|Holly and Andrew Madayag Watching Competition|
As a competitor, am I ever nervous before a sparring match? The answer is yes.
I barely have my protective gear on and I am already sweating. I look up at the clock on the wall and notice the second hand ticking . . . for every tick, my heart beats at least two times. I try to stretch and can’t stop thinking about the adrenaline circulating through my body. Everything is in slow-motion.
We line-up. My heart is beating so loudly in my head that I can barely hear when the center judge calls my name to step into the ring. If it hadn’t been for a wave of his hand to reinforce that it was my turn to spar, I probably would not have heard him at all. I am standing at attention stance – frozen – as he calls the person who will share the ring with me. It is my fiercest competitor. She is relentless in the ring. She never gives up. She is unwavering. She is indomitable. She is powerful. She is - - my friend.
We take our respective places in the ring and share a glance. We respectfully maintain eye contact. What are we saying to each other that we cannot utter aloud?
I am thinking, “I have trained hard for months and am ready to challenge you to a match. I have watched you spar and I know the moves you may try. I am ready for those moves. I am ready to block them and try some new things I have been working on to win. I want to win. But, above winning and everything else, please know that I respect you. I respect you for the fighter that you are, for the work you do, for the woman you are. We are both daughters, both wives, both mothers – both CTI martial artists.” This sentiment is mutual.
We begin and the adrenaline clearly translates into external energy for both of us. No more butterflies. They have flown away. The second-hand on the clock is a distant memory. What is left is instinctual . . . what is left is all that we have learned throughout our training. Focus, concentration, indomitable spirit.
It is tied up and we are both tired, but neither of us ready to give up. Next point wins. I pivot quickly to deliver what I am sure will be the defining moment in the match – a roundhouse right to her solar plexus. But, my foot never quite makes it. As I lifted my leg, she beat me to the punch, throwing a perfect defensive sidekick right where I had left myself open. My chest gear vibrated and instantly, I knew, it was over. I see people talking but I hear no noise. We return to our positions and out of the corner of my eye, I see the center judge motion to my opponent’s direction. Point. Match.
We shake hands, hug each other. We walk out of the ring arm in arm. Disappointed by defeat, I am strangely happy for her win. I have even more respect for her now that I even did before – and she, for me.
You see, in a way, I won today too. I woke up early on a Saturday morning, when many of my friends are sleeping in. I came to a CTI tournament to support my instructors, fellow students and my own children. I took myself out of my comfort zone to step into a sparring ring against a division of women who are amazing Moo Sul Kwan artists. I sparred my best – with strength AND integrity.
You see, this is how, as students at CTI, we have been “raised.” From the time we started together as white belts, we have always been taught to be respectful of each other, courteous, kind. We spar to improve ourselves – not to hurt a fellow student. We spar to help each other grow – not to take each other out. My colleague was the winner today and the fact that she is my friend makes me a winner too.
The night after the tournament, we think about things we did right, we think about things we can improve upon. We think about our wins and our losses and how to do better next time. We think about the kids in the program. How we set an example for them in our actions, our behaviors, how we handle ourselves. We think about how they are the future – the next generation of Moo Sul Kwan martial artists and how it is up to each of us to ensure they carry on the tenets of Taekwondo and traditions of the Colorado Taekwondo Institute. My opponent will hang her medal up with pride, as she should. She trained, worked hard and won. As a student of CTI, she knows that that medal is for herself, her opponents, her instructor and her fellow students. Trophy or not trophy, at CTI, everyone wins . . .