ITF World Championships 2016

ITF World Championships 2016

To begin our journey, we met at Changi Airport, in the evening of 25 July. The Singapore delegates Carnation Mdm, Russell and myself were grateful to have our biological and Taekwon-Do families come to send us off!

wc2016-1Thanks to Master Daniel Sng, Mr Seow, Jeremy Sir, Regine, Joel Sir, Hazel, Amber, and my parents for sending us off at Changi Airport

We proceeded to board our flight to Heathrow, London, but not before the ever-hungry Russell grabbed a burger from Burger King… and another hotdog roll in Dubai where our flights connected. There were adequate meals and snacks on board, by the way.

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Upon arrival at Heathrow on the 26th morning, the three of us were privileged to be kindly received by Jake Nicholls, Grandmaster Nicholls’ son, who drove us 1.5 hours to Brighton with a welcoming introduction to the area (while another Subway sandwich was devoured by Russell).

We were thrilled to find that our hotel and the venue of the tournament, Brighton Centre, was facing the beautiful beachfront and ocean! As we walked along the streets to registration, we were greeted by the cool sea breeze, and many of our international friends in Taekwon-Do. We met up with Allen (our 4th Singapore delegate, who arrived in UK earlier) who expressed and reflected a lot of our excitement in the whole atmosphere of the area, being filled with hundreds of tracksuit-donning Taekwon-Doists from so many different countries exploring the streets, and the perfect summer weather.

After a mandatory fish & chips lunch, we took a stroll around the beach area, admiring the sights and art by the coastline. Thereafter we joined the many other groups of Taekwon-Doists at Regency Square, the big grass park between the hotel clusters, seemingly there for us to practice patterns… so we did!

The entire ITF delegation then gathered at 6pm for the Opening Ceremony, with a celebratory, excited charge that always accompanied our World Championships. Huge flags were proudly hung, country cheers were roared, accompanied by the clappers, vuvuzelas, and lightsticks… it was a raucous, joyful and epic crowd which was going to be treated to a good time. The organizers planned an amazing show for us, starting with a TKD video and light show, a breakdancing performance by Flawless, an acro-gymnastics performance by King Edmund Acro Gymnastics, and songs by The Voice UK’s finalist, Leah McFall!

The awe-inspiring performances were followed by the Flag-bearing Ceremony, Umpires’ and Participants’ Oath-taking, then speeches by the Mayor of Brighton, ITF President Grandmaster Choi Jung Hwa, and Vice-President and Organizing Chairman of the World Championships, Grandmaster Trevor Nicholls, who declared the Championships open!

wc2016-1045 countries attended the event

After the speeches, the stadium was glad to receive an encore of all three performing acts, before we adjourned for the night. But not before taking some pictures!

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After such an eventful day, we tried to grab a quick dinner and retire early, but poor Russell succumbed to the jet lag after the appetizer and soup…

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Recharged the next morning, we arrived at the stadium to find that both Carnation Mdm and Russell were both up in the first patterns categories in different rings! The panic started. We had not enough time to warm up and go through “final rehearsals”, and we were worried that if the events clashed, I would not be able to coach both competitors.

To make matters worse, I was not aware of the strict coaching attire, and was rejected entry into the ring when I brought Russell to his Patterns match. He faced disqualification if there was no coach in 3 minutes, as per regulations! Fortunately, I found Mr Chris Galibert from Australia nearby, and he quickly volunteered and rushed into the ring to stand in for us, which I was super grateful for.

(FYI for future World Championships coaches: no dobok allowed, and you must wear covered shoes. To be safe, wear a tracksuit and sports/TKD shoes)

Russell performed with excellent focus and power. His rhythm was unfaltering and strikes precise. To be fair, his opponent was also sharp and had excellent stances. The scores were very close and went to his Irish opponent, who later achieved a Bronze medal.

Grateful to borrow coaching attire from a friend, I shortly afterwards coached for Carnation Mdm in her Patterns competition. She did really well and I could see the leaps of improvement in her technique from just these few months of tournament training; her movements were consistent and confident. If she was nervous, she certainly did not show it! This is our first time having a Senior category competition participant and I really respect her for still being so sporting… I wonder if I will still be able to lift my legs when my time comes. Hopefully she will inspire more Seniors to take part in the future! The match went to her UK counterpart, who later went on to be the gold medallist in the category. A Master Instructor we met later asked about her results; when he heard it, he joked, “Then you are the silver medallist!”

