a stage or in a theatre, just do your best to fit the following guide into the space you have.

What you need:
1. A clearly defined area for the players to fight one-on-one. This should be at least 8m by 8m, but not much bigger. Too much space leads to long points. Smaller areas lead to shorter points.
2. A table and three chairs. These are for the score keeper, the tournament director and the host/announcer.
3. Pens and paper. Lots of pens and paper.

Other important things:
4. Mats. Gym mats. These should surround the playing area on all four sides (except for where the table might be in one corner) with no gaps.
5. A whiteboard or large paper chart to show the knockout bracket.
6. A sound system for the host/announcer.
7. Music from a laptop/DJ through the sound system.
8. More mats outside the first square of mats, and then benches and chairs surrounding those mats. Or other seating. But keep in mind, the more people sitting down at mat level, up close to the action, the better the views for the people behind and the better the energy of the audience.

It should look a bit like this:

It's hard to see in that photo, but in the back left corner is a table and three seats. There's also a large sheet of paper to display the knockout bracket. At another tournament, it looked like this:

The layout of the ideal physical space is also clear from this video. It was shot directly from the table, which should have an unimpeded view of the playing area.

If you are running open qualification immediately before the event:

Open qualification takes much more space than one-on-one combat, especially if you have over 20 players wanting to enter. I'd suggest running the qualification before finalizing playing area for the knockout stage. In other words, run the open qualification, and then move the mats and benches and seats and table into place, get the audience to move forward and sit closer, and then "restart" the show with the knockout bracket live draw or the knockout matches.

The Host/Announcer

If you are the host, these are the two most important things to keep in mind... and if you're the tournament director, this is the most important thing to tell, and keep telling, the host/announcer:

1. Never slow down the action.

2. The event is about the PLAYERS. The event is not about YOU.

The only thing that ever makes a fight night boring or take too long is the announcer taking too much time and space. Keep the announcer off the playing area. Keep them sitting down, preferably behind a desk. Never let the announcer dictate the speed of play, or if so, only to tell the players to START PLAYING SOONER.

Once the players end a point, they should NOT WAIT for the announcer for any reason. They should pick up their clubs and play the next point as soon as possible. They should NOT WAIT for the announcer to say "3, 2, 1, fight!" or otherwise say anything else.

If the announcer wants to say anything funny, they should never let them saying anything funny to cause the players to take any extra time to start the next point. Ever.

With that clear, here are some super handy guidelines for the host.

  1. At the very start of the show:
    • Introduce yourself as host.
    • Introduce Fight Night itself. For example: "Where the best combat players fight one-on-one for your entertainment, with no prizes except bragging rights, and 500 ranking points!" etc.
    • "But before we get to the one-on-one battles, we have to decide who gets to fight whom!"
  2. If you are running open qualification, make it very clear what is going on:
    • "Everyone who wants to take part joins in a single game of group/melee combat."
    • "The winner of that group combat game is through to the knockout stage."
    • "There will be eight rounds of group combat, so eight chances to qualify!"
  3. When running the qualification stage. The key to this is to get things running quickly and clearly, and keep in mind the audience:
    • Make sure the jugglers who might want to take part are ready and waiting before the event begins!
    • Tell the jugglers to get in a circle, ready to begin.
    • Tell them that when they are knocked out, they should carefully but quickly make their way out of the area and to sit down so they don't block the view for anyone else. This is VERY IMPORTANT!
    • It's also not the job of the other fighters to walk forward, reducing the fighting space for those left inside. This doesn't end the game more quickly; it only makes it harder for the audience to see.
    • Once there is a winner for each game, ask them for their full name (if you don't know their name). Repeat the name for the audience, and the audience will probably cheer/clap/etc.
    • Tell the players that if they win a qualification game, they can no longer take part in the following qualification games.
    • At the end of each qualification game, say how many jugglers have qualified already, but more importantly say how many still have to qualify.
    • If there is no single clear winner at the end of a qualification game, do not let the final two battle it out again. There is no winner of that game. Instead repeat qualification games until you have eight players.
  4. After the open qualification, make sure the playing space and audience are into the right arrangement for the knockout stage.
  5. If you are doing doing a live draw to put the seeded players into the knockout bracket, make sure you understand the process and can explain what is going on to the audience.
  6. Before the knockout stage begins, spend a little bit of time explaining it. This is for the sake of the competitors and the audience. Also it will give the tournament director enough time to prepare who will be playing whom in the first match, and their introductions. For example:
    • "There will be eight fights in total."
    • "The fighters taking part in the knockout are seeded according to previous achievements in Fight Night events, qualification order, and finally pure randomness!"
    • "Round 1 will consist of four fights to five points, one fight per player, to decide who makes the semi-finals."
    • "Next up are the semi-finals, featuring the winners from round 1."
    • "Then there will be the third place fight, featuring the losers from the semi-finals."
    • "Then the epic final, which will be fought to seven points!"
  7. Run the knockout! Things to consider:
    • It's your job to keep score and announce the score before every point.
    • If you lose track of the current score, ask the score keeper or tournament director.
    • It's your job to watch every moment of every point. If something happens, you must be ready to react to it. If there is a dodgy attack, it's up to you to decide if the point should be replayed or if the point should be awarded to the successful player. If you want input from the tournament director, the score keeper, the audience, or the other players, you can ask for it, but your announcement of the decision will be final, as that is what the audience and players will hear. Be responsible, and keep your eye on the action!
    • Give a big introduction to each player as they arrive on stage for the first time.
    • Get things moving along at a brisk pace! If in doubt, get the next point underway.
    • If it is match point, say so before the point begins.
    • Tell the audience that if they see something they like, to cheer/clap/etc.
    • Do not talk ALL THE TIME. Let the players play without your voice constantly interupting them. Don't describe every single thing you see, only clarify or describe something that happens too quickly for everyone in the audience to see.
  8. At the very end of the tournament, after the winning point, your job is to wrap up the event in a satisfying way.
    • "The winner is..."
    • "Also let's hear it for our second place fighter tonight..."
    • "I'd also like to thank our tournament director... and also to all the competitors who took part... we couldn't do it without them."
    • "My name is ... I hope you've enjoyed the show. One more time for the winner of Fight Night..."

