09 June 2009

Report on a Regional Tournament in Korea

The past weekend I attended a regional ITF Taekwon-Do tournament in Korea as an umpire. Here is just a short report of the event.

The 1st Yeongnam Tournament was held in Daegu, a city in the south-east of Korea. There were just fewer than 300 competitors, with a small number of players from Japan and China. Most of the players were children; however, a good number of adults also competed, including a number of foreigners living in Korea.

I’d like to mention a number of things that I found “different” from the South African tournaments.

All students regardless of age or gender could participate in the power breaking category, which included only one event: boards placed on two bricks and then broken with a downward punch. Players that didn’t accomplish the break were eliminated, and the remaining players had an extra board added. They used wooden boards, not plastic re-breakable boards. I was specifically impressed (or shocked) that small children also participated in this event. For the special technique breaking they also only had one event, the jumping sidekick over a distance. I’m guessing that the national championships would include other breaking events.

In sparring they did not use four corner judges. Only three corner judges and the centre referee. Students without a mouth guard had to wear head gear. Students of all ranges of belt levels, from white belt to black belt, competed together within the same weight division, although there were separate black belt divisions as well. The sparring was hard, with definite contact, but showed good spirit and sportsmanship. There were a couple of injuries, but nothing too serious. Sparring gear was “provided” and shared by all competitors. Special sparring gear officials were on standby on both sides of the ring and helped the players put the gear on and take it off.

In the patterns category the bracketing was fairly large, with players of different ages and genders often competing against each other. In general I thought the patterns were very well judged and only noticed one occasion of obvious bias, where an umpire voted for his own student who was clearly not the better performer. Apparently the bias of instructors was discussed in a meeting during the lunch break.

The Opening Ceremony was quite long, with lots of gifts and plaques being presented to different dignitaries. The demonstration afterwards was excellent, with great areal displays of nakbeop (break falling techniques), team patterns combined into self-defence sequences, and well choreographed self-defence demonstrations, as well as great breaking demonstrations. Most of the demonstrations were performed by school children. Sabeomnim Hwang Taeyong (6th Dan – Japanese-Korean) performed the pattern Se-Jong, although I’ve seen him perform Tong-Il on a previous occasion in Japan (Tokyo Champs, December 2008). Seeing these patterns performed by such an accomplished technician is always a pleasure.

The tournament took quite long, which isn’t anything unusual – or so I thought. However, my instructor (Sabeomnim Kim Hoon, the Secretary-General of ITF-Korea) told me that this was an unusually slow tournament. Apparently they had around 700 students last year at the national champs, which he organized, and they finished the whole tournament on one day, in less the time!