On the morning of March 11th, 2018, I woke up to a day that would be truly rewarding and amazing. As soon as I woke up, I stumbled out of bed half awake and hurried to the fridge. While satisfying my thirst with icy cold water I frantically searched the kitchen cabinets for food that would supply my energy for my morning competition. I quickly settled on a ripe banana and crisp granola bar to start the day. After a quick consumption of my breakfast, the next search was upon me. Searching through my closet, I gathered my taekwondo uniform. Just then, I heard the bathroom door in my parent’s room open, which alerted me that my parents were awake and that meant our departure for today’s tournament would be soon. Knowing this, I organized my sparring gear, uniform, judges uniform and numerous other items needed for the tournament. Once my parents were ready, I got into my dad’s stuffy car ready to face the goals I set for myself. I had made it know to others in the weeks prior to the tournament that my performance in the tournament would not only result in medaling in various events, but also in qualifying for a black belt promotion. As soon as I hit the cozy passenger seat, I plugged my headphones into my phone and tuned out the world. I had placed high expectations upon myself and was truly I unaware of the accomplishments to come.
As we arrived at my competition, I had only one hour to warm up and prepare before the competition started. As I entered the arena, I notice that several instructors and competitors had gathered in a social setting. I nervously shoved my hands into my pockets as I engaged in conversations with friends from nearby academies. I then wished the other competitors and friends good luck and made my way over to the ring I would soon begin competing on. Tightening my ponytail, I scanned for the other competitors that would be in my ring so I could size them up. After tying my black belt to perfection, I sat down waiting to compete. To our surprise, a group of older male black belts was set to compete first in our ring. I was anxious to compete and having to wait added more stress to my focus. As I watched the other black belts compete, I pondered all my hard work leading up to this tournament. I was determined to medal in both forms and sparing. After their competition, it was my turn to show the judges what I had been working so hard on. I stepped onto the mat and began to warm up. Sliding into a front split while still sizing up the competition. I suddenly realized the larger than normal amount of competitors that would be in my ring. As soon as the competition began, I anxiously fiddled with my hands waiting for my number to be called. Another lady and I were called up fourth to compete against each other in the Ho-Am form. In taekwondo, it is a tradition to yell at the first and last move of the Ho-Am form. So in order to intimidate my competitor, I yelled loudly as to challenge her to match mine. Right after that yell, I gave my Ho-Am form all I could give to emphasize power and focus. I tightened my muscles and kept an intense look on my face from beginning to end, never wavering. By the end, I was breathing and sweating as if I just ran several miles.
Winning that first round, it was time to prepare myself to perform my form again two more times. Each additional form performance became better than the previous. I was performing the Ho-Am form at a high level which was good enough for me and apparently the judges because they awarded me third place. My bronze medal only set in motion the spark and motivation I needed for the upcoming sparring competition. With excitement running through me, I quickly put on all my protective sparring gear and patiently waited to hear my name be called. While sparring I would look my partner in the eyes and observed their moves in an attempt figure out their tendencies and anticipate their moves based on their body language. I would take kicks and punches to the chest and head and return the favor with a series of counter-attacks made up of a variety techniques. After sparing a total of three rounds, I unstrapped my head gear to reveal my frizzy hair sticking to my sweaty and exhausted face. Still, a smile was present as I knew I had won third place in sparring as well.
I have had many accomplishments throughout my journey of Taekwondo, but this one was life-changing. At the beginning of my journey through the sport, I had always enjoyed watching female black belts compete. It was empowering to see other females succeed in a male-dominated sport. This empowerment has always been an inspiration for my training. I train not only for personal benefit but to also be that inspiration for young girls. In the months leading up to the tournament, I trained so hard to be what had inspired me so many years ago. I put everything into this tournament because I simply wanted to be my best and show other young girls what is possible when you work hard. Even though I did not get first place, I still placed in both categories of the competition. Placing in both was an accomplishment enough for me. The actual accomplishment of my competition was seeing that hard work does pay off and gaining the confidence to perform even better next time.