Last night I attended the competition class. It’s where the members of the club who want to enter competitions and tournament gear up and practice whooping each other. It’s much more intensive because it doesn’t concern itself with basics (out of the 17 attending, 15 of them were black belts so all the exercises were on the top end of the scale) and focuses entirely on scoring (and preventing being scored on) in a tournament. Aside from being physically draining (my knees gave way after forty minutes- I’m just not used to the intensity of the exercises), I found for the first time that I was not amongst the best when I walked into a room of martial artists. In fact, I was the worst (save for the 14-year-olds and unders). By quite a margin, too. You know how I was talking about the millimeters which divide a hit from a miss? In TKD competitions, opportunities are marked by milliseconds. Your opponent tenses, s/he’s either feinting or about to attack. You read into the smallest signs your opponents sends and you use those microexpressions to find an opportunity where you might just be able to get one in before your opponent recovers. All the battles are decided on those milliseconds.
While about 35% of the class were good people (Patrick, for example, was patient with me as I tried to keep up, and Jason was trying to teach Victor to take advantage of openings), the remaining 65% (as far as I could see) were completely up themselves. Even the trainers, Master Ross and Master Graeme (though I’ll never,
ever call him that) were arrogant. They made fun of those who were not
on the state team, basically. Those who had less skill, the weaklings
of the group. Graeme told Jessica not to smile or else he’d kick her
teeth out. Ross told everyone to go easy on me because I was crazy.
Instructors who breed that kind of malice within their own ranks
disgust and hurt me. Furthermore, Oh Do Kwan is the most successful Taekwondo club in Western Australia, and most of the champions train at the Maddington branch. So essentially, we had most of the state champions training in the room, and they were all out to beat everyone else. I’m probably generalising, but they were impatient, arrogant and focused solely on dominating worthy opponents (i.e. each other).
And who wants to be that kind of person? Not me. So while I amongst the best in a normal Taekwondo class, when it comes to competition, the bar is raised well and truly above my head. And to meet it, I’ll need to train for months or years to develop reflexes slightly faster than the ones I have now so I might attack that split second earlier and get away with it. But to do so, I’ll need to devote myself to beating or matching the champions of Western Australia. And it’s just not worth it. I don’t want to spend the next few years of my life striving to become like them so I might be the tiniest bit faster at kicking.
No, my friends, it’s time I leave Taekwondo. I’ll finish this month’s membership and continues tournament training to see if my initial impression is wrong (which, as psychology taught me, it usually isn’t). After that I’ll settle into Curtin’s Karate club for a while and see how it suits me. I’m strongly put off dominating others, but Sensei Ho is a great man and I have much to learn from him. However, I do not believe Karate is all there is for me. It has weaknesses that I want to cover. But rather than learning a bunch of martial arts to cover the others’ weaknesses, I’d rather learn one good one. As far as I can tell, there are only three which are nigh on flawless if practiced well. Firstly there is Cobra Martial Arts Club in Cannington. The instructor there learned Muay Thai, Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing and combined the best of each to make a great self-defence course. It sounds good, although I am wary of any club which has a picture of a smiling family wearing uniforms on the front of the building. Secondly, there is Jeet Kune Do (although I don’t know enough about it to pursue it at the moment). Bruce Lee would have covered all the angles, I’m sure, and of course if anyone could ever fight like him, they’d be unbeatable. Thirdly there is ninjukai taijutsu, the ninja’s art of hand-to-hand combat. Lethal and very intense, a practitioner of ninjukai might never come up against an opponent of equal skill within his or her lifetime. But I’m not sure I want to become Musashi just yet.
So that’s an update on the martial arts side of my life. Which, admittedly, is huge. I realised last night that pretty much everything I love (besides Bethwyn) is based on some form of fighting. I can’t imagine that’s going to end well for me…