Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The World Taekwondo Hanmadang 2011

3 months ago, I was in Korea for a taekwondo competition, and by golly was it an eye opener. The quality of the taekwondo competition was unbelievable (it’s one thing to see a video of an awesome one-off performance, but when you see team after team after team of consistently excellent performance, you wonder about the statistics), I saw a changing room full of naked boys, then I saw a changing room full of naked men…

The competition in question was the World Taekwondo Hanmadang 2011, with a very strong focus on the art form and no sparring at all. The event list was significant, with:
-Fist breaking
-Knife hand breaking
-Foot breaking
-Jumping kick breaking for height (highest jumping kick that breaks a light plank)
-Jumping kick breaking for distance (furthest jumping kick that breaks a light plank)
-Spinning kick breaking (most number of spinning kicks executed in a fixed duration)
-Combination breaking (break as many planks as desired, using as fancy/difficult techniques as desired)
-Team pattern
-Mixed doubles pattern
-Team demonstration (mixed event of 9 members to perform pattern, breaking, jumping kicks, weapons self defense)

Courtesy of the generosity of Air Asia X, our team of 15 flew into Korea at partially sponsored fares. Lower fares = more spending money.

Obligatory group photo at the venue. Note the slick (sponsored) team uniform

The first thing that caught our attention was the Korean teams' synchronisation. The top teams were perfect- stopwatch perfect. The coordination of both timing and techniques were impeccable. Then we realise that many Korean universities have taekwondo departments alongside their engineering and economics faculties. That explains a lot.

Fortunately for us foreign competitors, we were in a ‘foreign’ category of our own. It is a win-win situation: the foreigners don’t get steam-rolled by the Korean teams, and the Korean teams are not exposed to the slight risk that they may be embarrassed by a foreigner.

Not to say it made life much easier. In my age category, 19-30 years old, competition was extremely stiff as most athletes reach their peak at this age. We amateurs were up against very strong national teams consisting of professional athletes. Our two teams finished 8th and 9th from a pool of 14 teams. Not too shameful for first-timers.

This was the winning team, Indonesia.

And right at the end, you can see one of the Malaysia PTC teams coming in 5th place (at that time) with 7.95 points.

The mixed-doubles 19-30 years old winners from Spain looked even better, partly because a smaller team is easier to synchronise.

The under-18 group was not as heavily fortified with national teams. With the firepower of our team’s under-18 mixed-doubles pair of Monica and Brandon, a bronze medal was secured for Malaysia.

Click here for large size image

In the breaking events, Kalaiselvan in the 50-59 years old foot breaking won a silver medal. He nominated a conservatives 4 planks to be loaded on the racks, and broke them easily. Many others were ambitious and requested more, but the tight packing of the planks meant that if the kick was insufficient to break through everything, none broke.

For the 19-29 years old fist breaking, Albert punched through 4 roof tiles but was outperformed by many. This was due to a minor mistake resulting in sub-optimal momentum transfer to the targets.

Medal winners Brandon, Kalaiselvan and Monica with our head coach Zul

The organisers had a welcome banquet for foreign competitors, which went OK. It was a buffet, and the variety of food was commendable.

That's just a bottle of soft drink

To be continued…

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