Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home Stretch / TSD Nationals in Fast Forward

Well, we're down to about 30 hours and counting on the sale of our house, followed immediately by the purchase of the new place. The process continues to be anything but soothing, of course. Thanks to some oversights by our wonderful real estate agent and plenty of small individual fees that have added up to a far from inconsiderable total sum, we'll be out several thousand more dollars than we expected once the dust settles tomorrow. Personally, I think that if she had any class at all she'd trim a percentage point off her fee, but I just don't have the energy to push her on it right now.

This entire process will leave us almost completely broke for a few days, until some escrowed taxes and insurance fees that we are owed are refunded, which is a little crazy-making. But, hey, we're buying a house, and if there's anything I've learned after buying and selling each of my two previous homes it's that it's always gonna cost a lot more than you expected.

So, anyway, good vibes tomorrow morning are requested and appreciated. And if anyone has a money tree I could shake for a day or two, I'd be very grateful.


Yesterday my family and I attended the 13th Annual All Tang Soo Do Internationals in Arlington, TX. Our original plan had been to head there Thursday morning, attend training sessions, help ring coordinate and whatnot during the dan competitions on Friday, compete on Saturday, attend the banquet Saturday night, and then hit Six Flags with a bunch of friends on Sunday. Which really would have been great -- there are just so many terrific folks in our organization, people I look forward to getting together with whenever we have an event, people who present really excellent role models for my children to emulate. Good times are pretty much guaranteed.

Unfortunately, given the amount of stuff we need to do in preparation for closing tomorrow and the fairly significant lack of funds we're currently having to cope with we had to rethink that plan. A leisurely 4 day Tang Soo Do-oriented weekend was whittled down to a 36-hour flurry of activity overnight trip, with us driving up early Friday and returning immediately following the close of the gup tournament on Saturday.

Frankly, even doing this was a struggle -- we are very tight on time right now, and spent half of Friday running back and forth to our hotel room, juggling emails and phone calls to real estate agents and mortgage brokers for much of the afternoon. Plus we really can't afford to blow through a lot of cash right now. However, seeing as this Nationals was being held in our region, and good friends of mine are among the regional leadership, I felt that I would be letting them down if we didn't at least come up and show our support for the organization, both local and national. So we sucked it up and did what we could afford to do.

And I'm glad we did. While this event wasn't the experience I'd have preferred, it was still a terrific time and I'm proud to have done what I could to take part in it.

The dan competition was pretty fantastic, although in my opinion the judges may have been allowing the levels of contact to get a little too out of hand, resulting in a couple of fairly serious injuries to some folks from our dojang. My friend Daniel wound up with a knee injury (to a knee that was previously injured) that will likely require surgery and may result in a fairly lengthy recovery period. Another student, one of our kid ee dans, got a solid punch to the throat that pretty much laid her out and having a lot of difficulty breathing and left us all very concerned for the better part of an hour. Luckily, in that case at least, she recovered once she was able to rest and calm herself down back at the hotel, and she was playing in the pool and fine later that night. Still, no doubt a very frightening event for her and her parents.

I wound up missing almost all of the Masters competition Saturday morning, as if was fairly brief (not a lot of kodanjas competing this year) and I had to get us checked out of the hotel and packed up in the car before the gup competitions began. Frustrating -- I found out afterward that one of the masters had performed form that features two fans, and I've heard that this form when done correctly is simply astonishing to watch. So, big disappointment there.

At least I managed to watch Master Redfield do his form with the kwan dao -- a very large Chinese battle axe/pole arm. It's a big, heavy weapon -- even the tournament version, with one of those thin metal blades instead of a heavy steel blade, weighs in excess of 6 or 7 pounds, and "real" ones start at around 14 or 15 pounds. This may not sound like much, but try sringing a 5 pound sledge for a couple of minutes and you'll quickly realize just how heavy 5 pounds is. Then, add huge sweeping movements, spins, kick, somersaults, and so forth to the mix, all while keeping this big heavy stick positioned correctly, and I think you'll get the idea.

As for the gup portion of the tournament, given how busy we've been, none of us have had much time to really train in the past three weeks, so we all tried to enter the tournament with our expectations lowered. Ordinarily, I train a minimum of 5 times a week leading up to a tournament, trying to work on my form, tweaking and polishing it to the point I feel it represents my absolute best effort. Or just running through sparring drills, working on combinations, trying to come up with some new stuff I haven't used in sparring before and see how well it works on its feet. But this time around that was just not possible.

Add to this the fact that both Christine and Trevor just received their red belts last month, and have only been able to attend a few classes since then, and they had every reason to be nervous. Both of them accepted the challenge with some really solid grace though -- both Christine and Trevor competed with bassai, a form they only learned 3 weeks ago. Trevor managed to grab a medal for his efforts -- I know he made some fairly significant mistakes, so happily he was in a small grid and got a medal (bronze) anyhow. He also sucked it up and sparred, and got a nice silver medal for that as well.

Christine did a great job with hers -- only one small error that I spotted. She actually tied for third, in a group of 6 or 7 red belt "senior" women (35 or older), but once the low and the high scores were added back in she lost to a 2nd gup woman by .1 point. Frustrating, since she got a seriously low-ball score from one judge (.4 lower that her next lowest score) and when it was added back in to break the tie that's what really screwed her out of 3rd. But, well, what can you do? Master Riley once told us that if you haven't been "robbed" at a Tang Soo Do tournament, you just haven't been to enough tournaments yet. It happens. It's frustrating. But you learn and you move on. I hope this doesn't completely put her off competing moving forward. I doubt she'll even want to spar competitively, but I think she has tremendous capability in forms and could do well if she keeps trying.