As a coach I was really proud to see our competitors on the world stage, performing their patterns with keen focus and determination, holding their own alongside the best in the world. As they performed, every other thought fell away and I found that Master Sng’s words really rang true; that when you have the courage to compete and go into the ring, you are already a winner, regardless of the result. Before they even finished, I was already cheering them for their efforts, especially all three of them are competing in the World Championships for the first time!

The next morning, 28th July, Thursday, Allen and my Patterns category went on at the same time. We were blessed to have the Hong Kong, Malaysia, USA and Australia coaches on stand-by to help us with our coaching needs, coordinated by our very resourceful Team Manager. Carnation Mdm had to juggle taking videos, listen out for our matches, and find the appropriate coaches for us, running up, down and across the spectator galleries to get the best angle for the photography! Kudos to her.
Mr Ian Bruton from Hong Kong helped to coach Allen in his Patterns matches, and Mr Thomas Yee from Hong Kong coached me in mine. We were so grateful that they were so supportive despite having to coach their own competitors as well.

wc2016-56With thanks to Hong Kong Coach, Mr Ian Bruton

wc2016-57With thanks to Hong Kong Coach, Mr Thomas Yee

wc2016-52With thanks to Malaysia Coach, Mr Khoo Bu Leong

wc2016-15With thanks to Australia Coach Mr Chris Galibert and Ms Stephanie Galibert

wc2016-58With thanks to USA Coach Mr Chad Morishita

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With thanks to USA Coach Mr David Jue

Allen went against a Netherlands competitor with impressive power and stability. He won the first round with a great cheer from the Team Manager, and his mother, who enthusiastically came to support the Singapore Team.

In his second match, he competed against an Argentinian. He displayed the same determined power which I thought definitely was better than his opponent’s. The match went to Argentina, though, which I think was probably due to more complete sine waves and stances. It was another really close fight which he outperformed expectations and did superbly! His Argentinian opponent subsequently earned himself a Bronze medal.

I was also competing in my Patterns category in the morning, and was thrilled to find that my matches, for the first time in my competition experience, would be on the Centre Ring! Usually the Centre Ring would be on a raised platform and reserved for the most sensational matches, overseen by the most senior umpires from around the world, inclusive of Masters.

I did not have much expectations for myself as I stepped up to the stage, knowing that I didn’t put in enough training leading up to this competition. Ironically, that made me calm. My first match was with an Argentinian. I thought I did my movements relatively stable and safe, and have never felt that relaxed in a competition. Perhaps it comes with age… after all I am definitely a lot older than the average age of competitors there!

I went through to the second round, where I competed against UK. I thought it was a good match and felt an adrenaline spike when the judges announced a draw – not time to rest yet, more to go! They announced Po-Eun for the tie-breaker pattern, and I thought inwardly that spelled trouble for me! I knew that my upper body techniques were not my strongest points, which Po-Eun was mostly made out of. However I set my mind definitely to confront the challenge with a positive mind. I threw in all my power and focus. The judging system decided to have a technical fault and left us standing there waiting for a long time for the results… It was another amazingly close fight, with it ultimately going to my UK counterpart, who later, to my delight, went on to win the Bronze medal, and be the Male Individual Overall Champion for all categories!

Some would say that we are unlucky to be meeting such strong contenders in our early matches which denied our chances of getting a medal, but I would turn around and say that we are fortunate instead to be able to meet, perform alongside and make friends with them, which is a privilege and honour since they are that good! I was surprised that I did not really feel crushed when I lost my match, as I usually did in competitions when I was younger. I counted my blessings that I was able to do my best at that point of time, without any injury or stomachaches or sore limbs which might have easily impaired our performances.

I was also surprised that even though I lost in the early rounds, there were several foreign competitors, spectators and Instructors who approached to congratulate and remark positively upon my performance, which I was very touched to receive, and I thought to myself that I had forgotten how generous this Taekwon-Do community can really be! We are there to do our best and improve ourselves, alongside so many other wonderful brothers and sisters in Taekwon-Do.

wc2016-59Mdm Carnation with her opponent and champion, Mdm Rachel Ratcliffe, UK

wc2016-21Exchanging T-shirts with Bronze Medallist Mr Ivan Obrist-Sappia, Argentina

Russell was called up near noon for his Special Techniques category. When we assembled in the ring, it was obvious that our ravenous Russell was putting his food to good use because he was at least 1 head taller than most of his fellow competitors in the 12-13 years old category! The Chief Umpire told us and the coaches that although he knew that the minimum distances for the category was very long or high, they would be keeping the same standards as always since the first World Championships. Which means that even though they knew the minimum standard was too high for most of the competitors at their age, they will not lower the standard to let more people hit the targets. If there was totally no one who could hit the targets, there would be no medals given!