That's all the host/announcer needs to know. Just remember:

1. Never slow down the action.

2. The event is about the PLAYERS. The event is not about YOU.

Maybe I've not made that point clear enough. I hope I have.

The score keeper

The score keeper's job is, quite obviously, to keep score of the match. They should mark down every single point as it happens. It doesn't have to be the same person keeping score for every match, but there should always be someone doing it. And that means with pen and paper.

This is very important during the matches, as if the host or tournament director need reminding of the score, or anyone loses track, it's up to the score keeper to get everyone back on the same page.

This sheet is also very important when it's time for the tournament director to submit the scores and tournament information to Fight Night (Beta).

At the end of every match, the final score should be written down too. Like this (by Juliane at the Lublin 2014 Fight Night):

As this will be the final canonical record of scores at the end of the tournament, it's best too keep it neat. Here's what Dee did at the BJC 2014 Fight Night:

Which could have been fine, but because Dee is awesome, she made a much clearer copy:

The Tournament Director

It's the tournament director's job to do everything else, or make sure everything else gets done, so read through all these pages very carefully to make sure you're not missing anything. The director should decide the qualification process, how many players will take part in the knockout stages, and everything else to do with the structure of the knockout rounds.

The director should also pick someone to host/announce the tournament, and find someone to keep scores. Again, make sure you have read this full page, and do not hesitate to tell the announcer or score keeper to do a better job (especially don't hesitate to tell the announcer to hurry up or shut up)!

The director should make sure the playing area is correctly set up and make sure the event starts on time.

The director should ask the top players for some information about them. The director should also look up on Fight Night (beta) to get the player's current ranking, highest ranking ever, and past tournament result highlights for the introduction.

These facts should be written down on one piece of paper per player, ready to be given to the host/announcer for the player's introduction before their first match.

At the start of the event

If there is open qualification, the director should keep track of the winners of each round, as explained on the page.

The director should also count how many players took part in the open qualification IN TOTAL, and make a note of that. If there are any notable players who didn't qualify, their full names should be written down too, with a note saying they took part in the Fight Night but didn't qualify.

If there is a live draw for the bracket, the director should understand the process and be able to run it smoothly alongside the host/announcer.

During the event

The first round matches do not need to be played in their order on the sheet, from top to bottom.

For example, letting the favorite, the number one seed, appear in the first match up against the number seven seed? It might be a bit of a walk-over.

The most equal matches in the first round might be between seeds four and five or four and six. Putting on two more equal players in the first match usually makes for a closer and more interesting start.

However, if you change the order of the first round matches, make sure the first semi-final match doesn't feature any player who has just taken part in the last first round match. Give them time to rest!

It's up to the tournament director to communicate with the host what is happening next. If the host has been paying attention, the easiest way to say what match is up next is to pass the host two sheets of paper, each one with the introduction notes to one of the two players.

After the tournament

It's time to make sure you have the full names (the first and second names, not just the first, and not just nicknames) of every player who took part, and submit all the results and information to Fight Night (Beta).


That's it! If you want any other advice, please email me luke@juggler.net and I'll do my best to answer, as well as update this guide to running a standard Fight Night tournament.

© Copyright 2017, Luke Burrage. All rights reserved.