My First Tang Soo Do Regional Tournament: A Journey of Challenges and Triumphs

Six months into my Tang Soo Do practice, a new adventure beckoned, a regional tournament in Gainesville, GA. This was my inaugural tournament experience, and given my orange belt status (8th GUP), I couldn’t shake the nerves that came with the unknown. My dojang held organized preparatory classes for the event, and my rank limited me to Forms and Sparring. The form, Sae Ky Hyung E Bu, was familiar from the previous testing cycle. However, the prospect of sparring raised uncertainties.

Talking to fellow adults in my rank who were also attending, I saw this as a chance for a fun learning experience. My goal wasn’t winning, but rather gaining insights and growing as a future black belt. My children didn’t share my enthusiasm, so I embarked on this journey solo.

Gainesville, nestled in North Georgia, treated me to scenic mountain views as I journeyed there in April. Taking time off work, my focus was solely on the tournament, although the area’s charm tempted me for a family visit in the future.

Checking into my hotel on Friday evening, I was pleasantly surprised by a goody bag from the dojo’s parents club, snacks and water to sustain us on tournament day. An early night was in order, given the impending early start.

Saturday morning arrived, my nerves amplified to the point where eating felt impossible. Arriving at a spacious recreation center with a grand indoor basketball court, I checked in and joined the group from my dojang. With 77 participants, we boasted the largest representation. The court was divided into 8 sections, each with its panel of judges. Divisions were based on age and belt rank, placing me in the “Senior” division. Since I was the only orange belt attending at my age, I was placed with the higher ranks.

As the lowest belt, surrounded by red, blue, and brown ranks, the disparity in experience was clear. Nevertheless, I understood the hierarchy. The tournament commenced with Grandmaster Strong’s words of wisdom, followed by the black belts’ exhibitions. Observing their prowess prepared me for what lay ahead.

Transitioning to GUP divisions, I continued to cheer on and photograph my dojang peers in action. Even the youngest participants in the Tiny Tiger division impressed, their fearlessness admirable. Serendipitously, I crossed paths with Grandmaster Strong, who kindly signed my dobok and WTSDA Manual. His encouragement resonated deeply.

When my division was finally called, camaraderie shone among opponents. As the lowest-ranked, I was guided through the proceedings. Their forms were more intricate and visually striking than mine. My turn arrived, and I executed Sae Ky Hyung E Bu confidently, addressing the judges, breathing deeply, and stepping into my form. The slight balance issues went unnoticed, and I concluded with optimism, awaiting my score.

It was a whirlwind as the judges revealed scores. Though the specifics eluded me, my satisfaction with the outcome was evident. Sparring proved a challenge, particularly against taller opponents. While I managed to win two rounds, a younger persons adept round kicks outmaneuvered me in the last match. I lost but not without learning valuable lessons.

The winners were announced, and to my surprise, my name was called. Placing third in forms and second in sparring validated my journey. Doubts about my abilities, especially at my age, were replaced by determination. This achievement, as an orange belt amongst higher ranks, boosted my self-assurance.

The tournament was a mix of camaraderie, tradition, and newfound friendships. Though not as young or agile as before, my journey was far from over. This experience fueled my commitment to training, enhancing my physical fitness and overall health. With a heart brimming with motivation, I eagerly await the next tournament, an opportunity to further evolve and embrace the journey ahead.

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