Another week, another Tang Soo Do event of some kind to attend. This time it was back up to Rushden and the scene of the recent Masters’ seminar for the annual EMTF British Championships.
The convoy got on the road and the not-entirely-unreasonable time of 10:30 on Friday morning and we got to our hotel in Bedford shortly after the sun went down, thanks in no small part to a crazy amount of roadworks on the M1 and M25. After checking in we congregated in the bar – which felt as if we’d only been there a week ago, never mind seven months! – and had a quick drink to unwind and some food, then it was back to our rooms to chill out with some TV before trying to get some well-earned shut-eye.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (no, really) we got on the road again first thing on Saturday morning and had a lovely drive over to Rushden, only to find the caretaker at the school which was to be our venue was obviously enjoying a lie-in and hadn’t opened the gates, leaving buses and cars all over the road. Once we got in and claimed ‘New Cornwall’ in the corner of the warm-up hall, the competition began quite quickly. We had some nice surprise presentations after the bow, including Master Jan De Vry’s 6th Dan and Master Kirie’s (apologies for the spelling) birthday present of a beautiful hand-made sword from Germany, and then the Masters began their competition. Our own instructor took part and gave the sort of performance that helped inspire the rest of us for the rest of the day.
I’m finding it’s par for the course now to to be expected to help if you go away to a big competition as a Dan grade, and I think it’s right. If we want to wear the belt and progress, we should expect to carry extra responsibilities at these events. Personally I find it makes me feel very proud that my opinion during judging counts for something. So with this protocol in place, the Dan grades were next up so we could compete and then help run the other mats to work through the Gup grades and sparring. Unfortunately for me, despite training hard and giving what felt like a decent performance in Chil Sung, I failed to place, and the same for the Dan Gum section (although I did miss a transition move which couldn’t have helped my cause). The Chang Bong was another disappointment for me, made all the more difficult as I felt the sting of being fourth in a group of four! Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to train harder the next time around.
Fortunately, everyone else’s training and skill was more than evident and as a club we took a haul of thirty-seven(!) trophies at all levels, from lower gup grades to master level. I couldn’t have been more proud of the people I train with, and as I was looking around the dojang during the day, I couldn’t turn around without seeing one of our students accepting a trophy somewhere. I was especially proud of the gup grades I think, especially when I think of the limited amount of competition experience some of them had, you’d never guess it to watch them. When the day was done, we headed back to our hotel for a quick meeting and a few words from our instructor, a few celebratory drinks, and then off into town for a slap-up Chinese meal and a bit of dancing at New York New York. The evening was cut short thanks to some trouble-makers who felt it necessary to look for a fight (talk about choosing the worst group to start on), but we instinctively schooled like fish and left early.
It was a great weekend, despite a lot of driving. The bond between us all grew stronger again, and there’s no doubting that we really are a family of sorts. Everyone’s there for one another, all offering support and friendship, and getting away with the EMTF feels more like visiting extended family every time we go. Despite it meaning my comfort break was essentially me running around with a banana in my mouth (no, not like a monkey), it was nice to feel included enough for Masters Kumar Jr and De Vry Jr to grab me to help set up the scoring system for the afternoon. I’m already looking forward to the next competition, and hopefully doing a lot better. Thanks to the EMTF once again for making us feel so welcome.