Yesterday I participated at a local kumdo competition, my first competition in South Korea. I haven't done much competition before and there was usually not that many participants each time and I knew a few of them each time so it made it quite enjoyable. This time though, I knew no one and couldn't speak much of the language. Ii was the only non asian in the gym which puzzled some of the kids.
The competition day started at 10am and long long waiting time was ahead of us. However I got myself a little distraction looking at the kids. I was unimpressed by the discipline on that day. Shoes and barefeet walking the same ground, mandarins thrown and dropped splitting juice on the floor, shinais stepped over... Kids were all over the place! The gym was split in half, on one side the matches and on the other the people waiting and geting ready for the matches. The second half turned really quickly into a bash fest. I saw a couple of kids, wearing bogu, sitting in front of one another and hitting each other with there shinai as much as they could and get any target, protected and unprotected ones. I saw one kid going and strike other kids while they were... sort of warming up but for the least of it, practicing striking one another in very interesting fashion. The first kid would just jump in there with a Men strike and when he realized the two other kids didn't care, he would turn to another couple of kids and try his luck again. Finally, out of the many falling/bashing/running/chasing/pulling/punching stories Icould tell, the golden globe comes to a little guy, maybe the smallest of them all who kept looking for an opponent and then strike like crazy until the other kid would feel anoyed and he'd look for someone else and then someone else again and when the kid in front would be too annoyed and usually taller, holding his shinai and delivering 'go away' strikes on his head, he'd continue with his kote covered fists, punching whatever he could.
Distraction that was and good laughs but I felt that the discipline that runs through kendo veins was inexistant here. However I was a little proud to witness that the best behaved group of kids was actually from the club where I train. Instead of running around and bashing out loud, they were either geting ready or sitting in a circle and playing 'rock paper scisors' or maybe 'rock parchment sword'.
I could tell the difference between New Zealand and South Korean competition right away. First of all, South Korean Federation is much richer for all the trophees were big, numerous and enclosed in transparent square plastic covers. Each first of each category got a big trophee, a gold medal, a certificate and an gift bag full of LG products and by LG products I mean, you know... soap, shower gel, shampoo and lots of other bathrrom stuff (did you think about phones and all? Nope, not that rich). Seconds had a smaller trophee, a silver medal and a certificate and I think that 3rd and 4th had medals. There were several judges tables all covered with fancy linen, a big Korean flag at the back of the room, two rows of chairs for the elders and competition books given out to all teams with the day's competition process in there. I could tell that it was all well organized and the day went smoothly. However, what I would find out later is that although we all arrived at 10 am, our division's matches would only start around 5pm. And what do you do all this time? Watch matches, play golf on mobile phone, talk with dojang mates, watch the crazy kids, look at the match sheet and realize how far is your fighting time, play sudoku on mobile phone, eat snacks, eat chocolate... I like chocolate... chocolate makes me happy.
And time came around that I was to fight. Fights were good, I got to learn a lot from it as I faced situations that I wasn't used to a lot. For instance, I fought nito for the first time. Well, sorry for my language but fighting nito is pretty f***d up. I was very tempted to go for tsuki but haven't praticed it enough and don't want to injure anyone too badly. There are several reasons for that: first, injuring someone is never fun, second, I am just new in the area and I don't want to get the reputation of the foreign guy who tsuki peopl in the throat. Sure those are arguably good or bad reasons but hey, let's face it, in reality, if you have a reputation in a country you are not a native from, well, you get bashed. I'm happy to get in as many fights as possible and learn as much as I can but I do know the feeling of facing someone whose only motivation i an eager to bash people out and let's face it.... actually no, let's not!
So I got eliminated rather easily by nito guy! Funnily enough, they were 3 nito guys in the same team. I do not see nito fighters very often and the least I've seen before were rather beginners. To see 3 experienced nito in the same team, meaning that they were pretty accurate and fast, was indeed very interesting to watch.
I was glad that I fought but I really didn't like waiting 7 hours before I could fight, especially in winter. I love kendo seminars, you spend the whole day practicing and listening to senseis advices and by the end , you're kendo tired. Yesterday, I was waiting tired and that's no good fatigue. When time came to go home, we found outside something that wasn't there in the morning: a thick coat of snow all over Seoul. I like snow, it makes everything quiet for a while, maybe the softness of falling flakes or maybe because it's so bloody cold that everyone stays inside.
I don't know if I really want to renew this sort of competition experience for I do not enjoy the wait and the lack of discipline going against everything I believe a Kumdo event should be, but if I do it again, I will bring a bigger coat and a couple of books.
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