About Me

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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

22 May, 2011

US Poomsae Team Trials, Part 3

Well, it's over and it didn't turn out how I thought or hoped it would. As I've said in previous posts, naturallly, I'd hoped I would win and be on the way to Russia for The World Championships in July. Really, though, I knew that wasn't likely going to happen. This was team trials after all and all of the competition is tough.

It was great to watch and see all of the current US team members perform. The current A Team guy in division went before me and I was second. He was so much better to watch in person than in a YouTube video but, in my humble opinion, I think the guy who came in third (there are two thirds so I mean the guy who came in first third and not second third) should've won the whole thing. He, I think, is already on the US B Team. Anyway, it was a fantastic learning experience and something I'll never forget being a part of. Who knows? I could be back next year. In the meantime, there is the World Master/Instructor Training Course and Special Black Belt Promotion coming up in June, given by the Kukkiwon and USA Taekwondo, and US Nationals in July.

I'm going to have a lot to work to do for Nationals if I'm going to do better than I did today. Like I said in my previous post, I've been struggling with Pyong Won but I didn't think as much as the judges thought. I had a lot more power and nicer kicks than four or five of the other contestants but they scored higher than I did. I had all of the proper elements at the proper times in the form but I guess I wasn't precise in anything (foot placement, elbow placement, hand placement, etc) because I got 0.43 for my Accuracy score. 0.43! I guess with top level competition a codification of the forms had to be done but they've become so mechanical that the art side of martial arts is being neglected. Yes, this is sport poomsae and it's called that. Yes, I do tend to do all of my forms with a non-sport precision but I've been woorking on the sport stuff and have a lot more work to do but 0.43! Like I said, I had all of the proper elements at the proper places. I guess my hand may have been at eyebrow height when it should've been at eyelid height and my low knifehand block was too high above my knee. I don't know. Yes, I'll admit it, there's a little bit of sour grapes here but 0.43! I expected to lose and not do well and it's not my ego that's brusied. It's my pride.  Well, like I said, I've got a lot to do for Nationals.

For everyone - my wife and son, my friends, my colleagues, my students at school and my students in the dojang - who has supported me in this endeavour I thank you. I apologise for not doing you honour by performing better. I will seek to do better in July.

21 May, 2011

USA Poomsae Team Trials, part 2

Well, it's really happening. Well, not yet but the drive to the tryout is here.

I say "not yet" because today was spent at Niagara Falls, including a nervewracking misturn into Canada and the mental stress that came with not having out passports, not having my wife's Green Card and not having a copy our son's birth certificate. All of the immigration and customs people, both Canadian and American, were all very kind and helpful. I guess, from now on, whenever we travel we'll take all of our pertinent travel documents. In hindsight, my wife mentioned to bring them before we left New Jersey but I didn't grab them. I wish I had because then we could've had a fantastic Chinese lunch in Toronto cooked by all those fabulous chefs I'd tasted in Hong Kong growing up but who have migrated to Canada.

Anyway, back to the team trials. Our drive up Friday was loooooong. Estimated by Mapquest as a 6 hour and 37 minute trip, it ended up to be a 7 hours what with a lunch stop, a gas stop and bathroom stops. Instead of going to the hotel first, we went to the convention centre since I had to attend a meeting at 6pm for all team trials contestants. It turned out to be a short meeting going over the rules and procedures. Honestly, I was a little surprised - considering how organised everything else has been - that the meeting seemed not to have a clear agenda. Furthermore, some of the existing team members seemed to take over the meeting and, with no disrespect intended towards them, it felt very unwelcoming for newbies like me. The head ref who was at the meeting even said something like "You've all been here before so you know the rules." Well, not all of us have been here before. Instantly, I felt that my honest and fair chances to making the team flew out the window. I mean, I probably don't stand a chance anyway but I'd like to, at least, feel like I'm not in the middle of an 'old boys' club.

I did learn, though, that because of the number of contestants in my division - twelve - we will be starting in the semifinal round. Good: I can say I got to the semis at team trials. Haha. Bad: this means we start with the Pyong Won form. I've loved this form since I first learnt it in 1993 but I've been struggling with it. My last two practices - today included -  went well with my Pyong Won so things might be looking up. I did, though, want to start in the preliminary round to do Keumkang. Of late, my Keumkang has been feeling pretty good. I think I'd have qualified to the semis and it would have been a good way to help focus, loosen up and really get into the mindsight of the event.  Either way, it'll all play out tomorrow. Naturally, I'd love to win and get to compete at the World Championships but, being this is my first time going through all of this, I'll be (a) happpy with competing well,  (b) satisfied with getting into the final round and (c) overjoyed placing no worse than fourth if I don't win. Haha. Well, like I said, it'll all play out tomorrow. Good luck to everyone and good health too.

