Yesterday we attended Master Nunan's annual Tang Soo Do tournament, the Lone Star Classic. This was my first time attending his tournament -- Miranda and Trevor attended last year, but I was out of town meeting up with lots of friends in the Chicago area (you can read a bit about the fascinating saga here) and couldn't make it.
This particular local tournament also tends to draw out a lot more of the gups than the other tournaments, so we were looking forward to some really good forms and sparring competitions, even in the green and orange belt ranks. Typically, I haven't seen really solid, tight competition until the red belt ranks, since the (relative) length of the white/orange/green belt training period is brief (typically, less than two years to get to red belt) compared with the time spent in the red belt and dan ranks. But we had a pretty big group, even in the green belts, yesterday. And seeing as this will be my last competition as a green belt, I was looking forward to it being a good day.
Seeing as it was my instructor and friend's tournament I really wanted to perform well, and I've been putting in a lot of extra time training to try to ensure that was the case. And happily, it was mostly so. I finally managed to grab a first place trophy with my Chil Sung Ill Rho, which was truly gratifying. It was a solid performance of the form -- a couple of minor bobbles on balance due my feet seeming to glue themselves to the rubberized paint on the basketball court where the rings were set up -- but all in all a performance I am very proud of.
Sparring, though, provided me with a lesson. I managed to grab second, but that was out of only three competitors -- they split us up by age and there were only three on us "old men" competing -- the fourth in our age group had to drop out due to a nasty case of pneumonia -- so it was just my friends Mark and Erik and myself.
And my sparring was solid and on target. Unfortunately, we were all also a) tired and b) very hot -- it was at least 90 degrees in the gym, probably more -- and as a result the levels of contact and control were rising and falling, respectively. We were drawing a lot of unofficial contact wornings -- not due to being overly aggressive or intentionally abusive, just due to the fatigue making it harder to focus on pulling punches and kicks. It's way easier to just throw them hard, honestly, and the more tired you get the easier it becomes to accidentally put too much oomph behind you stuff.
So, first match I handled really well -- maybe a little more contact than I usually have, but my friend Erik and I traded a few whomps without any real damage and I got the win. Then, after a 1 minute breather I had a match with my friend Mark, where things started getting a bit thumpier -- on both sides, to be fair. Mark and I tend to go at each other pretty hard, for better or for worse, so we traded a few hits that were a bit over the line, without being too dangerous. But we wound up tied, so after another 1 minute breather we had a second match, and that's where things got ... well, instructive.
Briefly, I got disqualified. For single a shot that was both too hard and dangerous/illegal.
We were barely halfway through the second match, and I could tell Mark was getting tired (he wasn't the only one!). He was trying to throw some spinning back kicks, but he was slowing down and I could see his prepping for them, so I decided to counter with some basic lunging backfists, while planning to go for a spin back kick of my own when the opportunity presented itself.
So, I see him start to prep for the spin back kick, and as soon as he begins his rotation I turn my body out and away to get out of the way of the kick before it has a chance to get close to me, while lunging forward with a backfist aimed at where the side of his head will be when he throws the kick. Unfortunately, maybe because he was getting tired or maybe because he was trying to adjust the targeting on his kick to track to where I'd moved, Mark kind of lost his balance and over-rotated on his spin, causing the back of his head to wind up where I expected the side of his head to be. And because I wasn't using enough control, I was unable to stop my punch when I saw where it was headed and ... well.
Wham. Hard backfist to the back of the head. Too much force, and a dangerous, illegal hit to boot. Thank god it was pad-on-pad contact, because that could have caused serious damage.
So, anyway, the fight was stopped, and after a brief discussion with the corner judge who called the contact DQ (my friend David) and the ring coordinator (Kyo Sa Nim Sawyer, from Canyon Lake) the fight was stopped and I lost by disqualification. Everyone agreed that it was accidental, just "one of those things," and that it was shame to have to stop the match over it. But in the interest of safety there needs to be zero tolerance on this sort of stuff so that was that. A bitter pill, but one I could see I just needed to swallow.
Luckily, aside from a little head rattle Mark was fine, and he and I laughed it off and commiserated -- we both agreed that it's a lousy way to lose a fight, and an unsatisfying way to win one, too. Deeply unsatisfying, especially since the match was really fun and we were really going toe to toe, there. I'd have loved to grab that first place trophy, and I'm sure Mark would have preferred to have earned it by taking it from me, instead of my own lack of control defaulting it to him. Either outcome was equally possible -- we were both tired, but still scrapping. I think physically I had a slight edge, but I was also on my third match in a row compared with his second, so all in all I think we were on a pretty level playing field. The match could have gone either way.
So, having it suddenly end due to my own screwup was just ... lame. I feel like I robbed Mark of the purer satisfaction he should have had in winning, and I robbed myself of the satisfaction of knowing I lost fair and square. Losing and winning on technicalities just doesn't have the sense of closure and completion that a "real" win or loss does.
So, another lesson learned. It's easy to lose sight of just how much effort and focus it takes to not swing hard, to pull punches and kicks, to maintain focus and discipline even when your adrenaline is running high and you're sweating and tired and stressed out. The easiest thing in the world is to hit something as hard as you can. It's far more difficult to hit fast, but strike lightly. And being tired is no excuse for being sloppy, especially when that sloppiness can get someone hurt.
Mood: Achy, but chillin' out
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