Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oct. 20th New England Taekwondo Championship

If you're a Taekwondo senior and live within striking distance of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, now's the time to sign up for the 20th Annual New England Open Taekwondo Championship.  The event is being hosted by Kwon's Taekwondo, which has two schools in the area, and the tournament's chairman is Grandmaster Young A. Kwon.
   The tournament's events include forms, sparring, breaking, and power breaking -- in other words, something for everyone.  And the great news is that the top age division is 53+.  Since many tournaments list a top age group of only 35 or 40, I think it's important for us seniors to support events that recognize that 55 or 60 isn't 35.  At 66 I don't mind competing in forms against someone who's as young as 53 -- and I'll definitely be competing at Grandmaster Kwon's tournament -- but I'm not interested in competing against 35-year-olds.  Yes, the rumor is true: flexibility doesn't improve with age.  So my high kicks aren't quite as high as they were 30 years ago.  I definitely need the "old guy" division.
   If you can make your way to Tewksbury, MA, you're welcome to participate in this major Taekwondo tournament.  You don't need to be a Massachusetts resident, and you can hold any Taekwondo rank whatsoever.  Each area of competition offers both age and rank divisions.  Although the top age group is 53+, some of this blog's readers may fit into the 43-52 age group.  Either way, it's time to get out there, make some new friends, and challenge yourself in a way that only a tournament can do.
   You can pre-register [and save money] or register on the day of the tournament.  For all the facts, all you need to do is click over to, where you'll find a registration form, fee schedule, and other useful tournament information.
   Ready to compete?  Then sign up today.  But if you're still thinking about learning Taekwondo or perhaps "unretiring" after a long layoff, then just come out to watch the tournament.  For a small admission fee you'll enjoy hours of competition featuring students ranging in age from under 5 to . . . well, at least 66. 
   Hope to see you on October 20th!  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where are you?

Yesterday I competed in an important New Jersey martial-arts tournament [sponsored by UMARA, the United Martial Arts Referees Association] and was pleased to take home a silver medal for empty hand forms.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that I competed in the 50+ category, which meant that I was giving away as much as 66 years to those who were actually 50.  I was, in fact, the only 60+ competitor who showed up. 
    Instant replay: last March in a large Mercer County, NJ, tournament held at Rider University I was also the only 60+ competitor, so I had to drop down to the 50+ division.  Now a question: given the size of this state, and the likelihood that there are hundreds of 60-something black belts around, why are they not entering competitions?
    Let me say something else about the two recent tournaments.  In both cases I met competitors who were there for the same reason I was: to stay in shape, to challenge themselves, and to honor the commitment that they had made many years ago to their martial art.  I made new friends and experienced the joy of competing with like-minded folks who cared more about the camaraderie -- the spirit, if you will -- of the martial arts than about whether or not they carried home a trophy.
    Here's why I'm writing today.  If more 60+ martial artists don't get in the game, we'll all be out of the game soon.  Did you know that many tournaments now have a top "old guys" division of 35+?  Seriously.  Try giving up 31 years in competition.  Not fun.  Look, I'm not competing because I expect a medal every time out, but it would be nice to be reasonably competitive.  And it's tough to be seriously competitive when you're required to give up 25 or 30 years because of the tournament rules.
   Okay, so what to do?  If you're a New Jersey black belt in any style [or a black belt anywhere in America, for that matter], get back in the game.  Search the Internet for tournaments.  A great place for you to begin your search is  See what's available near you.  Then speak with the tournament director to ask whether there's a 60+ division.  If not, suggest that he or she add one. 
    If I were a tournament director and couldn't find 60+ competitors, I wouldn't bother offering a 60+ division.  What's not to understand?  But if 60+ martial artists are willing to compete, I'm betting that tournament directors will be glad to accommodate us.
    If you're a 60+ black belt who has "retired" to the couch, get back in the game.  And if you're still training but don't attend tournaments, rethink the idea.  The tournaments are fun.  You'll make a few new friends.  And you'll challenge yourself to push just a little harder than usual.  Hey, that's a good thing, isn't it?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Taekwondo: Mind, Body, and Spirit

For those who have never studied Taekwondo, or who have studied only briefly, it probably seems to be nothing more than a powerful self-defense system or an exciting Olympic sport. It is both these things, of course, but to have the story end there would do a grave injustice to those who over roughly 5,000 years have nurtured Taekwondo and carried it to its present stage of development. To all of the masters who systemized, preserved, and modified this elegant Korean martial art over the millennia, Taekwondo was and is a way of life -- a way of becoming a whole person whose mind, body, and spirit operate in perfect harmony.
     During my 40 years of Taekwondo training I have learned that the mind and body account for only a portion of what most of us would think of as a complete life. Some people are wise but physically weak. Others are physically strong but mentally weak. Yet even those who are strong both mentally and physically may not understand who they are or why they are on this planet. What they lack is an understanding of the spirit, the essential life force that resides within each of us and whose power waits patiently for us to harness its full potential.
     A computer can be programmed to analyze and process billions of bits of important data, but it doesn’t live. A large boulder rolling down a mountainside can generate tremendous force, but it doesn’t live. Likewise, a man who believes that his capacity to think and his ability to move about from one place to another are all that matters is missing the great lesson of Taekwondo: if we truly wish to live, we must unify mind, body, and spirit. Developing a full life -- bringing mind, body, and spirit into harmony -- is not at all easy. But the Taekwondo Life can get us there.
    To begin the journey, visit a Taekwondo school near you.  Remember, it's never too late.