Visiting Island Taekwon-Do Centre and the Special Joint Training Session on 11 March 2018

It was a great honour to be invited to the Island Taekwon-Do Centre Anniversary Championship and 26th Anniversary Dinner again, as I truly enjoyed the opportunity last year, representing ITF Matsumoto.

The Championship was quite a spectacular event, growing bigger than last year. It is a wonderful opportunity to exchange technical expertise as quite a number of different ITF organizations from Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan were present.  

The Anniversary Dinner is always a delightful experience with many friends and family gathering to celebrate together. There is always fun events and delicious food that adds to our conversations that we never want to end, and time always feels too short.

The following day, on 11 March, I went to the ITC dojang from midday and was joined by Mr. Yasuo Tsuda, III dan, and Ms. Jules Takagishi, III dan, as well as Ms. Takagishi’s children. Master Spiridon Cariotis from Australia was also present as many ITC students of all ages and ranks gathered for the joint training session from 1 pm.

I was told that on normal Sundays, ITC students train from the morning, but as it was the day after the Championship and Anniversary Dinner, the training was combined into an extended afternoon session.

Master Daniel Sng invited Master Cariotis, Ms. Takagishi, and I split the class into three parts to share some of our training exercises with the group. It was my honor to take the second session.

The first session was led by Ms. Takagishi of ITF Hyogo JAPAN. The Chief Instructor there is Sabum Jong Sa Park, VI dan, who unfortunately could not make the trip this time. She led the class in stretching and various exercises focusing on keeping one’s balance with kicks and punches that were very well thought out and thorough. I observed that all the students were using their whole bodies and warmed up nicely, working up a healthy sweat. Ms. Takagishi’s enthusiastic guidance was very good as spurring everyone on. “Put your heart into it!” she shouted as we all kicked and thrusted.

I had the next session. I drew on what I observed at the Championship the day before and what I see often at overseas competitions – lots of punching. So I introduced exercises to train the eye to see the punches and to react quickly with blocks. The exercises were done in pairs, and we asked the adult students to keep changing partners so that they could continuously be on alert and not get too used to their partners.

I was impressed that everyone understood the objectives well and were able to execute the drill well. It was obvious that the ITC students train hard and well regularly, and they are able to focus on the objectives to get the most out of the sessions. Their solid foundation enables them to enjoy new challenges and master new skills quickly.

My English continues to be terrible, so I was grateful that Ms. Takagishi, who is fluent, volunteered to interpret for me. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to her for not just interpreting what I said, but supplementing my words so that subtle nuances were not missed. (There are so many people at ITC who are studying Japanese, I am never deprived of help. It destroys any incentive I may have to learn English, but I am very grateful for the support I receive from such ITC members as well.)

Last but not the least was Master Cariotis’s session.

I heard that Master Cariotis is a gold medalist in Special Techniques at a World Championship.

The session covered a wide range of topics including sparring techniques with emphasis on the importance of positioning, and many self-defense applications of the movements we learn in patterns.

I felt that every instructor not only shared his/her knowledge and experience, but also shared so much energy, passion, and sense of enjoyment. The explanations were thorough, and as a result, we went over the scheduled two hours by another hour!

I am working on sharing what I learned on this trip with my ITF Matsumoto members as I was able to take back many new ideas and exercises.

I am very grateful to Master Daniel Sng, who makes sure that we have the precious opportunity to learn from each other every time I visit. I would also like to thank all my friends at ITC from the bottom of my heart for making me feel welcome every time. Such experiences reinforce my great joy in sharing the journey of studying Taekwon-Do, this wonderful common path, with such generous people.


Written by Mr. Ken-ichi Nonaka, 6th Degree Black Belt, ITF Matsumoto, JAPAN
© Island Taekwon-Do Centre 2018

Island Taekwon-Do Centre 26th and Sun Hapkido Academy 11th Anniversary Dinner

Island Taekwon-Do Centre 26th and Sun Hapkido Academy 11th Anniversary Dinner

After a robust competition at the Singapore University of Technology and Design for the Island Taekwon-Do Centre 26th Anniversary Championship, we joined members and guests at @ 29 on Carpenter Street for a feast – not just for our stomachs but also for our eyes and ears.

