The 1st Zest Taekwon-Do ITF Junior Championship was held on Sunday, 18th November 2012 and Island Taekwon-Do Centre is glad to have been part of this event. The team which represented ITC comprised of Justin Gan sir, Gavin Soon, Russell and Hazel Seow, and me. This team was managed by Madam Carnation Chai, coached by Mr Shaun Chua and accompanied by Master Daniel Sng, Sabum Andrew Kung and Mr Norbert Strobel.

This journey began with our team departing from our dojang at 2pm, on Saturday the 17th in a comfortable minibus. It took us all the way to One World Hotel in Bandar Utama City Centre, Kuala Lumpur, stopping at a few rest and meal breaks where we had our first of many Malaysian cuisine meals, an eager highlight for all of us.

Upon our arrival, we checked in and settled into our luxurious hotel rooms, where Kelvin sir, a student of Mr Kong’s (Sir’s close TKD friend) kindly came to welcome and orientate us. We set off for dinner at the adjoining 1 Utama Shopping Centre without delay, having wonderful local-style cuisine such as Ipoh hor fun, char kway teow, chicken chop, and of course, teh tarik. After dinner, we went shopping for groceries, then thanked and parted ways with Kelvin sir before heading back for a shower and bedtime – trying to get as much rest as possible for tournament day!
The hotel provided a hearty breakfast: a huge buffet spread with many different international cuisines, but we participants were wary of our diet! Sabum Andy Low, President of Zest Taekwon-Do, kindly arranged for his students to drive us to the tournament venue, a school hall in Sekolah JK (C) Desa Jaya, a short ten minutes away. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the busy sight of competitors from the numerous different states of Malaysia, as well as fellow international participants Indonesia and Bangalore.

Once we had settled down and put on our doboks, Shaun sir led the team to warm up and practice. Soon enough, the first events were called and all of us excitedly watched Hazel performed in her category, Female Under 13 Individual Patterns, Grade 7 & 6. We were all ecstatic when she won her first round! Unfortunately, despite a commendable effort, her next opponent was declared the better of two. However, our whole delegation (and many umpires) was very proud of her strong fighting spirit and performance, being the youngest competitor ITC has ever sent for an overseas tournament at 6 years old!

Russell was up next in the Male Under 13 Individual Patterns Black Belt & Grade 1 category. He also put in a brilliant performance and clinched a Bronze medal for his efforts.

The Under 18 Black Belt Individual Patterns events were held a little differently – due to it being the most senior patterns category. Each competitor would only perform once, and be given a score instead of elimination method. Furthermore, the competitor would perform 1 by 1 on the whole ring!

Justin sir, Gavin and I went, respectively, in the Male event. The scores flew sensationally from the umpires’ hands. After the whole category went (about 12 of us), the umpires gathered for a tense minute at the judges’ table.. which from they announced that Justin sir and Gavin had tied scores for the Gold medal!

They subsequently performed a breathtaking tie-breaker round, while everyone watched on in awe of their razor-sharp technique – Gavin emerged victorious to much applause. In announcement of the results, we happily found that all three of us emerged with top scores in the event – Gold for Gavin, Justin sir with a Silver, and a Bronze for myself.

We managed to relax for a moment in preparation for the next event. It was time for the Team Pattern in the Under 18 Male Team Patterns Category, where the organizers had beforehand put in a special clause allowing participants from other categories (Russell and Hazel) to join. Our entire team consisting of Justin sir, Gavin, Russell, Hazel and myself had been training hard for this event, coached painstakingly for many weeks by Shaun sir and we hoped that we could do him and ITC proud. We performed with unshakeable focus on the steps, struck the difficult choreographies spectacularly and, most splendidly, displayed a high level of team connection. Our scores reflected our efforts generously, and we were awarded Silver among 6 teams.

After a light lunch (chicken rice!) they provided and an hour’s break, we all participated in our respective Jumping High Front Kick events. Hazel’s category was called first and she bravely flew to try and kick the target, despite it being really high for her! Next up was Russell, who put in a surprising effort and managed to hit the target for several rounds to win the Silver medal. Our Under 13 members had put forward an admirable performance and the Under 18 members were eager to do just as well. I went first and tried my best but could not make the first target’s height. Justin sir and Gavin did much better, progressing to the third round before Justin sir missed the target by hairs’ breadths.

