Sunday, April 23, 2006

My first regional tournament is complete, and I actually did well working against a few obstacles of sorts. I'm writing this the day after the tournament, as I got home late last night, and then wrote in my regular journal first about the bad GNO I had first. I looked up some information last night on the ATA website to see more information about my competition from yesterday, and when put in perspective, I actually didn't do badly for a first time out.

Let me backtrack first to Friday night. Bad GNO, and somehow during things-- I don't know what it was exactly, but I might have been a little tense, and then helping throw a log on the fire in the fireplace, I threw out my back. VERY BADLY. To the point that even sitting instead of standing didn't help. I could barely move. I couldn't twist in any slight direction, and it's super painful. Great, just what I need the night before a tournament. After the GNO, I did get the hosts to help me clean up and load up the car. But I didn't take any of my stuff out. Even at this writing on Sunday, it's still sitting in the car, and hasn't been touched. So, that night, I took some heating pads from JC (who is also recovering from a back injury as well), an Advil, and just slept on my back for the most part. I'm not a back sleeper either. :-S As you can imagine, I didn't sleep well, and I wanted to cry from the pain and from also being so worried about the next day, but I couldn't because I think I was just tired, and I think I was just praying to every deity out there that I'd be well enough to compete the next day.

I woke up extra early on Saturday to take a shower and get ready as best as I could, and to see if I could head over to the 24-hour CVS pharmacy before getting to the event, which was supposed to be about an hour away (I guess that early in the morning on a Saturday, it wasn't as long, but that's okay). I got replacement heating pads, had the Motrin with me, and asked the pharmacist which of the topical analgesics worked best for my situation, and she felt that the extra strength Ben Gay was better than the Mineral Ice or other brands, and even pointed me to the CVS brand of it, so I picked that up as well, a box of Atkins breakfast bars, a bottle of fruit flavored water, and I was on my way. There I was in the parking lot of the CVS, hiking up my shirt to put on the Ben Gay as best as I could, and figured I'd put the heating pads on when I got to the event. The Ben Gay actually did help quite a bit, surprisingly enough. At least it made it almost tolerable.

I got to Brookdale Community College, site of the regional tournament. It was pouring rain all day, and since I hadn't gotten there early, I had to park a little ways out, but it wasn't too bad. At least under normal circumstances, but I still had to carry my gear bag. Fortunately that's more bulky that heavy. So, I lugged my gear bag into the venue. It was just a small arena style gym, but I think seeing so many people wearing white martial arts uniforms was a little intimidating. It was a little overwhelming. I looked for people I knew, and saw Victoria and Nikki first, and asked if they were sitting together or not, and they said everyone just sat randomly, so that's what I did. I found a spot in the bleachers (bleeh), and then Nancy found me, and I got a chance to tell her what was going on. She encouraged me just to do my best, and not to worry about placing and just take in the whole experience of my first tournament and such. It was another one of those situations where I felt like, "Damn, what'd I get myself into?"I put on my new Leadership uniform (the pants fit much better, and the jacket is lettered with my name, which is cool, so I kinda felt important, even if I was in pain. It was especially intimidating once they did the opening ceremonies, and the Grandmaster and other dignitaries came in. Not that I was in awe or anything. One thing I've learned over time, or gotten over, is that everyone is just human, and unless you've performed something or done something that is truly amazing, I don't go that ga-ga over "celebrities" as much as I used to. OK, so for Paul McCartney, I cry everytime I've seen him on stage, but he's a musical genius. But anyway, I digress. I wasn't going ga-ga over the Grandmaster or the various Masters who were attending, but naturally I would give them the respect that they were due. (Heck, if the Grandmaster is a 9th degree black belt, and the rest of them were 7th degrees and up, and I know how hard it is still not even halfway to my 1st degree black belt, then heck, that does command some respect, darn it.) So, after we all were dismissed from opening ceremonies, I went to sit on the bleachers for a little bit. I tried putting on the heating pads, but ended up leaving to visit the ladies room to better put on one of them. And yes, I wore two back heating pads pretty much all day.