They first attempted the Flying Side Kick event where there are two barrier poles about 3m apart and ~60cm from the floor, that must be flown over with both legs and kicking the target with the foot sword. It was truly no mean feat for those guys. Russell did a great jump but just missed crossing the second hurdle. Only 1 out of the 10 managed to cross both and hit the target!

Next, they attempted the Jumping Turning Kick which was to hit a high target (~2.1m). Russell managed to jump up and kick high enough, but just missed the target by an inch! The collective ‘ohhh’ from the crowd reflected the closeness of his attempt. There were also not enough people who could hit the minimum requirement for this station, so the judges went on to Jumping Front Kick.

Russell did another great jump and hit the target for this kick, but was not awarded any points because he did not hit with the correct foot area, the ball of the foot. There were enough scorers after this kick so Russell did not manage the first 4 placing. Even so, I was really glad and proud that he took up the challenge and did a great job, especially since he did not get much training in this event. Also, it was quite special for Team Singapore as we hardly send any competitors for this category. I think Russell will definitely be back for more and inspire more members to join him!

Praiseworthy attempts by Russell at the Special Techniques

Allen’s sparring match was slated for later in the afternoon on the same day. We were worried as he had a splitting headache in the morning through lunch, but fortunately some rest, medicine, food and lots of hydration put him back on track before his category started.

As Allen was only 2kg above the Hyper Weight (70kg and up) minimum weight, it was not surprising that we found that his Canadian opponent was significantly bigger and a good half head taller. The first round started off checking each other and had no lack of punching clashes. The Canadian had a good habit of throw high kicks, but Allen held his ground commendably, dodging and keeping his hands up to block, even once parrying to cause his opponent to fall!

The second round was more spirited from both sides. Allen continued to chase his defensive opponent through the match and had a few good body shots, while his opponent managed to get in a clear Jumping Downward Kick to the high section, which probably gave him the lead. The points were close and went to Canada, but I think Allen did a wonderful job dominating the footwork and keeping on the offensive against a bigger opponent! I was also very glad that both sides fought fairly and with good control, especially after watching some too-intense matches and injuries in other fights.
When he exclaimed “So tired!” after the match did I realize how much effort he put into the fight. It’s so easy for the coach to be yelling instructions and encouragement by the side, while the player is chasing each other around and exchanging blows, trying to catch their breath the whole time!

With that, we finished all our events for our Singapore Team. In the evening debrief I earnestly congratulated them again for their efforts, and conveyed the message that it is not the end, but just a milestone of going further. I think we all did well, but most importantly, want to do better next time.

We bought some photos which were professionally taken by the organizers, and I think they speak many words and contain splendid memories made.

With our last event over, the team was more relieved and got to fully soak in the incredible atmosphere of the World Championships. The continual yelling and cheering of teams, the great fights and performances over the many rings, and emotions running high were infectious. The skill levels were unbelievable and we got to see a lot of Team Events, Destruction and Special Techniques which we hardly get to see at other smaller tournaments… the whole scene was captivating and entertaining, and we didn’t mind spending most of our days there just watching!

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wc2016-31Mdm Carnation having an interview for a Korean Internet Broadcasting TV channel, promoting the World Championships and 2017 Asia Championships in Korea

Of course we got to go out and explore the beautiful seaside city too. On Friday we finally got to go out to a proper lunch (the competition days were just sandwiches and fruits from the cafeteria); we had an indulgent pasta, pizza and cheese platter spread, yums.

wc2016-32Gorging and not caring about the camera, at NuPosto

Through the rest of the days, we alternated between watching the competition and having a great time window shopping, ice cream hunting, catching up with and making international friends, and of course exchanging and giving out souvenirs, which is a tradition of World Championships (including team jackets, doboks, t-shirts, badges, and other trinkets!)… I’ll let the pictures do the talking here.

wc2016-39Exchanging Team Jackets

We also made a point to send our regards and take pictures with the Masters and teams we have befriended. One thing that struck me was the high regard many Masters and Instructors have for our Chief Instructor, Master Daniel Sng, and our Singapore team. They asked after him and sent compliments even though he was not present. It truly shows the camaraderie and reputation that Master Sng has built up in the international community through the years, despite our relatively small size.

