So, I've managed to survive my first honest-to-goodness Tang Soo Do tournament. This was a huge deal for me, especially since I've never competed in any sort of sporting event on significance before. I mean, intramural football, soccer , and hockey in college, sure. And the occasional 5K. But this was the first time I've ever competed in an event of this sort. Individual performance, judged by experienced peers, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
The experience was ... unique. For all the insane level of stress and pressure I placed myself under running up to this thing, I didn't buckle or break. Which was greatly satisfying. And all my worries about there being a lot of trash talk and attitude being thrown around were totally and completely unfounded. The sense of community and camaraderie at the tournament was almost palpable. The gentlemen I competed against in my age/rank category were all truly nice guys, and I wish I'd relaxed enough earlier in the day to drop my nervousness and chat with them more. Aaron, Jim, Scott -- if you guys stumble across this, I really hope we manage to get together to compete again soon. This experience was a pure pleasure.
I definitely learned some very valuable lessons from this tournament. First and foremost among them is hydrate constantly, and more importantly EAT WHEN YOU CAN. While standing around and waiting for my slot to compete I kept assuming there would be a convenient and "good" time to grab a bite to eat, and instead I wound up competing, starving and completely strung out on caffeine, after standing around and stressing out for nearly 5 solid hours with an empty stomach and almost no sleep. I'm amazed I not only managed to not completely blow my form, but actually grabbed the gold in it.
And although it might be a bit self-serving, I can't help but think that if I'd taken the time to grab a bite and relax a bit, I'd have done better in sparring. I was literally dizzy and weak when I finished my form, and I had to jump in the ring and spar just 10 minutes later. If I'd just taken the time to slam a banana or something that could have made all the difference in the world. Instead my stamina was for squat, I kept getting dizzy, and my kicks could barely make it above my own waist.
Still, tied for third is alright by me.
The most important lesson, though, was this: It was no big deal. I ate myself alive for weeks prepping for this, and it was just ... well, it was just fun. If I'd relaxed and just taken it all in, I would have met more people, seen more things, learned more, done more. Instead I spent 5-6 hours stressing over about 8 total minutes of performance. Performance in which I did quite well, thank you very much, but that hardly seems to matter now.
I can't wait for the next tournament: I think my head will be much more in the "right place" to take it all in next time. I think the next one will be Master Nunan's tourney in September.
Speaking of Master Nunan, the next month of so should make for some interesting training time. Master Nunan will be getting some pretty serious hip surgery on Tuesday to fix a bunch of nasty stuff (bone spur and tons of torn cartilage, among other things) that resulted from an injury he incurred a year ago. As a result, the dojang will be ... well ... a bit "chaotic." Now I'm not saying that chaos is necessarily bad, mind you. I thrive on it, especially on spreading it, actually. But for the next month I'll be receiving training from at least 3-4 different teachers, all dan members in our dojang who are stepping in to help keep things running while Sam Bom Nim recuperates. It should be fascinating, if disorienting. You get used to certain stuff, you know? Changing it up can knock you for a loop. I think it'll be good for me and for my training, but I have to admit to some trepidation.
Still it'll be good to train with Mr. Vasquez a bit more -- I really enjoy our family classes. And Mr. Pfaff is always fantastic, especially from a pure technique point-of-view. He can be brutal on stances, form, posture, and it's all great.
As for some of the other folks volunteering to help out ... well ... who knows? I guess we'll see!
Anyway, I notice from my site meter that I've been getting tons of hits from the Austin/Cedar Park area lately (including hits from Google on "What Tang Soo Do means to me" -- no fair cheating off of my 8th gup paper, folks). I know of at least a few folks who train with us out in Cedar Park who have stumbled on my little corner corner of the 'net, here -- if you've reading this, please drop me a comment just to say hi and let me know what you think.
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