More than 230 competitors attended the Macau Open Taekwondo Championship 2016 at the Centro Desportivo Olimpico – Estadio in Macau last weekend.
Organised by the Associacao De Taekwondo De Macau, the competition featured participants from Hong Kong, the mainland, Macau and many other countries who were separated into six age categories. They were then divided within these groups on whether or not they had a black belt, which is the highest rank. This means that no student with a colour belt (like yellow) has to go up against a black belt, though it’s still possible, for example, for a yellow belt with a green tag to fight against a red belt with a black tag. Finally, they were sorted according to their weight classes to minimise any physical advantages one student might have against another.
A taekwondo player can win points by landing a blow on their opponent’s trunk or head. One competitor, despite acknowledging her disadvantages against a higher-ranked rival, showed no signs of backing down during their fight and gave it her all. Although she lost by more than 20 marks, her persistence was amazing to witness.
Green belt student Loki Lai was happy to share her thoughts and feelings when I approached her during the tournament. I wanted to know how people with lower colour belts felt about facing higher-ranked opponents. Was she nervous? Excited?
“I actually didn’t face opponents that ranked much higher than me this time,” Lai said. “But not facing opponents with a higher-ranked belt than me doesn’t automatically mean I am guaranteed a win – you see lower-ranked students winning against their higher-ranked opponents all the time,” Lai said. She speaks from experience – Lai has taken part in many competitions like this one.
“I know all my opponents this time as well, as they’re all friends of mine that came here with me,” she added.
This mindset, of not being fazed by the rank or belt colour of your rival, seemed to be a common one among the competitors.
Oliver Pun, who won the under-74kg class in the men’s division, attends taekwondo training four to eight hours a week despite his busy work life. He said the key to success in taekwondo was about “being persistent and not being shaken by the obstacles”.
Taekwondo isn’t just mindless fighting, or a display of impressive physical moves – though they are, admittedly, very impressive. It adds discipline to our lives, and can help us deal with difficult situations.
People often become easily discouraged by how hard it is to work your way up the coloured belts – and they’d be right. But karate instructor Yip Ka-tai said the “hardest part in learning taekwondo is in the beginning”. Yip said that many students quit in the first year because they felt like the sport doesn’t offer them anything. However, he added, as long as a student sticks with taekwondo, they will realise how rewarding it truly is.
And judging by the large numbers of competitors that turn up for taekwondo tournaments in Macau, not many people would disagree with Yip’s view of the sport.