Master Daniel Sng opened the dinner with a speech that said “now that the competition is over, it is time to strengthen our bonds by sharing food and enjoying each other’s company.” He also said that “punching, kicking, and throwing each other may seem like a strange way to become better friends to people who have never done martial arts,” but that is indeed what we do, and once we “fight” someone, we just know them better.


I totally agree with this as my best friends in Singapore are long-standing members of ITC who have trained and graded with me during my “formative years” as a Taekwon-Do student under Master Daniel Sng’s guidance. We have shed much blood, sweat, and tears together and the bond forged through that does not weaken even though I have since moved back to Japan and seldom get to train at ITC now. I can further attest to this as Mr. Kelvin Goh, III Dan, taught me 6 of the 9 colour belt patterns as I was coming through the ranks, and even though, for various reasons, Mr. Goh has not worn a dobok for a while, I still consider him my mentor and the Goh and Takagishi families have a strong bond that seems to get stronger over the years.


As is the custom at ITC and Sun Hapkido Academy, Master Daniel Sng presented overseas guests with gifts. Supporters were also presented with plaques made of gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Because Sabum Jong Sa Park, VI dan, our Chief Instructor, was not able to make this trip, Mr. Yasuo Tsuda, III dan, received the gift for Sabum Park on his behalf, and I received the plaque and delivered it to him. Master Sng and ITC really make overseas guests feel welcome and give us mementos to tell us how much our friendship and support is valued. Even without such material gifts, we would still remain supporters and friends of ITC, but the gesture is appreciated.


The entire ITF Hyogo JAPAN delegation was honored to be sitting at the table with Master Daniel Sng, Master Spiridon Cariotis from Australia, Mr. Laurence Wee and his lovely daughter, Miss Nicole Wee, and Mr. Ken-ichi Nonaka of ITF Matsumoto. We also got to see old friends at the other tables, and had time to exchange greetings and gifts of our own.


The evening’s entertainment kicked off with a dance performance whereby the dancers’ mask kept changing with the flick of the head! That certainly had both the young and young at heart glued to the stage! After the initial performance, a dancer went to various tables and used the table cloth to make his moustache appear and disappear. This was certainly something we had never seen before and we were fascinated!

Madam Karen Yong kicked off the karaoke singing with Master Sng’s favourite song. She was joined on the stage by Master Sng, who was very touched by her performance and as usual, was not shy to show his affection for her. My children were very moved by the affectionate interaction between the Master and his wife. They get to see the strict, confident, and authoritative side of Master Sng in the dojang and the competition. But seeing his softer, more affectionate side made them admire this dedicated martial artist even more. “Mama, Master Sng is so nice! Now I won’t be afraid even when he sounds fierce,” my daughter said.

Mr. Yasuo Tsuda got up in an attempt to find a Japanese song to sing, but was unsuccessful in finding his song among the karaoke catalogue. So, to take his place, I decided to sing the one English song I can sort of pull off at Karaoke – the Beatles’ “Help!” In all my years of training at, and visiting ITC, I had never sung before. So I am sure it came as a surprise to everyone. I had to say to Sir at the end of the song, “Sir, the things your antique furniture does for you!” and he gave me a big smile of approval. Perhaps in the future, singing could be included in the grading process at ITC to dig up more talent.

There was more singing followed by Mr. Stephen Slater’s guitar solo. In fact, no Anniversary Dinner is complete without the treat of hearing Mr. Slater play.

Then, came the lucky draws. And we had a lucky winner of our own, Oozora Teodore Takagishi! He won what he thinks is the best prize of the night – a North Face duffle bag that holds all his training gear, including his head gear! “I am so glad I did not win the fryer or the vacuum cleaner!” he giggled.  


