…and then we went home again
Yup, five intrepid chaps from In Sung Kwan Tang Soo Do braved the roads of South England and travelled up to London (well, it turned out to be Kent strictly speaking) to take part in the S Factor World Championships on this past weekend. In fact we only got back a few hours ago, and here’s how it went!
We set out at a reasonable 9 o’clock on Saturday morning and headed up, made good progress and the sat-nav actually took almost straight to the hotel door (and no Mrs Sat-nav, we do NOT want to go on the A3880!). That evening was spent chilling out in the hotel bar, and then with a visit to a nearby Chinese restaurant, which for the record had the nicest satay chicken ever. Once we’d outstayed our welcome we headed next door into what turned out to be the quietest pub on the planet, called “The Rabbits”. After a few drinks a plan was spawned to head over the road to the Spar-type shop and get a few drinks to take back to the hotel, but oh noes! The shop had shut! The shop owners, seeing our despair and being the absolute stars they are opened the shop for us again and we were able to fill our bags with booty. Sadly the same taxi firm who got us a mini-bus TO the Chinese, didn’t realise we’d need something with room for the same five people to come back FROM it, so being the fit young (ahem) things we are, we braved the wilds of rural Kent and walked back. Once we got back we met up with a Wado-Ryu/kickboxing club from Lancashire & Yorkshire who were very friendly, and we shared a few final drinks with them before hitting the sack in preparation for the big day ahead.
Typically on Sunday morning, the Cold which had been threatening to materialise for the last couple of days had arrived with a vengeance, and so I found myself in the rather surreal situation of being sat in the bath at 7am with the door open and the TV angled so I could watch the last 20 laps of the Formula 1 from my bubbly refuge. We loaded up on “English” goodies for breakfast (that’s a polite way of saying we stuffed ourselves on bacon and eggs) and made our way to the hastily arranged school which was to play host to the event (the Crystal Palace sports centre which was the original venue was closed down thanks to asbestos). This is when we realised what turned out to be the only real downer for the event, and that was the size of the place! The mats were packed so tightly together there was barely 12 inches between them, and while the spectators had plenty of room to sit, the competitors had no provision and had to make do with stacking bags around the sides. This also meant there was basically zero space to warm-up and stretch (or stand for that matter!), so we had to grab opportunities on spare mats and outside on the playing fields. But because we weren’t given any kind of schedule, and therefore didn’t have the faintest idea when we’d be on, it meant we stretched about 4 or 5 times. Finally the shout went out – “Mens over 5’8″, please start warming up and report to the semi-contact mat” – game time!
Through some freak occurences I had won my event in January and therefor pre-qualified for the finals, as had two more of the five fighters we took in total. The two guys who had to fight in the pre-qualifiers did themselves proud, but ultimately lost, and before I knew it my name was called to step up to the mat. The guy I faced had pre-qualified too, and therefore I had no idea about him. I didn’t know the name, and had never seen him fight so just had to react as the fight went on. It seems my reacting was neither quick nor good enough, and I went down 5-0 (with some points I’m very irritated with myself about!), but as it turns out I went out to the person who went on to be crowned World Champion, which helps take the sting out of it a little One of our other pre-qualifiers also went out at this stage, after fighting someone from our local circuit who’d travelled up (Hi Russell!). Our instructor salvaged some pride though, taking out the very good Korean Kickboxer who won the qualification rounds, and went into the three-way final where sadly he came third. Still, third in a world championship, no bad thing! All that was left was the long trek back down to Cornwall, but a couple of service stations, some brain teasers and some jokes made the trip go quite quickly. I got back in to see my pup at about 1:30 this morning and grabbed a few hours kip before work this morning. Back to Earth with a bump!
Regardless of how well we did or didn’t do, there were so many positives to take away from the weekend. We now know what it’s like to compete at a national/international level, and just how much more work we have to do. We met some really friendly clubs, and established some good links for the future. We saw the most professional and efficient refereeing we could have hoped for – they took no nonsense and it was great to see disqualifications for heavy contact. It was great to see at least four clubs from Cornwall making the trip and representing the county at that level. Mostly it was a great chance for us all to bond some more. Every time we go away, we come back stronger and more of a family. I suppose if you think about it, I travelled 700 miles and spent way too much money for 90 seconds of competition where I failed to score a point, but am I annoyed or fed-up? Not at all, I’m looking forward to the next event already!