Before I married, my sport of choice was Ballroom Dancing (yes, it has been acknowledged as a Dance Sport). I spent my evenings either going to lessons or practising with my partner for the dance competitions that we entered. Every second Saturday was spent driving to the competitions and then waiting for our turn to dance. I used to love the events: the buzz, the energy, and the fun the group of us used to have while we waited for our division. Music was always in the background, and cheering for the members of our school was expected. For me, the social aspect was an integral part of the afternoon and evening. And of course, when we were in the beginner divisions, we always stayed to watch the dress sections – and dream of the day when we would dance in flowing dresses and tuxedos.
Even though I would have liked my girls to dance, the opportunity never came along. Instead the path taken by them turned out differently. When my youngest daughter was 6, she came to me and said : “Mommy, I want to learn karate.” “Why?” I asked, surprised that my “girly” girl wanted to learn something so masculine. “Because I don’t want a boy to think he can hit me,” was her surprising response.
My search led me to find not karate but TaeKwonDo at the community centre in my area. I enrolled them both and, from the first day, they enjoyed the experience. The teacher made it fun for them and they looked forward to their weekly lesson. It was discouraging for me that lessons did not continue during the summer (they forgot many details during the long break), but I continued to enroll them at the community centre. I hesitated to move them over to a TaeKwonDo-centred school as I did not want to discourage them from continuing with the sport. My husband and I thought it would be good for them to do this martial art because they would learn to defend themselves. An added bonus was that they would get their daily required exercise.
My girls are now pre-teens and, at the beginning of this year, they agreed to enroll in a school dedicated to teaching this martial art. We found a school run by a former Korean champion. At this school they are learning not only the patterns of TaeKwonDo; but are also learning to be more assertive. One way in which their self-esteem is built is for them to enter competitions. My daughters agreed to enter a tournament – but only for the patterns (they decided to leave the sparring to another time, if they decide to enter again).
This weekend was the competition: A Sport TKD Tournament. On entering the hall, I saw that the set-up is very different to the dance competitions of my experience. The gymnasium was divided into 8 rings on which children were performing patterns or were sparring. The background noise was cheers and shouts as onlookers encouraged the participants that they were watching.
Once we had settled in and found out what the routine is at these contests, we waited for their turn. As with dance competitions, schedules are ever-changing and there is quite a bit of waiting. To shake off their nerves, the girls went to practice in the halls with their dad while I watched the sparring.
Eventually it was their turn and they were called down to compete. Settling in my seat, I waited to them to begin. My heart was pounding in my chest – it felt as if I was the one competing! The girls competing went against one another in rounds. My younger daughter showed her pattern, and then the elder. (The video below shows the pattern they were expected to perform).
It came down to the final two and both my girls were chosen – they were competing against one another! We watched them as they moved without hesitation. The three judges watched them, trying to determine the winner. After the girls had said their Kia, they turned and faced the judges to wait for the verdict. Unlike with the previous rounds, the judges had to deliberate. They could not decide who was the better! The decision? Tie for first place.
My girls were so excited – they were on a high. I was so pleased that they were experiencing the heady sensation of coming first in a competition – and of receiving a trophy. We went out to celebrate: dumplings and noodles for dinner. And of course, ice-cream for dessert!
Have you ever been to a TaeKwonDo competition?
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013