As for today, other than our exciting non-entry into Canada, we went to Niagara Fallls State Park and saw the "big water" as my son called it. We looked at it from the park, we went to the upper observation deck, we went to the lower deck and we climbed the stairs along the edge of the rock face that water falls on. In a word Niagara Falls is awesome. I've never felt more intimidated, small and humble in my life. (Well, other than the 1995 mass at the Meadowlands given by the late Pope John Paul II. We were in a long drought. When he prayed for relief during the General Intercessions, instantly, the clouds opened and we were hit with a deluge. Talk about humbling. Talk about faith.)

Jude loved The Falls too. He couldn't get enough and loved the sprary of mist hitting his face. When he's older, we'll come back and ride the boat. And, perhaps, take a trip to Canada for real for that Chinese meal.  This was my first time at The Falls, too. My wife had been there on the Canadian side when she was tourirng with the Philippine Ballet Theatre. So, not only did this really feel like a mini vacation, it was extra special because my wife was taking me somewhere in America that I hadn't visited and she had. This was fun.

Well, we're all pooped. We just ordered room service, which is a nice way to end the day. We're relaxing in our room, watching some fun movies and going to have a nice meal before tomorrow's excitement. Oh, and this is also Jude's first time staying in a hotel so this trip is full of firsts and fun.

As for the world coming to an end today, I think we missed the boat there. Although, Buffalo is a bit of a ghost town. Is it always like this? Is it always like this this time of the year? But, Buffalo, its quaintness and quiet is a topic for a future blog.

Enjoy your night everyone. Good rest and good luck to all team trials contestants.

19 May, 2011

USA Poomsae Team Trials, part I

The team trials for the USA Poomsaea (forms) team is this coming weekend and I'm competing in my division - 1st Male Masters, for black belts aged 41-50. A little unnervingly, I've been feeling very relaxed about the whole thing the last few weeks. Maybe it's because it's, basically, here. Who knows? I might be a mess the day of the event and not get any sleep the night before. To make things more interesting, I haven't trained as much the last two weeks either. First, there was my hamstring pull when I last trained with Master Levy. Then, time and other things (work, my wife's work, not being to to get or afford to get a babysitter at particular time) got in the way.

I don't know. Maybe I've really manage to harness a "who care, whatever happens happens" mentality that's going to serve me well. Or, I reallly feel like I don't have a shot of winning and making the US team that I've just decided to say "Oh well" and throw my hands up in the there. I'll admit that some of that has come to the fore. Training's been difficult. Discounting my hamstring pull, I've been learning and practising the forms I might have to do one way with Master Levy, another way with some of the masters at New Jersey-USA Taekwondo and, yet again with slight differencs, from the textbook and DVD that's come ouf of the World Taekwondo Federation and Kukkiwon. Add to all of this - and maybe it's a case of paralysis by analysis - my sidekick has gone the way of Elvis and left the building. I've never had a good forms sidekick but, now, it's seemed tohave vanished altogether. Plus, I've been thinking a lot more about my novel and the agents who have it, or parts of it, and haven't gotten back to me yet. Through all of this, however, I've managed to compartmentalise everything and maintaina very relaxed demeanour about the team trials.

That is, until last Tuesday at around 4pm. I'd come out of a doctor's appointment when I the alert that an email had come in on my iPhone. I checked the email and it was from USA Taekwondo. It was about team trials and had attachments and information about getting my credentials, the schedule of the events and it provided a list of the forms we are going to be asked to do on Sunday. If I get all the way to the final, I'm going to have to do Keumkang in the preliminary round, Pyong Won in the semifinal and Shipjin and Chonkwon in the final. I love Chonkwon and, having had to learn it (and Shipjin and Jitae) from scratch over the last couple of months I think I do it pretty well. Pyong Won, though, has a bunch of sidekicks and Shipjin has that difficult slow part where the block opens and is followed by a spearhand attack.Keumkang is the only one of those four I feel confident in. So, my calm demeanour has gone out the window along with my sidekick.

Well, on the flip side, having received the email and all of its attachments with all of their info has revved me up and made this entire thing - this Taekwondo resurgence I'm having - feel very real. If this stars are aligned properly, who knows? I could end up in Russia at the World Championships at the end of July.