By the time opening ceremonies were done, it was after 9 AM, and I didn't have to compete until around 3 PM. So, obviously, I had time to kill. Since I didn't have much time the night before due to the pain, and similarly I didn't have a lot of time to gather things in the morning, I didn't have much to do. I had wanted to bring my knitting (even saw at least 2 or 3 moms with their knitting, and I was wishing it was me), but I just didn't have time to fuss with that. The one thing I did do was recharge my Zen MP3 player, so I could listen to music. That ended up being a good thing. I could listen to some music and get pumped up. So, since there was a sort of running track on the upper level, I just walked around in circles and listened to music, sometimes stopping to watch the kids (mostly all the Tiny Tigers of various ages went first, and there was a lot of them). There were some kid black belts going too. I did that for a really long time. When it was getting close to lunch time, I went back to my gear bag to get my wallet, down two more Motrin, and I watch some of the little boys XMA stuff. XMA is eXtreme Martial Arts, which is pretty much the more gymnastic/dance/TKD stuff. I was watching some kids who were pretty small, and they were going at it, and man, they were good! Part of me said because it's all about moving fast and getting lots of moves in, and tumbling, etc., I could see Drew really getting into that and enjoying it because it was all about moving constantly. So that was fun to watch. Anyhow, took my meds, and went off and got some slices of pizza. When I went to throw out my plate, I found Emily and Penelope, the two special abilities adults (both are in wheelchairs and/or walkers-- Em has CP, but I don't know the reason that Penna is in hers), and we sat and chatted for a while. It was interesting to talk to them. I'm kinda buddies with Em anyway. Em is actually the Special Abilities Women's World Champion, which is cool, but she's incredibly immature for her age. Penna just got started, and she's a college student at Bryn Mawr (so she's actually very smart), and she definitely spoke much more intelligently and maturely. Evidentally, due to their disabilities, both of them had done a lot of research into TKD and who to go to, and the long and the short of it is that the foremost expert in teaching TKD to special abilities kids is actually Ms. Winter-- our "Ma'am". It's not surprising really, as she is very good at what she does, but it's definitely encouraging. As I work with some of the special abilities kids, I find that I like working with them, and I would like to help with those classes, so if I can truly mentor and learn how to adapt forms as well as Ma'am, I might be able to fill a special niche that she does too, that we can become even moreso the premier TKD school for SpEd kids. That would be cool. But again, I digress with the pipe dreams.

I still had several hours to kill, and now and then I practiced my form in a corner, but I didn't want to overdue it for fear of psyching myself too much or anything like that. I knew nerves would get in the way, no matter what, so if I just concentrated on it too much, it'd mess with my head. Eventually, I did sit and watch again for a while, watching the older kids and seeing how the sparring rounds worked. It was different than what we do in our school, insofar as you battle for a few moments until there's a point, and then you break, and then go at it again, until one person or the other has 5 points, and they win the round, and then progress with the others in the group until there's a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Man, if we did it like that all the time, I'd be better in sparring and not nearly passing out! So, at almost 3 PM, the announcement came over the loudspeakers for adult color belts camo and up to come to the front for ring assignments. They lumped all the color belt women 30-39 together, and there was 8 of us altogether. Crap, I was hoping there wouldn't be many people, and that would help my chances. But I also remembered that there were people here from other states, and several of them from my group were not local, so I was relieved a little from that.

