In 2015, I was a student at the Wyckoff Martial Arts. I had been there for 2 years now, going every Tuesdays and Thursdays. I really enjoyed going there because it was fun and gave me exercise. It also taught me how to defend myself. At the time, I was one belt away from black. I had been practicing taekwondo almost every day, training at my best to become the best in my class. I had always been in the middle of the class being sub-par compare to some other kids. We would practice sparring and other days we would practice nunchucks, or board breaking or something else.
Every year, there was a national taekwondo championship at a college. This year, it was called the Garden State cup. It was a very nerve-racking time because going there meant being the best and having to compete with other great martial artists from around the state. Usually, one or 2 of us are selected to participate. I usually was never picked and I wanted to keep it that way. Going to a competition would be a world of fear and anxiety because you have to present your skills in front of hundreds of people and judges. One day, I was practicing sparring, when our master called me aside. He said how he has seen me train hard and improve. He said he wanted me to go and participate in the national competition. I was both excited and crazy nervous. I thanked him for the opportunity and continued my training. The competition was still 3 months away so I didn't have to worry yet. However, it was always in the back of my head every day after school and after taekwondo.
Having to compete in the competition frightened me a little, but it motivated me to work even harder to try and attempt to win the competition. 2 months had passed and every Tuesday and Thursday was just the same. Practicing different techniques. My master made me present all of my skills in front of the class to get rid of some of my stage fright. I was very comfortable with my peers and we all were friends and got along together. Every day was becoming more nerve-racking. The final day before the competition, I stayed longer than my taekwondo class lasted. I reviewed everything. I was ready.
In the morning of the competition, chills were running down my spine every minute. I woke up early in the morning and we drove all the way down to the college. As soon as I walked in, we had to sign up. As I walked through the hallway with my bag of gear and I saw hundreds of other kids of all ages. But I was put in the older levels. I was competing in 3 events, Board Breaking, Sparring, and Form. First was formed, it is a bunch of techniques put together. You mix together different punches and kicks while in the middle of a mat. I waited until everyone ahead of me were called, then I heard my name get called and I went up onto the stadium. I took my place and performed my form. Every form requires a lot of memorization and messing up once will mess it up completely. I ended up performing very well with not a single mistake. I bowed to the judges and went back to the locker room.
Afterward, I awaited for my next event. Board breaking. I waited until I was called up again and I took my spot. My master and assistant master held up my boards and I proceeded to kick, spin kick, and punch in a specific order. Every board was broken, even the back spinning hook kick was successful, which is usually the most difficult one. I felt really good about my performance, it was the best board breaking that I have ever done. Everything was so clean and fluent but it had demonstrated enough power as well.
My final event was sparring. I spent my time putting all of my gear on. The leg, arm, and chest pads. I went out and this time, all the attention was put on me. Everyone in the stands was staring at me. I walked up and shook my opponent's hand. He was about 1 inch taller than me and had eyes that wanted victory. I stared back at him and I put my helmet on. We bowed to each other and the ref blew the whistle. I could see my dad watching me and I knew that I had to make him proud. I was motivated. We both started walking around in circles. He made the first strike with a kick, I quickly back off and covered with a hard kick to the chest. He faltered and came back. He continued to punch ever so often to tease me. I faked a kick then punched him in the chest. He then faked me and punched me in the chest and followed with another combo fo kicks, which put him in the lead 3-2. I backed off and played safe. He kept coming closer and played extremely aggressive. He began punching furiously at my chest and face. I was hit very hard from all angles. I blocked his remaining punches and countered with another kick. We were hitting back and forth until the ref called the whistle for the first round. We both took our corners and got a talk from our coaches. They gave me water, and he told me to play more aggressive. Get more on the inside. The ref blew the whistle for round two. I double faked and got real close, Istarted hitting him back and forth, punching and kicking. He pushed me back, and I did a spinning kick right to his chest. That gave me three points. He fell back and faltered. We were now tied in points. He then ran at me and pushed me. I fell back and went for another kick. He jumped up and kicked me right in my face. I fell hard on the ground in slow motion. I was extremely dizzy and my head was all over the place. The Ref grabbed me and told me to look at his fingers. He asked “ How many fingers am I holding up?” I said 4, I got it right. My master last second, pulled me over and asked “Are you okay enough to fight?” “Yes, I'm find. I can win this” I responded. We went back up and I continued the fight. The ref then blew the whistle for the last round. I had lost by 2 points. I went up to my opponent and thanked him and bowed to him.
Afterwards, the award ceremony came. All the contestants lined up. I was super nervous. First was form. He announced third place. Everyone cheered. For second place. My name got called! I was second place. They then announced first place. We all went up on the podium and the people put the medals around our necks, my medal was large shiny silver medal. We sat back down waiting for our next event. Board breaking was next, They announced the third and second, and I heard “Brian Kim” get called for first. YES! I got first place at the national championship!. Finally sparring, I still had a headache but was hopeful for a medal. I was called for second again. What is going on!? I thought to myself. I was so happy, THREE medals around my neck. These had been my motivation from day one. A shiny medal around my neck was the greatest thing ever. I remember imagining having one. It helped me work hard and helped me achieve victory. I also never gave up. Even after getting illegally hit in the head. The medals were on my mind and I knew that quitting would not have given me the silver. Those medals changed my performance that day.