I'll keep you all posted.

03 May, 2011

It's Official...Wannabe, Also Ran or Has Been?

Two weeks ago, while I was off from work and on spring break, I received an email from USA Taekwondo. USA Taekwondo (USAT) is the national governing body of sport Taekwondo in this country. It's also the official US representative of the Kukkiwon and the World Taekwondo Federation, both in South Korea.

The email I received formally and officially - and whatever else you want to say - invited me to the US Senior National Championships in San Jose, CA this July. I already knew I'd qualified when I won my division at the NJ State Championships in March and being that a couple of months had gone by I wasn't expecting to receive any kind of formal notice. Furthermore, I had to ask the NJ State Association president to contact USAT to inform them I had won my division at States so I can compete in the US Forms Team Trials later this month. As a State Champion I've qualified for that as well and while I don't count my chances of making the team as being very high I do want to experience the trials and everything else I can for me and my family, especially my son.

So, when I opened the email and read it, I couldn't help from feeling "Hey cool. This is really cool" and "Wow! This is for real." It reminded me of movies like "Running" with Michael Douglass and "Best of the Best" when Master Phillip Rhee's character open his invitation letter and reads it, fist pumping with excitement.

Because of all of this, however, I've been wondering what am I. Let me say, first, that I know it doesn't matter. And it doesn't. Whatever happens, I'm still me and a martial artist. Whether I win or lose, perform well or make a fool of myself, I'll be be me and a fourth degree. But, still, I've been wondering. When it's all over, will I be a wannabe? Will I be an also ran? A has been? Or something else? Haha.  I guess I'm really wondering, what are the common definitions of these phrases. I have an idea but I'm wondering what everyone else thinks.

Regardless of what the commonly accepted definitions are, I got an official invitation from a national governing sports body and that's pretty damn cool.

Karma...or something like it

I've been super busy and with that has come a lot of stress. With the stress has come a lot of inwardly lousy days. In fact, I've used 'shitty' and 'crappy' to describe how things have been lately. And, I'm not boohooing because we all have periods like this. But, when we do, sometimes it's good to vent and sometimes little things happen that remind you that there is such a thing as karma; a reminder that when there's an uphill there's a downhill on the other side.

While the training itself has been going well, I've been stressing about all of my Taekwondo developments. The classes are going well but I wish we could get more students. My preparations from US Team Trials and Nationals are going well but they could be going better and there is also some large financial expenses that's going to come with them. Honestly, I don't know if I can pursue because of the costs.

And then there's my son. He and I were at the store today to buy a gift for a friend from day care. It's the friend's birthday party this coming weekend and Jude and I went to the store to get him something. Jude understood that we were going to get something for the friend and not him but when we got him Jude asked about the gift. When I put it away and reminded him that it's for his friend, he said it too but I could see there was a certain amount of confusion and sadness on his face. It broke my heart. I don't want my son to be a spoilt kid but, at the same time, I wish I could get him everything he needs and wants. To make it more heart-wrenching, the gift is a Thomas The Train Engine thing - Jude's favourite.

Add into the mix that a friend from work brought to my attention that someone was selling online wooden Thomas train set pieces for US$50. Jude has a started set, made also from wood, and I wanted to get that $50 set for him so he can build bigger train tracks and have more engines to play on it. Getting closer to the summer, I hesitated in buying the set because of money concerns. So, to see the look on my son's face, what I felt was more painful than any sidekick I've ever taken in my almost twenty-six years as a martial artist. It was even more painful than the one time I was knocked out in competition.

Well, here's the positive part. Shortly, after putting the gift and the other groceries away, I stepped outside to collect the mail. A neighbour came walking up carrying a large zip lock bag. She offered me the bag, saying that she was gathering things for a 'slightly used sale the local middle school is going to have and before she gave the stuff in the bag to the school she decided to see if Jude wanted them. You see, her son used to love them and seeing how much her own son enjoyed them she took a chance to see if Jude would. What was in the bag? Thomas The Train Engine pieces!  There weren't any track pieces for Jude to add to his own set but there were other engines, a crane piece with a magnet and some wooden trees and other decorative bits to put around the track.

This entire post might corny and, as a story, predictable but it's all true. And, while I'm still feeling tired and going through a down and overwhelmed period, my spirits were lifted having been reminded that good things do happen. It's just that sometimes they don't happen on our time but they do happen.

Well, thanks for listening everyone. I hope you have your own karmic positives and that you have lots and lots of them.