Our Saturday started at 5.30am. This was a tough one – I usually am not awake until MUCH later (between 8 and 9am). However, Ninja Boy and I had to be ready early to drive to a Taekwon-do tournament.
After getting our breakfast and lunch prepared to take with us, and having checked that we had everything we needed (uniforms, belts, sparring gear, mouthguards, water, food, etc) we left the house at 6.25. I was determined not to be late, so had allowed plenty of time to drive the 120 kilometres (about 75 miles) to get to the town where the tournament was being held.
I was nervous about the drive. Usually when we go out of town, Tai Chi Man drives. He drives every day as part of his job, he’s more comfortable with the speed and road conditions, and anyway I like being a passenger because I can knit!
At this time of the year, the road is still snowy and foggy in places, as it involves a mountain pass. Sounds very rugged, doesn’t it, sort of rocky and mountain goaty, but apart from the small sign that says “whatever-it-was summit” it all looks the same.
The speed limit was 110 km/h most of the way (68 mph) and after my initial hesitancy I got accustomed to the faster pace.
We arrived in good time for the published opening time. We were under the impression that the red/black belt meeting was to start at 8.15 – we arrived at 7.45 to find…..nobody. It was the right town, the right school, but for some reason there was no one around. Gradually people started to arrive, including some bringing news that there was a rumour that the start time had been delayed. After much standing around in the cool snowy parking lot, the custodian eventually arrived to open the school at 9am. Everyone piled inside and those competing changed into their doboks. Parents and siblings filled the bleachers.
The black and red belts were called up for an introductory talk by the hosting instructor. (No explanation or apology was given for the late start. This was a provincial competition and they knew people were coming in from all over BC and yet they changed the start time at the eleventh hour.) This talk took about half an hour, going over everything we needed to know to help run the tournament (refereeing, judging, how much contact was acceptable, how many points for a punch or kick, etc). Competition FINALLY started at about 11am (only two hours late).
Now that we’re part of the ITF, the way things are done is slightly different. The black belts performed all their patterns and sparred in a large central “ring”. Four smaller rings were set up around this central one for colour belt competition (ie, all ranks below black). We senior ladies (there were only three in my division) performed our patterns early in the day. I was lucky to get a “bye” – in other words, the other two ladies performed together, and the winner of that pair then went up against me. Black belt patterns were performed in front of five, black-suited judges, giving or deducting points depending on our correct moves, use of power, knee spring, timing, etc. My heart was nearly beating out of my chest as I stepped up to the square. Not only did I have to perform my choice of 1st Dan black belt pattern, I had to also do a second specified by the judges. It was the pattern I won gold with in Prince George two years ago. I did miss out two punches in the middle, and I realised I had made a mistake as soon as I caught sight of the other woman doing it correctly. However, I continued on as if everything was OK, and finished well. The other woman had stopped and I wondered why – she told me afterwards that she thought that SHE had made a mistake when she saw me turn into a double knifehand guarding block instead of a punch. This threw her off and she forgot what to do next. So my mistake actually helped me to win…..and I won the gold medal.
The next few hours were spent judging the patterns and sparring of various ranks and ages, trying to fit in a quick snack or a bathroom break when I could.
There were four boys in Ninja Boy’s division and for once he was the tallest. I knew he’d do well in patterns – he performed his black belt pattern perfectly but unfortunately he faltered while doing the pattern that the judges specified, and the other boy won. Ninja Boy’s technique was way better, but his error meant he received silver rather than gold (but that’s still great). In sparring, he received a couple of knocks, one of which was a foot to the face (grazed eyelid) and his comparative lack of aggressiveness meant no medal.
My sparring match was later in the day. Once again the other two ladies fought it out first, then the winner fought against me. It turned out that I had to fight my friend from my own club, so I knew she’d beat the heck out of me! She’s taller, stronger and more aggressive. I got through the two minutes without any major injuries and received a silver medal for my efforts.
The competition eventually ended at about 6pm. Ninja Boy had to tear himself away from his new buddies and the cool climbing wall on the stage and we climbed in the car to come home. We made it home by 7.25, tired but happy.