Tuesday, May 01, 2007


OK, a few days have passed since my less-than-thrilling experience at Saturday's tournament, and I've had some time to process things and put some stuff to bed. So that's good, especially since I was once again losing sleep over it, and that sucks.

I'm still kinda sore about the scoring on my form and think it was crap, but forms are so subjective that it's not so easy to just pick one thing and say "that's the problem!" While some of the judges were being inconsistent and sloppy I also have to admit that I chose a form that was going to be a tough sell for me in the first place. So I really have to accept part of the responsibility for not being recognized that day. It's hard, because I really busted my ass to get Chil Sung Il Rho ready for the tournament, and not having an award to show for my efforts kinda stings. But I knew I was taking a tougher road by not going with an easier form, and I chose it anyhow and it cost me.

That said, the judging still sucked, and I think that very little attention was paid to the relative difficulty of the forms being presented, resulting in easier forms being performed adequately getting higher marks than harder forms performed adequately. Note that I say "adequately": I have no illusions of having performed a gorgeous, perfectly realized form. It was, however, on a par with any of the "Winners" in terms of execution, technical accuracy, and demonstration of preparation and ability, and the significantly higher difficulty should, I think, have resulted in some more points coming my way. Alas, not so much.

The fact, though, is that I should have stuck with my first instincts, as well as those of my instructor, who had noted a few weeks ago that a Pyang Ahn form might be a better choice for me, regardless of the supposed preference for Chil Sung forms by the judges. Had I played to my strengths, I would have done better. I still think I should have medaled, and the quality of the judging was poor, but at least I see what I could have done to come out better, there. I set the bar high for myself, managed to hit it, but failed to make an impact on the judges in the process. End of story. Lesson learned.

As for sparring, I finally have some answers that I can live with regarding why, exactly, my experience on Saturday was so poor. Note that I said,"experience" and not "performance." Because despite the fact that I'd almost prefer to think I'd blown things royally and just been unable to admit it, I've been told in no uncertain terms (at least in regard to sparring) that the judging on my match was a joke and that the ring coordinator -- a friend, but a friend that is young and fairly inexperienced with running a ring -- is largely to blame. More importantly, I've been told that there was no reason for me to change my techniques on Saturday, as my sparring was technically solid and well executed. I was far more upset at the possibility that I was deluding myself regarding how I handled myself that day, and having that worry dispelled makes things way easier to accept.

My perception of my sparring techniques in my first match have been confirmed by my instructor, who watched me land 4 solid, cleanly executed and accurate reverse punches that should by all means have scored points but which went unnoticed by the judges before he finally threw his hands up in the air and walked away in frustration. I should, by all means, have won my first match handily. Instead I wound up with a tie, which led to a second round of more-of-the-same. Second verse, same as the first....

To top things off, my instructor and two other masters at the tournament warned our ring coordinator that there was far too much contact and force being used in his ring and he needed to get it under control, to no avail. It was a slug-fest out there, and frankly we were more-or-less encouraged to do so. Several other green belts said as much to me following our pre-match "pep talk" by our ring coordinator. The general impression that we were given was "watch the fact contact -- shots to the face will get you contact warnings and DQs. Otherwise, just try not to hurt each other too much." I really wish I could remember the exact words that were used, but frankly I was so angry regarding the forms portion of the competition when the pep talk was given that I can't clearly remember things.

Now, contact isn't really such an issue for me, although honestly I'd prefer to be able to move without so many aches and pains this week. Still, I can take a lot of pounding without it getting the better of me. But the level of contact that was being permitted (even encouraged) helps me understand why my points weren't registering. These guys were only seeing Big Hits. Big Punches. Big Kicks. My technique was a little more subtle, if actually quite simple -- be patient, bait him in with a couple of little kicks, then defend and wait for an opening, shoot a reverse punch in and then get out, fast. That's where a lot of my skill and my "comfort zone" in sparring currently lies -- I have fast hands, and can defend well. But I also am careful not to use too much power on my punches, particularly since I'm typically aiming for a person's floating rib.

See, if there's one thing I know it's that I'm strong. I can easily break 2 or 3 boards with a reverse punch, if properly prepared, and I can kick like a mule. If I delivered that much power in a reverse punch to a person's floating rib there is little doubt that the recipient would wind up in the hospital with a punctured lung or worse. So, seeing as I am a) a nice guy (maybe too nice in some ways, since it kind of gets in the way when you spar guys who aren't so polite) and b) this is only a competition and is supposed to be fun, I am very careful to pull my punches. Kick's too, but I don't kick nearly as often as I punch when sparring , so it's less of an issue. Sadly, I also expect others to do the same, or at least that judges will be able to see when points are scored with a bit more finesse and a bit less bludgeoning force. This was simply not the case last weekend, so when my punches didn't cause my opponent to double over or fall back from the impact, the hit wasn't noted.

It's ridiculous, because the power I would have needed to use on a 270+ lb. dude to cause that reaction would have been seriously dangerous. But whatever: that's the long and short of it, and that's why I lost. And while not coming home with a little jewelry to remember my day with stings a bit, I at least know now that in the far-more important opinion of my instructor and friend, and my peers who were watching my match, I did well. Quite well, in fact. My perception of things wasn't wrong, and I'm not deluding myself about how I did that day.

I was robbed. And while it's unfair, I can live with it.

Perhaps more important, though, is something I learned about myself in the process. I can see that choices I made in how I approached sparring that day -- holding back on power despite a lack of control by my opponent and a lack of concern by the judges -- may have cost me a medal. But I never lost control. I took a beating defending against someone using way more power than should have been permitted, and got frustrated and angry at how things were going, but I kept at it, and maintained focus and control throughout. And difficult as it was to not just spit on the ground and call "Bullshit!" when the matches were finished I maintained a fairly decent level of decorum (aside from a bit of under-the breath bitching to friends when things were all said and done) and adhered to protocol, thereby not insulting my instructor or embarrassing myself.

And I'm really proud of that.

Mood: At ease
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