So we were assigned our ring and off we went. There were two other green belts other than myself, and all the rest were brown or red or black-belt recommended. Yikes. Each of us did our forms. I was watching carefully, and for the most part, not surprisingly, my competition was excellent. Oh boy. So, we did it in three rounds, where first we did forms, then weapons, then sparring just like at our school. So my turn came up for my form. I was nervous as all get out, as the butterflies started an hour before. The ladies in my group, while seemingly very skilled, were all very nice and friendly, and very encouraging when they heard this was my first regional competition. When my turn came, I got to my spot and did the double punches we do at my school, in which the center judge looked at me like I was crazy. I guess that's a Tiny Tiger thing, I dunno. :-S I yelled out my "joon-be" and my "ai-yahs" pretty loud, so that was good, I'm sure. So, there I went, into my form. I choked almost immediately. I tried to take a deep breath before I started. But I took my time, and I did get through the whole thing, even though I stopped at some points. The other ladies would cheer words of encouragement when I got stuck, but it was distracting and I wanted to stop and say, "Shut up!" but I needed to concentrate more. I got through, and scored decently. In forms, 4 of us tied-- 2 with one score, and myself and another with the 2nd score. So, I was tied for 3rd. I would've been happy with that, but no, they had to have a tie-breaker, or a "form-off" as I was calling it (I watch too much Project Runway and was thinking a walk-off a la forms style.). The second time, I went through it more quickly and a little bit more confidently, because I had gotten that far, but in retrospect, when rushing, I didn't pay as close attention to the details as I should have. The other gal who competed against me was also a green belt, but she had an easier form to do than me, and to be honest, after watching a lot of people that day, I didn't feel she had done that great of a job. I felt like just for doing a harder form that I should have gotten more credit, but in the end, she got the win. So, I guess I got 4th, but they didn't give anything out for 4th in that case. So that was disappointing.

Next was weapons. Only 4 of us were competing, and interestingly enough, each of us did a different weapon. From my understanding that I got later, until you are a black belt, you can compete with whatever weapons you want. Sweet. So, I did my routine with the bahng-mah-ee (aka "the stick"), which I had changed up at the end to add, as Ma'am always encourages, my own "flourish". I think it helped. I had done 9/10th of that routine so many times in the last 2 cycles that I knew I had THAT down. At the end, I threw in a down swipe, another helicopter move, a side kick with a big "ai-yah" and the #10 move, which is the skewer down the middle, and it ended up about an inch from the center judges chest! Well, that must have made an impression. I forget who got 1st and 2nd in weapons, although one of them had been doing something with ssang-jeh-bang (numchucks), but she ended with a split at the end! DAMN! Even if my back wasn't hurting, I couldn't have done that! However, I did manage to get 3rd place for that.

Lastly, we had sparring, which I know is always my downfall. I was eliminated in the 1st round, which was not surprising at all. The woman who is the NJ state champ for my age group was there (nice lady), but she was eliminated in that first round (she was the first group to go up first round), so I didn't feel too discouraged. However, I think I didn't do too badly. The woman I went up again eventually got 3rd, so the fact that I did get some points on her was pretty good, I thought. For that, I just figured that I would just not pay attention to the score, and just keep going until they told me to stop. I did hear "point for red" (as I was the red player) now and then, but like I said, I didn't keep track. I'd be curious as to what the final score was, but in the end, it wasn't enough to win. Since the NJ state champ was the other one eliminated in the first round, I figured that she was good enough to whip my butt, so I came in last for that event, but that's no surprise. Funny enough, I know when I especially had a point against me, I kept saying "FUDGE!" (rather than another famous 4-letter word) after each bout. I think that if it hadn't been for my back, and what I see now to be my main weakness, which is speed, I could hold my own. Watching those who went through the next few rounds, MAN! Some of them really went at it, and one woman in particular was particularly brutal-- she was simply too rough that she was knocking people down! One woman was knocked so hard that she fell over a chair and a lot of people caught her before she could been more seriously hurt! You could see in Kate's eyes that she wasn't going to tolerate that! I think Kate (new friend!) won in the end, but it was truly a duel it out battle against Maria (the brute). One thing that struck me, with a lot of the sparring matches is that you are supposed to just touch lightly, not beat the hell out of someone. Thank God for protective gear! Even the young girls could get pretty rough.

So for my competition, it was over. I was awarded my 3rd place for weapons, and given a slip to bring to the trophy table. Except when I did, they said they were out of 3rd place medals (MEDALS?). How can you run out? Don't you allocate enough for each event, etc.? Geez, bad planning. So I felt a little defeated. I didn't think I had done all that well, maybe due to my back, maybe due to nerves, and while I did get something, I was still walking away empty handed. I would've liked to have brought home a trophy, for sure, even one of the little ones. Bleeh.

