A standing room only crowd of over 3500 people attended the AAU Pacific District’s Tae Kwon Do Friendship Tournament XVIII, hosted by Grandmaster William Dewart at the San Francisco State University gymnasium, in San Francisco, California on the 19th of November, 2011.
In the spirit of Tae Kwon Do competition, men, women, and children, ranging in age from 5 years to adult, comprised over 300 competitors from many schools across the country. Competitors medaled in point and Olympic style sparring and traditional, creative and team poomsae.
Begun in 1993, the first of the AAU Friendship Tournaments were held at Archbishop Riordan High School and have been hosted annually at San Francisco State University since 2004.
“Today is the anniversary of the 40th tournament that I’ve hosted!” said Professor Dewart with a brilliant smile. During his opening remarks, he received several rousing ovations from the stands as more and more people entered the packed gymnasium.
Professor Dewart is the Regional Director for the Amateur Athletic Union Tae Kwon Do program in California and Nevada; and has been the head instructor of the Academy of Tae Kwon Do in San Francisco for the past 32 years.
He also teaches tae kwon do as a one credit Kinesiology course at San Francisco State University and he helped found the student run Club Tae Kwon Do at SFSU. Grandmaster Dewart has been the coach of Club Tae Kwon Do since its inception.
Opening ceremonies were highlighted by the presentation of special awards to Grandmaster Clinton Robinson, Master Willie Rankins, and Master Jack Corrie, whose outstanding accomplishments in the spirit of Tae Kwon Do exemplify the balance of spiritual, physical, and mental well being.
Active instructors all as well as ranking members of the United World Tae Kwon Do Association, Grandmaster Robinson and Senior Masters Rankins and Corrie achieved their 9th and 8th Dan rankings respectively. All chose to do a public testing in the presence of 180 students, in the UWTA 39th Annual Black Belt Testing held on 7 October 2011 in Reno, Nevada.
Showing the courage that has made them great, the masters demonstrated through their public testing that perseverance, training, facing the possibility of failure though planning for success, leading by example, and accepting that no exceptions are made for masters are tenets of growth by which masters must continue to exemplify, especially at the higher levels of rank and of achievement.
The year of preparation by the masters that culminated in their historic public testing, and the further honor of receiving the beautiful ceremonial sword awards at the AAU Tae Kwon Do Friendship Tournament XVIII, included training in Korea at the KUKKIWON, which is the World Tae Kwon Do headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.
This is so inspirational to students, including this correspondent to see that highly ranked masters are still disciplined, and demonstrating the awareness that personal growth is a lifetime effort of perseverance, while passing this lineage on to countless practitioners of the martial arts!
Also inspiring were the techniques, demonstrated, which included poomse done separately and in unison, joint locks, advanced kicks, self-defense and breaking techniques.
“Very rarely does one see high ranking Black Belts willing to get out there and test in front of their students,” said Grandmaster Dewart, in presenting their awards. He will similarly test on 8 March of 2012 in New York, in the presence of his instructor, the legendary Grandmaster Sihak Henry Cho.
Among his many other honors and achievements, Grandmaster Cho was awarded the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition during the observance of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in May, 2011.
So in many respects, this year’s annual Friendship Tournament was an historic landmark in the many years that this event has taken place.
As usual, the events were exceptional!
Point sparring came first, with distinguished performances at all belt levels followed by the poomse competition.
The individual poomse leaders included Alicia Holley, 18, in the Warrior’s Division. Established for those athletes who have fought physical, mental and emotional challenges, the Warrior’s Division in competition is as integral to the study of tae kwon do as the students who inspire its permanence in all of Grandmaster Dewart’s tournaments.
And Alicia, fiercely competitive, demonstrated that perseverance and overcoming many obstacles always shines through, even when one is the only person in one’s division. Her scores were 9.5, 9.4, 9.3; 28.2 cumulatively, just fractions of points from perfect 10s across the board.
Then Orion Sui and Courtney Chang rocked the house in their individual but creative forms competitions, taking 1st and 2nd place respectively demonstrating dazzling arrays of kicks and precision techniques to music; followed by team poomse, where a stellar competition depends in equal parts upon the knowledge of form, and perfect synchronization of movement of a 3- person team as well as style, grace, power, speed, balance, and fluidity of delivery.
CAFÉ Tae Kwon Do served a hard working crew of judges, volunteers, and athletes and afterwards came Olympic styled sparring.
