So my first taekwondo tournament experience is in the books.  Overall, it was a great learning experience, both in Poomsae and Olympic Sparring competition.  I placed 2nd in my division (18-32 yrs, intermediate belt) in Olympic Sparring, and did not place in forms, although according to some friends from my school who were watching the scoring, I came in a close fourth.  I was for the most part happy with my performance, as it was both my first time in competition, and I was also the oldest competitor in my events (more relevant perhaps in sparring), as I’m right at the tail end of the cutoff age for the division (32).  In my next tournament (right now I’m aiming for the TTF Champions Tournament in October, I’ll be competing in a higher age group against older competition (33-40 yrs).  I feel like I had pretty good conditioning even compared to the young guys in my division this time around, so I should definitely be able to retain this edge going into the next tournament.  Power, as usual, should be no problem.

The one area in which I clearly need improvement is, fortunately, the easiest in which to gain it.  My lack of tournament experience, situational drills, and instinctual memory was what lost me the match in the final round this time.  This, of course, can be frustrating.  I had an edge in both conditioning and power over my opponent in the first place match (our speed was about the same), but he was able to read my strategy and shift his defense in such a way that his counters were more effective at creating visible contact.  I was definitely the more aggressive fighter, but I fell into a predictable pattern and failed to mix things up in the way I’d planned earlier.  I think part of the reason for this is that combinations, fighting styles, etc. need to be drilled and constantly practiced until they become instinctual, second nature.  Thinking and strategizing goes out the window for the most part once one begins a match, and you have to rely mainly on your muscle memory.  I found that even though I’d trained various combinations, evasions, and styles, I tended to stick to my bread and butter moves (roundhouses, crescents, and a few reverse sides), and my evasion wasn’t as good as usual.  Part of the reason for my shift in focus, I think, was because of the nature of the opponents I faced.  In both matches, I was the aggressor and initiated contact, as part of my strategy of wearing down the opponent, forcing them to move, defend, and counter, then moving in to score once they became exhausted.  The plan was to out-condition my opponents.  This was very effective in the first match, not so much in the second.  While I felt I was able to out-condition my opponent in the second match as well, his defense was good enough to keep me from scoring inside, and he had all the opportunity to counter because I was the one initiating contact every single time.

In Poomsae competition, I performed Taegeuk Sam Jang, and was surprisingly successful (I think) at expressing what I intended to (as I discussed in my last post), but fell just short of placing.  There were definitely some excellent competitors in forms competition.  I feel that I have much more work to do to be competitive with the top performers in forms competition, while in Olympic Sparring I’m pretty much there (able to hold my own with the top competitors) and I need mainly to focus on some situational and tactical issues, as well as gaining more experience through sparring.  For my next tournament, I will focus on these, and I’m confident I could take first place in my division in Olympic Sparring (33-40 yrs. advanced belt).

All in all, though, 2nd place in Olympic Sparring in my first tournament isn’t bad, and 4th in forms (given the quality of the competition) is also a good sign!  I’m already excited about the next tournament!