The tournament, finally

I am a horrible blogger, i know that. The biggest event in my life in the past year came and went without me telling you all about it! Well, worry no longer. The juicy details of the TOURNAMENT are below.

The tourney was in Philly, and it was a chill weekend. Of course none of us packed enough cold weather clothing, because up til this point the weather was still summer-like. However, we stumbled out of the car Friday evening, and grabbed Subway sandwiches which we ate during our hour-long organizational meeting with our instructors. Every bite felt like dust in my mouth, but I force-fed myself because I knew I’d need my strength. I was weary from the firey nerves that had been plaguing me all day. It felt like there were embers in my fingers and toes, and fire in my stomach. The most I could do was rest my head in my hands between each bite. I was dreading the next day and wished this one would just end already. But unfortunately, the patches for our uniforms had just come in, and we were charged with sewing four patches onto our doboks before bed.

MP and I were very nervous about our patterns, I more so than anyone because I had basically learned it the day before. My injury was still bugging me and sharp pain shot up my thigh every time I tried to do an L-stance…which comprises about every other stance in the Dan-Gun pattern. But she and I went into the hallway of our hotel floor, near the elevators, and took turns critiquing each other’s patterns. We broke off every time we heard the elevator *ding* and people got out, because how odd would it look to someone who doesn’t know tkd if they saw someone punching and kicking in the hallway of the hotel?

When finally I collapsed on my bed, intending to sleep, my brain was awake for an hour going over my pattern in my head, over and over, and over. I had to remember my problem spots- weak fists, wrong stances, where to look and which foot to bring in at the end when the judge ordered us to return to the ready stance. I tried to imagine what the gym would look like. I pictured a huge auditorium in chaos, suited and stiff-faced judges yelling Korean commands. I pictured blood and tears of the losses of the competitors. But as much as my heart shook within me at what was to come, I never pictured myself defeated.

The picture in my head was fairly accurate as to the setup of the competitions themselves, although it was smaller than I had expected. There were five 20-foot-square mats in a row on the gym floor, each roped off with a judge’s table along one side. We lined up as a school as the bright morning sunlight poured into the arena. After the pledge of allegiance and the introduction of the instructors, the competiton of the children began. There were hordes of little ones competing which, had I not been so nervous myself, would have made for some really entertaining watching. The judge of the little ones seemed to really enjoy his job as he choked back laughter on several occasions. He routinely had to turn kids around to face the right direction, tie thier belts, and fix the straps of thier sparring gear. The sparring itself was like watching puppies playing. The kids put on thier best, most intense face, which at 6 years old usually means a scrunched nose and furrowed eyebrows, so deliberate and humourous, to accompany thier tinny shouts of “Aya!”. It was quite the spectacle.

My event, the women’s beginner 18-34 year old division, was given the start time of “whenever the children are done”. This was amazingly ambiguous and caused me much angst. We had to be on ready immediately when they called us, so every hour I warmed up, practiced my pattern, spread bengay on my leg, took an advil, and went to the bathroom. I was a wreck. So much energy was spent getting ready for the event that when they finally called us, at around 1pm, I was exhausted.

I sized up my competitors- they weren’t the big bad girls that I was expecting. In fact, they were quite nice and we talked a bit before the competition began. One of the girls was from Canada, the other lady was from somewhere in the Midwest, and the third was my schoolmate J. I was both disappointed and relieved that I only had three competitors to contend with. But they all proved to be worthy competitors. And then, it began.

“Charyot!” yelled the head judge. “Junbee!” Attention. Ready. “See-chok!” Begin!

I faced off against J and did my pattern. It was sharp, although the stances were still wrong. But I have an amazing ability for angularity because I’m a skinny stick, so everything looks sharp when I do it. So when I was done, “Dan-Gun Sir!”, the flags went up, three to two in my favor.

The two other girls did their patterns, and then it was down to me and the Canadian girl. We were both yellow belts, and were doing the same pattern. I couldn’t believe I had to do my pattern again; I had been so relieved to finish it the first time and I was so exhausted from adrenaline. But the adrenaline spiked again and I rushed through my pattern, and ended about 10 full seconds before the Canadian. It was messy. I lost my chance for first place.

Directly after, sparring took place. I don’t actually remember much of my first fight…it was against the Canadian again. I beat her fairly easily. Then I was up against the Midwestern girl…she didn’t kick much, and just took it when i repeatedly kicked her to the stomach. I tried a kick to the head but fell lol. I got back up and kept going, and she kept pummelling me in the head. Her lack of kicks, however, lulled me into a false sense of security as I was certain I’d win the gold. At the end of the minute, however, the judges took much time in counting and recounting the points, and I began to get nervous. The head judge grabbed our wrists, announcing that it was a very close fight and it was won by only one point. I gulped. And then….my hand was raised! I had won gold!

I was so excited and proud I could barely stand as we lined up to recieve our medals. A silver and a gold! Me! Cathy! A gold medalist in the Liberty Bell Invitational! I’ve never won anything! Miss M, who had trained me, was quite proud and took an attitude of “See, I told you so!” which was ever more flattering. I was filled with gratefulness for all those who had taken time to train me and counsel me through the intense mental and physical battles. Thanks guys!

As we finished out the weekend filled with celebration and shenanigans, I felt a new sense of accomplishment and competence that I had never felt before. And it will take awhile for the memory of the nervousness to wear off, however, I know that next year I will be ready as ever to take on a whole new set of competitors.


2 Responses

  1. When people say to me: “How do you do so many things?” I often answer them, without meaning to be cruel: “How do you do so little?” It seems to me that people have vast potential. Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don’t. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever. ~Philip Adams

    Congratulations on your first tournament after only a few months at Kick Connection! Way to take the challenge head on and go against people’s expectations.


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