I’m writing this off the back of the most memorable weekend, and one I hope is only going to be repeated in the future. We (as a club) went away to Bedford to compete in the EMTF European Tang Soo Do Championships, and I like to think we did our club and our county proud.
A long trip is kind of expected for us now if we want to compete on anything more than the (rapidly dwindling) local circuit, and we weren’t disappointed by the trip to Bedford. As well as the 300+ miles on the road, this time we were taking ‘Reggie’ with us, the minibus from the university campus where many of our club train. Reggie unfortunately has a speed limiter which means he had trouble getting above 60 miles an hour, which made sections of the motorway feel like a drag at times, but at the same time helped us all feel like a bit more of a team. No-one gets left behind!
I can’t speak for everyone, but I had trouble eating on Friday night as the nerves started to kick in. After not-a-lot of sleep we headed over to the sports centre and basically got on with it. Lining up to start the ceremony was a new experience for me, and it felt very strange to be stood just behind the front row. Being counted as Senior in a hall of a few hundred fellow practitioners is an eye-opener, especially when the Dan grades are asked to turn around and have the rest of the competitors bow to them. Once we got past the opening ceremony, which included a big show from out old Seni friends, Baba Deep Singh Gattka, it was on to business. I thought I’d had a bad omen within 10 minutes of the competition beginning after only just getting changed into my dobok. I was stretching in front of the audience seating and managed to hit a spectator in the glasses as she walked past me…. smooth, Adam.
I was far more under control of my nerves than I thought I’d be when I got called to perform my first form, Chil Sung Sam Roh. That said, I was still absolutely flushed with adrenaline, so much so that I barely remember performing it at all. I remember sitting down afterward though and feeling like I really wanted to fight, or run a mile, or jump around like a lunatic – it was such a massive buzz. To my amazement I did enough to take Bronze which was very satisfying, even moreso when it turns out I was only beaten by two members of my own club. Making a clean sweep of the podium in the Dan grade Chil Sung event felt like vindication for the amount of time and effort we put into them. I had plenty of time to watch our guys on other mats as I helped with some score keeping on the one I was assigned to, a mat which typically hosted two of our junior grades. Better not make any calculation errors in that one then! Luckily I didn’t, and the girls took well-deserved silver and bronze.
Later in the same day I competed in the Chang Bong (bo / staff) forms category and did enough to pick up silver which was also really gratifying. A lot of the people performing Bong were doing very elaborate forms with a lot of spins, whereas myself and another of our Dan grades performed something more akin to a Kicho open hand form (read: very basic). The fact that good technique shone through and we took silver and bronze was nice to see in a discipline which seems to be being influenced by ‘freestyle’ moves more and more.
That night we had a good trip out to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet which helped make up for the lack of eating anything for the day, followed by a failed attempt to find a pub to watch the Haye Vs Ruiz fight. By that point I was so tired that I was quite as annoyed as I would have been otherwise, which was lucky as I’d been waiting a long time to see that fight. A few hours kip later and it was time for Day 2: Sparring.
I spent a lot of the day behind a scoreboard or helping to referee fights, which was both quite an honour to be asked to do, and also a nuisance as I didn’t get to see many of the ISK competitors. Those I could watch though were great, and by and large bossed the mats which, again, was testament to the extra training we all put in. I personally didn’t like the way a lot of the points were scored, but that may just be my bias of coming from a competition background of freestyle, where blocked shots normally aren’t scored. My own fights went pretty well despite the way the official results went, and I was really pleased to beat one of the Dutch Huk-Tti guys, despite not medaling, as they have a big reputation. All over the hall our team were picking up medals left, right and center, it was a great day.
The Indian banquet which rounded the weekend off was awesome, we all ate far, far too much food, indulged ourselves in Master Uberlander’s delicious beer and danced the night away. I’m really looking forward to the first training session back tonight, getting back on the mat and training while I’m still really enthused. I couldn’t be more proud of our team, and I can’t wait to see how we manage to build on this standard for the upcoming British and World Championships.
Now comes the self-centered, reflective bit. Don’t say you weren’t warned
I’m quite surprised how much the competition, and the weekend as a whole, has affected me. I always knew it was going to be a good time, but I’ve taken so much more from it that I’d ever anticipated. I can’t describe how it felt to be a part of it all, to be stood there with all of those other TSD practitioners who’d traveled from all over the UK and Europe to do the same as me. It was great to be included (as a Dan grade) to help with the adjudicating and keeping the days running smoothly, it all felt very inclusive.
Stand-out moments for me include: bowing in with hundreds of other people for the first time, hearing people from our club cheer and applaud whenever I or anyone else competed and represented ISK, not falling over or forgetting my forms, watching our guys (and girls!) performing better than I could have imagined, and getting drunk with and dancing with everyone on that final night.
I’ve come back to Cornwall feeling completely inspired, and utterly determined to get as good as I possibly can, and hopefully a little bit beyond that! The feeling of being part of something bigger – and as clichéd as it sounds – a family, is something that’s really stayed with me. The strange thing is that even though it was such an amazing time, I’ve come back and feel quite dejected now. When we all stood for the final bow-out it hit me that it was over, and ‘normal life’ had to resume. I realise that it’s the fact that it was such a departure from the norm that made it so special, but I didn’t want it to end. I just have to keep telling myself that this is just the first of many of these experiences for me, and that it’s only going to get better as we do. It’s safe to say I can’t wait for the next event
And finally, despite it being quite crass and ego-centric, here’s what I won. It’s not as much as some, and there’s no gold there, but these (or what they represent for me) mean an enormous amount to me.
Tang Soo everyone, and thank you all!