There was plenty of excitement with other prizes for everyone else, too. So much so that the lucky draw was done in two parts. There was an air freshener, vacuum cleaner, and various vouchers for shopping and hotel stays. The varied and generous prizes are always an obvious sign of the calibre of supporters and contributors ITC and Sun Hapkido Academy have. And I am sure the lucky draw is one of the highlights of the evening for many.

I must also mention that no one is forgotten at the event, either. This year, we all received luggage tags as door gifts. My children and I put them on our bags as soon as we got back to the hotel! The gift instills in us a strong sense of belonging and pride as we show the whole world who we are associated with.

Even the most enjoyable events must come to an end – and so the dinner was over and we all shook hands and said good-bye.

But the overseas guests were treated to an after-party at Clarke Quay! As Mr. Tsuda only got one hour of sleep on the flight to Singapore the previous evening, he was struggling to keep his eyes open after one mug of beer. And with the time difference, so were our young friends from Australia, too. The only thing that kept some of the youngsters awake was Turkish ice cream from a vendor next to our table!


As the saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” so we got our fun to fuel the hard work we must now resume in our training!

Last but not the least, I would like to congratulate Mr. Stephen Slater, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Anniversary Dinner, and his Committee for putting together an amazing entertainment program and a fabulous event! May Island Taekwon-Do Centre and Sun Hapkido Academy live long and prosper!


Jules Takagishi

Written by Mdm. Jules Takagishi, 3rd Degree Black Belt, ITF Hyogo JAPAN
© Island Taekwon-Do Centre 2018

Island Taekwon-Do Centre 26th Anniversary Championship (10 March 2018)

It was a great honour to be invited to the 2018 Island Taekwon-Do Centre Anniversary Championship again. This time, Mr. Yasuo Tsuda, III Dan, was able to join us from Japan to contribute to the event as an official.

In addition to our ITF Hyogo JAPAN, the invitational tournament attracted participants from Australia, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Mr. Ken-ichi Nonaka, VI dan and former World Bronze Medalist at the ITF World Championships, of ITF Matsumoto also flew in from Japan and officiated over matches.

Master Daniel Sng, Chief Instructor of Island Taekwon-Do Centre and President of ITF Singapore, spurred the participants on in his opening speech to say “there is only one true enemy you need to defeat today – and that is your self-doubt.” He urged us to conquer the voice that says “I am too nervous” and defeat the feeling that “I cannot move any more” to become stronger, better versions of ourselves. He reminded us that competing is not just about winning or not losing, but it is about displaying all the attributes of the Tenets of Taekwon-Do in everything we do to prepare for the event as well as at the event.

Japan’s participants began training up for the event as soon as we were given the details. This means adjusting to World Championship rules like allowing high punches for children. In Japan, the local tournament rules is that there are no punches to the head area for competitors under the age of 16. This required a complete new level of awareness and discipline in sparring, and gave the participants a wonderful incentive to enhance their training portfolio. (As Master Spiridon Cariotis says, “If you like your face, protect it!”)

The fact that every single participant and official is presented with a certificate of participation and certificate of appreciation accordingly is the manifestation of Master Sng’s guidance that “it takes two hands clap” – without participants and officials, there is no competition, and without the competition, we would not get the exposure, experience, and recognition.

Chairman Mr. Justin Gan quoted one of Master Sng’s most popular words of wisdom: “the test is not the test, it is preparing for the test that is the test.” And he urged all participants to reflect on their training leading up the event and trust in themselves that the work of preparation is done already. The day is for showing what has come of it!  Any student of Island Taekwon-Do hears this throughout his/her training leading up to a grading or competition. Sometimes, instructors jokingly say, “the Test is not the test. Preparing for the test is not the test. Working with students who are preparing for the test is the test!” I understand this is what makes instructors more patient, resilient, and empathetic as we can only take the horse to water and it is up to the horse to decide to drink or not.

