Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Save the date: 19th Annual Mercer County Nationals, March 22nd, 2014

One of my favorite tournaments of the year is coming up on March 22nd, and if you live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, or anyplace else on the planet for that matter, you should consider competing.  It's the 19th Annual Mercer County Nationals, to be held once again on the lovely Rider University campus in Lawrenceville, N.J.  The University is just off I-95 and is highly accessible for martial artists throughout the Northeast.
   According to Master Ivan Mendez, the tournament's director, last year's event attracted just over 450 competitors of all ages and representing all martial-arts styles.  Well, the 2014 edition looks even more inviting.  Among the key upgrades for 2014: the tournament will offer two new black-belt divisions -- 50-59 and 60+.  So if you're a senior in the martial arts, here's a rare opportunity to show your stuff against competitors your own age.  And, yes, this is a very big deal.  Most tournaments don't go out of their way to make the events senior-friendly, so if you're 68 like me, you can find yourself competing against people half your age or younger.  Master Mendez has been trying to build interest among seniors for the past several years, and this year he has made the tournament as attractive as possible for us.
   The 2014 Mercer County Nationals will feature 145 separate divisions covering weapons, forms, and sparring in all age groups.  Sounds busy, doesn't it?  That's why the tournament will be held simultaneously in two of the Rider University gyms rather than just one.  The goal is to have all competition end by 4:00 p.m., the same goal that was met in 2013.  If you've ever had the experience of hanging out at a tournament from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. waiting for your event to come up, you'll understand how appealing it is to work with someone like Master Mendez, who has a solid record of keeping his event on track.
   Oh, by the way: you shouldn't focus too much on trophies when you compete, since competing is its own reward.  But something else you'll find at the Mercer County Nationals is really nice trophies.  Just sayin'.
   So you have plenty of time to get ready for this tournament.  Whether you're relatively new to the martial arts or a seasoned veteran, you'll find yourself most welcome at this senior-friendly event.  Please put the date on your calendar now.  Then visit 2014 Mercer County Nationals for more information, including details on how to register.
   Hope to see you on March 22nd.  Come out and enjoy some martial-arts camaraderie.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bring it on! The new year has begun.

One of the great joys of Taekwondo is that it never stops teaching you.  It continually teaches you more about this ancient art, and it continually helps you learn more about the person you are yet to become.  You never learn all there is to know about Taekwondo, just as you never know all there is to know about who you are, about how you got to where you are, and about the paths that lie ahead.
   I enjoyed some tournament success in 2013, but more than anything I learned.  I learned new techniques and new forms (which in Taekwondo we call poomsae).  And I also learned a great deal about the work I still need to do.  For example, I learned the hard way that muscles I thought were in pretty good shape were actually in pretty poor shape.  So I began working with a personal trainer and now have specific fitness goals for 2014.  I also have a long list of other Taekwondo goals, but that's not the topic of today's post.
   This post is about you . . . and about wishes that I send your way for 2014.

Wish #1 is that you will "unretire" if you have already practiced Taekwondo or some other martial art.  You've been away from it for 20 years, you say?  So what?  The challenge is still there.  The knowledge you built up all those years ago hasn't been lost forever.  And you owe yourself the respect of becoming as fit as you can be.  As I said in an earlier post, count yourself lucky if you're a senior who is capable of training for a sport.  Many millions of people want to but can't, so don't waste God's gift of health as you enter the new year.  Let this be the year of your comeback.  It's never too late.  Just do your best.

Wish #2 is that you will begin learning Taekwondo if you have never studied a martial art before.  Forget the age thing.  See your doctor to get his or her approval.  Then consider working with a physical therapist or personal trainer before you step into the dojang, or training hall.  And then sign up for a senior-friendly martial-arts education.  I'm 67, not 17, so there are things I can no longer do as well as I once could.  So I do them as well as I can.  And let that be your training goal: to do what you can as well as you can.  Who can ask more from you?  Check out a few schools.  Then sign up for the one that seems best equipped to work with senior athletes.

Wish #3 is that you will enter at least one tournament, whether you've come out of retirement or have taken up your martial art for the first time.  There are plenty of tournaments that offer age divisions for competitors over 50 or over 60, and you owe it to yourself to experience the genuine highs and occasional lows of testing your skills in public.  You don't need to win a medal in order to feel great about yourself.  If you finish last in your division, you're still miles ahead of millions of perfectly healthy folks who have opted to sit on the couch and munch potato chips while you've been sweating in the dojang.

If you decide to compete in 2014, here are two great opportunities to consider:

Mercer County Nationals, New Jersey.  This is a large and extremely successful tournament whose director, Master Ivan Mendez, has worked hard to attract senior competitors.  No matter what your age or the color of your belt, you will enjoy the competition and the camaraderie.  The tournament is held each year at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., and it's within easy reach of competitors who live in New York, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey.  This year's event will be held on March 22nd, and for more information click over to 2014 Mercer County National Karate Tournament.

USA Taekwondo State Championships.  USA Taekwondo is America's official governing body for Olympic Taekwondo, but you don't need to be an Olympian to participate.  Any competitor of any age or rank can compete in qualifying tournaments that lead to the USA Taekwondo National Championships.  And the winners in that major event can represent the U.S. in international competition.  The top age group is 59+, and two Americans won medals in the 2013 World Championships held in Bali, Indonesia.  To learn more about qualifying tournaments in your state, visit USA Taekwondo event calendar.

   Throughout the year there are Taekwondo tournaments in just about every state, and you shouldn't have to look too hard to find something that will fit your schedule.  Since today is January 1st, you probably have a few months to get ready for some friendly competition.  So challenge yourself to make the most of the year and your physical abilities.  Let 2014 be the start of something great.
   Happy New Year to all!  Best wishes for much success.