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With the President of ITF, Grandmaster Choi Jung Hwa

wc2016-41With the Vice-President of ITF and Organizing Chairman of ITF World Championships 2016, Grandmaster Trevor Nicholls, and Master Michael Muleta from Australia

wc2016-42With the Special Assistant to President Choi, Master Parm Rai

wc2016-50With Master Lau from Hong Kong

wc2016-43With the Korean delegation

wc2016-44With some of the organizers, Jake and Ashley Nicholls, and a Canadian friend

wc2016-51With the President of Kenya ITF, Mr Richard Kenge David

We were also honoured and privileged to be fed well. A big thanks again to Master Jue & Mrs Jue, Carnation’s Aunt, and Mrs Wang, for buying us such sumptuous meals!

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With appreciation to Master & Mrs Jue for a lovely Japanese dinner, also pleased to have David’s and Valerie’s company on 29th July

wc2016-46With appreciation to Carnation Mdm’s Aunt and cousin for the yummy seafood lunch, featuring Carnation Mdm’s niece, Ellis, on 30th July

wc2016-47With appreciation to Mrs Wang for the delicious sushi and Japanese dinner, featuring Allen’s sister who also came to watch the Championships, on 30th July

The ITF International Open Championships was a 1-day tournament hosted on Saturday, 30th July. Even though the rules and judging criteria were less formal, the standard of performance was no less impressive and challenging. It was open to colour belts, and many more juniors (as only 12 & above are allowed in the World Championships) who participated, but also a good number of the World Championships participants took the opportunity to compete also. I was especially impressed that they opened two more rings for a total of 9 rings! And how they efficiently scheduled the competition to finish within one day, for so many participants, with all the umpires working an extra shift for this event as well.

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The weekends were also full of festive spirit in the air; we got familiar with Brighton’s reputation of being a popular tourist spot, especially for bachelor and hens’ parties, and weddings. There were wedding shoots and receptions all along the hotel rows and beachside, groups in party costumes filling up the nightspots, and even a decorated busload of ladies swinging around town! The beach also became especially crowded with families, breakdancing events, and in general an awesome summer atmosphere in the air.

The most exciting finals of individual and team events were reserved for the last day, Sunday, 31st July. The crowd could not be more rowdy with screams and whistles and chants of support for their best players on the rings, but the decisions were always fair and result upsets never became ugly. I am proud to be part of a community which are fair and encouraging of each other even if they are on the opposite sides of the ring. Magnificent performances were always acknowledged by all.

Thereafter, the closing ceremony acknowledged the Best Overall Individuals, Teams and Umpires. The banquet was held shortly after, where there was a buffet and dance into the night. It was for the younger, more energetic crowd, so we left early to catch some sea breeze, a little to Russell’s disappointment…

The next morning we checked out early and went our separate ways to continue our travels in London. I had a really superb time in Brighton in all aspects, at the competition, enjoying the travelling, meeting and making new international friends. We were already psyched up for the Asia Championships 2017 which is to be held in Korea, and are looking forward to going with a bigger team.

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Again as Master Sng says of competitions: The experience is what you go for, medals are only a bonus, not the main target. I have been to tournaments for over 10 years, but each time is still a new and treasured experience, and I wish more members would join us in the future ones! It really is so much more than just going there to perform your Patterns or fight someone foreign, as I hoped to have shared in this article.

On behalf of Island Taekwon-Do Centre, I would like to congratulate the Singapore delegates who well represented our country and club:

  • Carnation Chai, 2nd Degree
    • Team Manager
    • Quarter-Finalist, Senior Female 2nd Degree Patterns
  • Shaun Chua, 4th Degree
    • Team Coach
    • Top 16, Adult Male 4th Degree Patterns
  • Allen Wang, 1st Degree
    • Top 16, Under 18s Male 1st Degree Patterns
    • Top 12, Under 18s Male Hyper Weight Sparring
  • Russell Seow, 1st Degree
    • Top 16, Under 14s Male 1st Degree Patterns
    • Top 10, Under 14s Male Special Technique

I would also like to convey our special thanks to:

  • Grandmaster Trevor Nicholls and the Organizing Team, who, in President Choi Jung Hwa’s words, organized “a perfect event”
  • Master Daniel Sng, who helped plan, coordinate, and made possible our trip
  • Master Gordon Jue, Mrs Grace Jue, Master David Lau, Mr Khoo Bu Leong, and Mrs Sally Wang for taking care of our team
  • Mr Andy Low and Mr Ivan Liew for helping us with our team gear and my training
  • Mr Jeremy Tan, and Mr Joel Mok for coaching and preparing the team
  • All our supporters who were there either physically or in spirit!

Taekwon,
Shaun Chua

Written by Mr. Shaun Chua, 4th Degree Black Belt, ITF Singapore
© Island Taekwon-Do Centre 2016