In Japan, we say that a bamboo is strong and resilient because it has many nodes or joints. In our training, we refer to competitions and grading as such joints that make students stronger and support their growth. The fact that this ITC Anniversary Championship attracts so many international competitors and officials – many with World Championship experience – makes it a very high level competition. Adding to that is the fact that the officials for the Black Belt Patterns competitions were all VI dan or higher, including Master Daniel Sng and Master Spiridon Cariotis. I did wonder if the competitors were more nervous about the high caliber judges than their opponent and certainly if I was in the ring, I would probably have had more anxiety over the former.

Being second timers, we saw some new faces and we reconnected with familiar competitors as well. Seeing how much the others have developed from last year is another bonus when one continues to come back to events. It gives us the opportunity to measure our own growth from a different perspective. Especially for Oozora Teodore Takagishi, competing against the same Black Belt, who was a Junior Black Belt the previous year, and losing again was an interesting learning experience. Last year, as a Blue Belt, he was overwhelmed. This year, as a Red Belt, he felt he put up a much better fight and upon reviewing the video of the match, his confidence in himself was further enhanced. “I think I will be closer to defeating him next year, I am sure of it,” Oozora said with a broad smile. “I now have a new goal to work towards!” he says.

Sabum Jong Sa Park, VI Dan, Chief Instructor of ITF Hyogo JAPAN and President, always tells his students that there is no shame in losing the bout if one is able to give it all one has. “It simply means that the other person worked harder, learned more, and thus, was a better competitor. Don’t lose the lesson even if you lose the bout,” he says. “And don’t think that someone who outranks you is going to let you win easy. That extra year or two that he has over you is difficult to overcome, especially in the early years of training. And a Black Belt should wish to die rather than to lose to a Color Belt. That is what it means to be a Black Belt! But don’t use that as an excuse to justify losing. Having the stronger will to win could change things,” he teaches.

And indeed, that became reality with Nanami Angelina Takagishi, Red Belt, who sparred with a Black Belt and managed to win. In Japan, unfortunately, we have a serious lack of female competitors of all ages. It is not unusual for Nanami to be competing with boys both older and bigger than her. Yes, she indeed “punches like a girl” but gives the phrase a different meaning as she combines them with her sharp, high kicks. “I was just so excited to be sparring against a girl who is a Black Belt!” Nanami says. “(unlike when I am sparring with kids who are younger and more junior) I could cut loose and just let go! I wanted the minute to last forever! I wish I could have had more bouts,” she adds.

Thinking back, she won her first gold medal in Patterns at last year’s ITC Anniversary Championship. Until that point, she was more interested in sparring and only half listened to advice that “no one who excels in patterns is bad at sparring.” But her gold medal from 2017 completely changed her own perception of her performance in Patterns. Suddenly, she wanted to practice Patterns more and become better at it. This year, in preparing for the competition, she worked much harder on her Patterns than for any previous competition. I believe that her transformation is proof that one medal can be worth more than a million words of wisdom from instructors, and thus, is another strong argument supporting my decision to take the participants out of school for a few days to learn and grow in ways that a hundred hours in the classroom cannot achieve.

A competition of this calibre is also a wonderful learning experience for the officials. Certainly for Mr. Tsuda and I, umpiring and judging for such an international competition added a new much needed dimension to our training. It also proved to us how fluent we are in this international “language” that is Taekwon-Do. We worked with officials from Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, and Malaysia seamlessly and with harmony. We shared not just a common language, but a sense of duty, commitment, and responsibility that forged a different kind of bond based on mutual respect and courtesy. Integrity was our common currency and it was non-negotiable. This is a lot of fancy words, but the bottom line is: it just felt good working with people who wanted to officiate over a fair competition and without hiccups.

Last but not the least, I would like to congratulate Mr. Justin Gan and his Organizing Committee on the wonderful job they did in running the event smoothly and without any serious injuries or accidents. Mr. Shaun Chua’s leadership among the officials was exemplary and whatever issues we had were resolved quickly and without any major material impact on the competition.

We at ITF Hyogo JAPAN look forward to the next competition and hope to bring more of our members in the future!

Write up by Jules Takagishi, III dan, ITF Hyogo JAPAN