I finally caught up with several people from my team/school, and talked with them. Afterwards, I finally saw Ma'am and she had concerns because of transportation issues, between kids that she had brought out, and stuff that we had to bring back to the school. Since Princeton is hosting the next regional tournament in July, we had to bring a lot of the equipment used for the tournament back to Princeton for ours. I volunteered (I could've left, but didn't), and ended up helping coordinate putting the gear into the cars, with most of it going into Ma'am's truck as she has one of those big Chevy Suburbans. Some of the smaller stuff went in my car, and whatever was leftover went into Nancy's car. After waiting for Ma'am to get out of a leaders meeting (which was only for a few minutes), we all headed off to a Chinese Buffet Place in New Brunswick on Rt. 18 near Rt. 1. I ended up chatting with Victoria's mom, Victoria, Nikki, Alex V and Nina, and had a nice chat with them. I eventually was able to tell Ma'am how I did, and she seemed happy with my results. Even the kids were saying that I did pretty well for my first time out. I just took it in stride, just accepting that I didn't do as phenominally as I had hoped. Before we left the restaurant, Ma'am and I talked about arrangements for getting the stuff in my car to the school (will do it some afternoon this week), and then she reminded me, or rather asked me again if I would be willing to contribute something from my business to raffle off, and I said certainly, that was already a given since she had asked before. She then asked me if I could provide my business card, and for that matter, since she needed the help, would I be willing to put together the program for the event? I said sure, I have MS Publisher (which she was glad about, as I think she has it too), and she seemed to feel comfortable and happy delegating that task to me. So, I actually have my first tournament assignment! After seeing the tournament program guide that was done for this one just completed, I think I can do a MUCH better job for sure. So I'm a little excited about that.

When I got home, I was tired, but feeling better. The double dose of Motrin I think got me through most of the afternoon (including competition) and evening, and having a good dinner helped too. I felt restored, closer to myself again. When I got home, it was late, but Drew was not happy with me being gone for so long. I spent some time with him in his bed talking and stuff, then came back downstairs to catch up on email, post on my regular blog, etc.

I also did some extra research, since I remembered most of the names of those I was competing with. It turns out that of the 8 people there, including myself, 5 of them were top 3 (in many cases, #1!) in their states. The Brute was from VA, and three of them were from DE, and the other was the NJ state champ who is far and away the #1 pointwise. I got the impression that the other two, for whom I didn't remember their names -- or at least when looking at various state stats, the names on there didn't ring a bell-- that this was not their first regional competition, so I was the only beginner competitor there. Now I understood what the kids and Nancy and Ma'am were saying-- I actually DID do pretty well, not knowing what to expect and all. Now I know.

We have one last Interschool Tournament next week-- I'll do that. It wouldn't be worth many points, but hey, I know I'll have next to no competition in my age class. ;-) Since I got the 3rd place at the regional, I might actually end up ranking in weapons, at least, for the state, and that would still be cool. It wouldn't be as high up as I like (I cannot possibly catch up to Debbie, the state champ), but hey, it's a start. It's the end of the tournament season, so at least I'll have something to start with. And the next regional tournament is on my own turf, in Princeton/Montgomery, so that will help. And I know what to expect now. I have to talk to Ma'am about figuring out not only how to do something for my next form and doing that well, but also perhaps picking up a new weapons (or really jazzing up my Bahng-mah-ee), and gaining more speed with my sparring skills. I can kick and punch with decent accuracy, but I'm not fast enough, and without that speed, I don't have power, and points are earned off me, instead of me earning the points. I've got to figure that part out, and I'm sure Ma'am will have suggestions.

But first, I need to get some more Motrin and Ben Gay-- oy, my back still hurts!


John Vesia said...

Congratulations on your tournament placings. Martial art competitions provide good experience (along with teaching). I wasn't aware weapons were taught in TKD. You learn something new everyday.

Windsornot said...

Yes, they are. They are all mostly rubberized things, but the first 3 include numchucks (Ssang-jeh-bahng), "the stick" (Bahng-mah-ee), and bo staff. There are also a bunch of others, but being that I'm still a green belt, I don't know all the names of them. I know that there is a lot of doubling up with the ssang-jeh-bahng and the bahng-mah-ee, but I'm far from there yet. I'm still figuring out the basics of a single ssang-jeh-bahng!