It is always inspiring to see the level of audience and family participation in a martial arts tournament. Athletes have cheering sections of teammates, parents, friends, [and even wide eyed toddling babies!] as well as vendors, too!
Even the security and the groundskeepers will stop in to watch and appreciate just what they are spending a day of their weekend supporting, not to mention the hard working volunteers at the scoring tables, who operate the computer equipment needed for electronic scoring of forms and fighting.
A special treat tends to be watching the tiny competitors in their fighting gear, just as much as watching the teen and adult competitors.
And they are just as good, too – throwing kicks and punches, and loud kiops with the best and finest warrior fierceness, seriousness, and focus, even though some are no more than 3 feet tall and are maybe 50-60 pounds with all of their gear on!
The referees have as much fun judging the fledgling warriors as their parents, friends, and the audience have watching them, for these competitors have an amazing amount of energy to burn as they compete.
Next, competing in 4 different rings were the teen and adult sparring competitors. And as with forms, it shows in sparring competition the levels of excellence of training and coaching.
Olympic sparring differs from point fighting in that points are scored as the fighting continues nearly non-stop. Black belt competitors fight two 2-minute rounds and non-black belts fight two rounds lasting a minute and a half each. Even though a knock out and/or a 7 point spread stops the match, I saw several very close matches, won by only a point when the time ran out, and several more that went into sudden death overtime. This is where the score is tied after time has run out, and competitors must fight for another minute, each trying to score first to win the match.
Great judging, coaching, fighting under pressure – and excellent sportsmanship was displayed by competitors, win or lose!
And of course, a world-class athlete gracing our tournament was Junior World Tae Kwon Do Champion Cheyenne ‘Chopstix’ Lewis, 14. She won the World Jr. Tae Kwon Do Championships at age 13 on 7 March 2010 in Tijuana, Mexico competing against athletes ranging in age from 13 – 17. She is also a member of the 2011 USAT Junior National Team, and has recently won the 2011 Jr. Pan Am Championships as well. Cheyenne fights at fin and flyweights, and she won both her matches handily in this competition by margins of 14-7 and 8-0.
Holding a 4.25 GPA at Toby Johnson Middle School in Elk Grove, CA, and a 1st place in the Elk Grove City Track and Field Championships in the 200, 400, and 800 meter relays, Cheyenne hopes to one day attend Stanford University and become an engineer. She also hopes to someday teach and share her tae kwon do experiences with others, particularly little kids.
One can go anywhere online and find references to her scholastic http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=fvwp&v=KpcAZmy3IQc and martial arts achievements.
Training now at Givens Tae Kwon Do, in Sacramento; Cheyenne received her 1st Dan from Grandmaster Dewart at the Academy of Tae Kwon Do in San Francisco, CA, the same city in which she was born.
Highlighting this year’s sparring competition was another important awards ceremony – this one in recognition of young competitors who became new black belts under the auspices of the AAU Dan Certification Program.
Having just tested and received the rank of 1st Dan were Elizabeth and Martin Lopez, Mauricio M. Medrano, and Gerardo I. Rivas, all 12 and 14 years of age, who proudly received their certificates and had their pictures taken with their coach Angel Leyvas, owner and instructor at American Tae Kwon Do in Watsonville, CA,
Grandmaster Dewart, who traveled to their dojang to test them, looked on proudly as about 3500 people cheered.
This was yet another historic moment: both masters and beginners recognized for their outstanding achievements in martial arts in the same event.
Only a master could organize an event of this magnitude, and without the participation of volunteers, students, masters, grandmasters, technicians, vendors, parents, coaches, classy competitors of all levels, and many who are completely new to the martial arts, it would not continue to happen year after year, for 18 years since 1993.
This is a sterling example of continuity and tradition, bringing peace and friendship to many groups of people, for traditionally, the AAU Friendship Tournaments always lead up to the following year’s AAU California State Championships which in 2012 are set for Saturday, the 12th of May, at San Francisco State University.
The AAU California State Championships in turn are one of the many statewide events in which competitors may qualify for AAU Team California and for the yearly AAU Youth and Adult National Tae Kwon Do Championships held from late June to the first week of July. At Nationals, the AAU Senior National Team is chosen as well.
For more information please go to http://www.academyoftkd.com/Events.html where registration for the AAU California State Championships will start after the beginning of the year, 2012.
And so it is, that at the end of a very long day, those things that make the martial arts great always shine through.
Peace and love.
Malaika H Kambon