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How I won a Taekwondo competition

My heart rate went up a bit when I walked into a tournament hall in Phoenix. Excitement was in the air, and smiling faces dotted the floor.

Participants in their black, red and white uniforms were preparing to compete. Some were launching 360-degree kicks in the air, some were practicing forms.

In the stands, friends and family cheered their favorite participant to win.

I felt unprepared as I had not practiced in days. It was a state-level tournament, and I had only competed at local and school competitions. I was prepared to raise the level of competition.

In Phoenix, I was moving to the competition big leagues, competing at a state-level competition. As I prepared, Master Rebecca Peacock monitored my progress and raised my level of Tae Kwon Do practice and conditioning.

Here was my stretching routine:

-- Getting a minimum of 10,000 steps everyday through walking or running.

-- 30 planks

-- 30 squats

-- 30 lower trunk rotations

-- 30 dead bugs

-- 30 open books

-- and generic stretching.

I was planning to compete in sparring, forms and board breaking. I repeated two forms everyday -- one black belt form and a color belt form -- in slow motion and then in normal speed.

Scoring in forms competition involves doing the form correctly, but also presentation points. For example, bringing some style to your form by shoulder and hip movement adds swagger to the presentation, but also the correct transfer of energy.

The sparring practice involved 45 minutes of fine-tuning my forms, pad work, and kicking and punching on the Bob dummy. I did breaking practice every two days, knocking down 7 stacked rebreakable boards. Master Rebecca stressed on bringing my body to ease and releasing a jolt of energy while exhaling and striking the board with full force.

Somewhere at the back of my mind, the pride and reputation of our school, PureDefense, was also at stake. I wanted to do my best to represent you, the students, and what you are learning here. We are ever thankful for your support.

But as I traveled to Phoenix, I missed four days of practice. So I opted not to compete in forms, but went ahead with forms and breaking, where I felt more comfortable.

I entered the competition hall in my red uniform and black belt, with the PureDefense emblazoned in Japanese and Koreanon each side. But I didn't forget that PureDefense represents American martial arts.

As a 6th degree black belt, I was expecting a heavy level of competition, but there wasn't much at the high-level black belt level. I won a fight with a 5th degree black belt in the first round, and defeated a 6th degree black belt in the final.

The sparring competition was very different than those blood-thirsty UFC fights you see on TV. We typically try to competely avoid hitting each other, and pull a punch back if it is obvious it would hit an opponent. Judges see that and score points. The goal is not to injure an opponent. I did get a few kicks into my competitors, but overall, it was a fun atmosphere.

I also won the breaking competition with a break of 7 stacked boards. I was confident about winning that because of the technique Master Rebecca taught me.

I compete to have fun, not to win. You put your skills to the test, you meet great people and make lifetime friends, and learn from others competing. I want to thank you, the students, and Master Peacock for the support.

If you have questions about competing or would like to improve your technique, feel free to ask me or Master Rebecca. We want to help you reach your fitness and martial arts goals.

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