In September 2018, Island Taekwon-Do Centre was honoured to participate in the 3rd Annual Everest Open Championship and Master’s Seminar in Nepal. Arriving in Kathmandu’s small airport, we were caught up in a whirlwind of activity. We were warmly greeted by Ang Temba and Ngima Sherpa, friends and supporters of ITC, in Nepal.
Our new friends whisked us expertly through the busy airport and, together, we began our journey by car to Dhulikhel to meet our competitors and hosts. As we drove, we climbed up, and out of the Kathmandu valley in the dark of night. Ang Temba and Ngima taught us a few Nepali phrases and gave us a bit of history about their small nation. When we finally arrive in Dhulikhel, we collapsed into our beds after our long journey from Singapore, which was two time zones ahead.
On our first day in Nepal, we were greeted by a stunning 180-degree panorama of the Himalayan range. As we wandered over to enjoy a hearty breakfast with Ang Temba and Ngima, chanting and incense from the Buddhist ashram filled the air, next door. The four of us enjoyed our coffees on the hotel balcony, as eagles wheeled in the air and clouds rolled over the mountains. Our Nepalese adventure had barely begun and we were already spellbound!
After breakfast we changed into our doboks and proceeded to the function hall where we were greeted by Mr. Basnet, President of ITF Nepal, Master Yogi Chand, who had come from the UK to lead the seminar, and our fellow competitors from Nepal and India. When the 200 or so of us were called to attention and shouted “Taekwon!” the excitement in the room was palpable.
Master Chand started his seminar with patterns and proceeded from lower to higher-ranking colour belts. Black belts and international instructors performed the patterns with each group of colour belts giving other color belts an opportunity to work with a range of instructors and to receive guidance. By the end of the morning, the colour belts had completed their patterns and the black belts had been put through their paces.
After lunch, Master Chand moved on to three-step and two-step sparring before dismissing the colour belts and continuing with black belts. The seminar offered valuable knowledge about techniques and served as an opportunity to meet and train with fellow Taekwon-Do-ists from dojangs in Nepal, India and the Netherlands. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, the children were especially interested in us newcomers, and over dinner we even had the chance to get to know our fellow competitors better.
On our second day in Nepal the competition began. Once we had our breakfast, we climbed the hill on which the Mirabel Hotel is built, and arrived to see a breathtaking marquee tent, gleaming golden in the sun. Around 150 children from all over Nepal had come together that day and each and every one of them awed us with their enthusiasm and dedication as they sparred and performed patterns.
While I was umpiring with the other adult black belts, Tabatha made friends with the local children, learned their names and practiced patterns with them. When the children were done with their category, the adult colour belt category commenced.
As Tabatha performed Dan-Gun, her new friends cheered her on. We broke for the day as the sun began to set behind the mountains and the shadows crept long over the tent. At dinner we relived the day’s excitement and got to know each other a bit better over a delicious Nepalese meal.
On day three, it was the black belts’ turn. As the experienced competitors wowed the tent with their techniques, enthusiasm began to build. By lunchtime, as the under 14 black belts were finishing up, the tent was abuzz with excitement.
Dylan performed Yoon-Sin for the patterns portion of his competition and, as he readied himself for sparring, clouds rolled in and the sky darkened. As if on cue, a storm swelled as the adult black belts walked onto the mat for the first sparring match. Dylan opened the match with a dramatic display of technique and as he did, the crowd leapt to their feet cheering! The spectators’ cheers continued as the match grew more thrilling, and the rain pressed everyone into the tent. Thunder and lightning made a dramatic soundtrack for the last match, which was followed by a show of traditional Nepalese dancing.
After the matches, we had the medals ceremony, which was a joyous occasion as the rain pounded the tent. The national minister of forestry presented the awards to the winning competitors and the local press took photos and videos. We were very proud to have represented Singapore and we both took home medals; Tabatha won a silver for patterns, her very first competition medal, and Dylan won a gold for sparring, gold for patterns and a trophy for best overall male player.
After their speeches, Mr. Basnet and Master Chand closed the ceremony by calling us all to attention. Together in one voice, several hundred of us bowed and shouted “Taekwon!”.
Dinner at The Mirabel that evening was relaxing and cheerful as we traded contact information with the other teams. On the following morning, Mr. Basnet took us to visit the beautiful Thrangu Tashi Yanftse Monastery, high on a hill overlooking the valley. As we toured the monastery and explored the trail across the ridges, we learned about the site’s history; a 6000 year old Buddhist legend. Of course we also posed for pictures with our new friends and even performed some patterns by the stupa at the top of the hill!
We were honored to visit Mr. Basnet’s home, where we had the most delicious spiced tea, and then returned to Kathmandu where we were treated to momos and other home cooked Nepalese food by Ang Temba and Ngima. We were delighted to visit their home and hear their stories of growing up in the shadow of Mount Everest.
Our last few days in Nepal were spent as tourists. Although we saw many amazing temples and museums, the most memorable experiences of the trip were those spent with the friends we had made at the competition and seminar. We look forward to the next Everest Open!
Written by Mr. Dylan Coughlan, 3rd Degree Black Belt, ITF Singapore
© Island Taekwon-Do Centre 2018
Check out Dylan’s sparring match here: Adult Black Belt Sparring FINAL Match (SG vs IN)