Miranda, unfortunately, came away from this one empty-handed, which shook her up a bit. For some reason, they combined all of the boys and girls in her age/rank group into one grid, which pushed the number of competitors for those three medals up to 9-10. I didn't see her form, but judging by the scores she mush have made a couple of mistakes -- she wasn't upset by that, though. In fact, right after she went, they need a volunteer to perform along with the final competitor (Kayleigh, an other student from our dojang and the only other student that tests with me) and Miranda immediately got up and did her form again. In fact, she even said she did a better job the second time around. Oh well.

Sparring, though, really annoyed/upset her. She only got to spar once, had to spar Kayleigh, lost by a close score, and Kayleigh even told her right after the match that the judges weren't calling half of her points. That happens -- again, if you compete, you're gonna get robbed from time to time -- but it's a bit tough for a 9 year old to process. Honestly, I don't understand why they made such a large sparring group for the kids when they had enough boy sand girls to keep them in sex-based grids and still have 4 or 5 competitors in each. I have a hard time believing they were running short of medals or something. Just seemed like a random decision that caused a bunch of kids some heartache.

We actually had a similar issue in the senior men's division sparring. We had a group of 7 guys, 35 or older. Of those we had 4 guys who would fit comfortably in the "heavyweight" grid (myself included) and 3 who would be solid middleweights. Then, in the men's division (18-34) there were a total of 3 guys, 2 middleweights and 1 heavyweight. Now, given those numbers, I would have expected the tournament coordinators to do one or more of the following: a) group the 18-34s into a single group (leaving the 1 heavyweight -- my friend Rich -- at something of a disadvantage, but that happens sometimes. At least he's young!) b) divide the senior men into a middleweight group and a heavyweight group c) combine the men and senior men and divide us all into 1 middleweight and 1 heavyweight group (again harsh on the older guys, but at least we'd be fairly well matched size wise).

However, none of these things occurred. Instead, they divided the 3 18-34 guys into a middleweight and a heavyweight group (a two person grid and a one person grid) and kept all 7 of the seniors in a single grid. It was, to my thinking and that of the other seniors, very weird. So, basically, the two middleweight men would fight for a gold and a silver, the heavyweigh man would fight and get a gold regardless of outcome, and the seven seniors would fight over a gold, silver, and bronze with 4 guys going home empty handed. Very odd choices. Regardless, I did well, grabbing a silver in the sparring. Good fights with two guys (I got the buy on the first round, so advanced to the second round automatically -- nice to be on the good end of the buy for a change). The match for gold was great, too -- solid fighting, with a final score of 2-1. In fact, I'm fairly certain it would have been a tie had a side kick I threw been visible to more of the judges -- the ring coordinator even said he was certain it landed, but he just couldn't get evnough confirmation to allow the point. I'm fine with it -- it was a great match, my opponent (Robert, from New Braunfels) sparred very well, with good speed and technique, and did the same. We were gentlemen all, and I'm proud to have taken second in this group.

But best of all, for me, was the forms tournament. Competing against 7 other men, with Chil Sung Sahm Rho -- a form that presents me with a lot of challenges. Again, my expectations were low -- I'd barely worked on it for 3 weeks due to all the scheduling issues I've had lately, and as a result some problems I used to have but had resolved were resurfacing. Suddenly, I was stepping with the wrong foot at times, preparing incorrectly at other times. It was mess last week.

But yesterday, when I stepped in the ring, something just ... clicked. there are a couple of moves that are key to making Sahm Rho look good -- the biggest one being this pair of really tricky double-inside/outside blocks, followed by a side kick with then finished with a retreating double knife hand block. Very odd transitions, requiring a lot of practice and balance to pull off. And they're done about 2 feet away from the judges, so if you mess them up, it's gonna be obvious. Conversely, if you do them well,they're going to be seen clearly.

And, well, I managed to do them very well yesterday. Grabbed the gold, and with some great scores as well. The first time I've ever competed where I received all scores in the 8's -- lowest was 8.2, if I recall (it's a bit fuzzy -- I was kind of freaking out and trying not to show it). Got a hardy round of applause from the other competitors, and lot of compliments as well. Best of all for me, though, was that I'd managed to do this with a Chil Sung form, the forms which consistently vex me. In a fairly large group of competitors. And at Nationals, no less! Definitely a proud moment, and something I'll savor for a while to come.

So, now it's on to the closing, and the packing, and the moving, and the unpacking. And then two weeks later it's my 1st gup test.


Mood: Frazzled
Now Playing: Nothing


Susan LaGrande said...

Hi Gregg -
So nice to read about your experience of the tournament. Sorry your trip had to be so rushed. Mine was a bit more leisurely, as you'll see if you get a chance (amidst your moving) to read my blog entries this week.

I loved Texas and the Texans that I met. I hear there's some talk of having the nationals there again next year - if so, I hope I get more chance to talk to you and Christine.

Best of luck,

redtangsoo said...

Hi Greg, cruising the net, ended up here, glad you got to see the Kwan Dao

SBN Redfield

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, My Kwan Dao from the tournament was 14.lbs