The event climbed to an electrifying climax when Gavin had to go up in the finals against another amazing Bangladeshi opponent. They repeatedly hit the target round after round, and the umpires had to keep raising the bar. It was very exciting and the focus of almost everyone was on the pair as they scaled greater and greater heights – until the bar itself was stretched to its limit!

After about 6 or 7 kicks, Gavin, in a heartbreaking moment, missed the target and had to settle for the Silver. The friendly competitive spirit clearly came into view when they smiled and congratulated each other on a spectacular round of contest.

Seemingly concluded of all our events for the day, the next few hours was passed with us admiring the competition between the other teams while enjoying liberal amounts of ice cream treated by Master Sng. Andrew and Nobert sirs were very busy helping out as umpires, volunteering right from the morning.

Shaun sir, Justin sir and Carnation madam also graciously accepted to be umpire for the sparring events, which livened up the hall and made the competition grow especially intense with all the action. In the midst of all the events, there were several prize presentations, some of which were graced by Master Sng who presented medals to the deserving winners.

Not long after, we were surprised by one final contest remaining for Gavin – for the Champion of the Champion trophy!

This contest was between the all the diffierent categories of Under 18 Male Individual Pattern Gold medallists. Gavin was fatigued after the many hours of gruelling competition but he nevertheless gave his all in this final competition. Gavin’s prominent performance was reflected in his top scores again, but the Grade 1 & 2 gold medallist tied with Gavin and this became a moment of enormous tension as another tiebreaker round commenced – they had to both perform Yul-Gok together, and be judged by flag system. All could see that both participants had exemplary technique, so It was a really close battle between the two, but the team erupted in cheers when the 3:2 flags declared Gavin victorious, winning himself a coveted trophy. This naturally brought the whole ITC delegation enormous pride and satisfaction.

Several hours later, the final prize presentation began where Master Sng was invited to present prizes to all of the medallists. Team ITC had performed commendably and our medal tally spoke for itself:

1 trophy, 1 gold, 8 silvers, and 2 bronzes!

It had been satisfying to get to know and compete with so many distinguished practitioners from so many different places. Huge congratulations go to the Perak team, who brought home a huge trophy for being the delegation with the best medal tally in the entire competition. It was a nice experience to congratulate and thank each other at the end of the tournament and the exposure to these Taekwon-do practitioners was a very special and rare opportunity.

After the competition was over, we were tired and dirty but satisfied with our achievements. The competition was the culmination of our efforts and practice and we are glad that our training (evidently) paid off.

We then returned to the hotel, thanks again to Andy sir’s arrangements for transport. We set off for dinner in a Hong Kong-styled cafe, a bit of shopping and some television, trying to enjoy our remaining moments in Malaysia. After a satisfying evening and some good TV, our weary bodies collapsed into our comfortable beds. Or, in the words of Sir Justin, “knocked out as soon as we hit the bed”.

Our last day in Malaysia had arrived. After another lavish breakfast, we treated ourselves to a good time at the hotel’s pool where we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

Naturally, after a warm shower, we were shopping (again!) and explored much more of the huge mall. We enjoyed ourselves and had a sumptuous lunch at Grand Imperial restaurant, before we began our road trip back to Singapore. Andy and Ivan sirs specially came to the hotel to see us off, and we thanked them profusely for their impeccable hospitality and great organization of the tournament, promising to see each other again in the near future.

On hindsight, I believe that the presence of such great company of the Sirs and Madams was what made this trip all the more pleasant, and am very grateful for the whole team looking out for each other, and giving each other the occasional meal treats.

I truly enjoyed myself and this entire experience has been rewarding, exciting and was a wonderful opportunity for us to work together, have fun and become closer knit not only as Taekwon-Do practitioners. I think it’s safe to say that everybody who was a part of this experience has benefited from and appreciated it.

Great thanks go to the organizers of this championship, Zest Taekwon-Do and it’s President, Andy Low sir for doing such a good job on their first tournament. Thanks to Shaun sir for his resolve and sacrifice in order to make sure our team was as prepared as we possibly can be and our team manager, Carnation madam, for doing a wonderful job of managing the team and keeping everyone in check. Thanks also go to Norbert sir and Andrew sir, for sharing this experience with us and giving us their precious time and guidance. Thanks to everyone, too, who has taken part in one way or another in order to make this entire trip as pleasant as it was. And of course, Master Sng, without whom we would not be here, practicing Taekwon-Do and furthering ourselves in every aspect.

Hubert Yong

Written by Mr. Hubert Yong, Junior Black Belt, ITF Singapore
© Island Taekwon-Do Centre 2012

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