I’ve been doing a lot of tumblr worthy things lately and I’ve written many posts…just in my head. As such, I figured I’d go ahead and write about this before the details fade from my mind and all is lost.
Let’s give this an epic title…how about ‘Rise of a champion’.
*insert dramatic music*
Hours crawled by as I sat in the waiting hall, eyes closed in a state that was somewhere between napping and death. The absence of a clock made the time crawl by that much more slowly. I had moved from room to room, waiting for my turn. I was fight number 10,014. It was about 1pm and they were at about 7000. I say there, watching as my team mates went up to fight, one by one. Believe me, it was a long day and as the hours passed, the more effort I had to put into suppressing my nerves.
Finally we were in the 10,000s. My friend was fight 10,003 and so I figured my fight was doing I was wrong. As I searched the room, there was no person who fit the description of my fighter. I scanned the room and saw many red belts, but no one who looked as though they were between 18-31 and weighed over 80kg. Part of me started praying that he never showed up, that he felt that fighting a yellow belt was beneath him and that his tremendous trip from Gippsland was not worth the effort. After all, a trip to Gippsland to my suburb would be a three hour trip and a trip from my suburb to the competition venue was a little over an hour and considering a fight is two minute and a half rounds, the time spent fighting would be far less than the time spent travelling. That also happens to be my logic when I wag Uni but that’s okay.
I sat there, my friends giving me varied responses. One of the trainers who often gave me rides home leaned in and with a hushed voice told me that ‘Belts mean nothing here. I’ve seen some of the black belts and they don’t even know their form. So don’t worry about it, just keep kicking’. Deep down I heard what she had said but a part of me couldn’t suppress the feeling of nervousness. My brain kept imagining the symptoms of an adrenaline rush, a feeling that I had previously felt in previous competitions. I willed my legs to not freeze up on me and go weak. I couldn’t do it completely, but, I managed to get them to be functional.
What seemed like hours passed and I was starting to feel better since I had convinced myself that my competitor had ‘chickened out’ (I know, crazy right). But then this young fellow came up to me and asked me if I was Darren. I looked at him and part of me was glad. He wasn’t tall at all, perhaps my little brother’s height. He had his hair done up and was wearing nothing but a vest and trackies. He was buff, but I felt like I could take him.
‘Hi, so you’re Darren right?’
‘Yes?’ I relied, trying to make mental notes on this person.
‘Well that’s Paul over there’ he remarked, pointing to one of the training mats.
This guy was the personification of fear.
‘Wave Paul’ the singlet wearing boy band member cried out. I should have yelled out ‘Timberrrrrr’ as his arm moved through the air. They were like tree trunks. This Titan of a man sauntered over to me. My hand disappeared in his as he shook my hand. Despite standing on a ledge, he was still taller than I was. I tried to look him in the eyes as we exchanged greetings but his bright orange beard, like a wild fire that seemed to be warning me away, kept on grabbing my attention. The boy band member then explained that if we wanted to fight earlier, then he could arrange it. I told him that I would warm up first and then we’d fight.
My legs still felt like they had no power. The best way I can describe it is that I didn’t feel connected with the earth. I couldn’t use the ground to root myself and fire strong and hard kicks. I decided that my warm up would be light bouncing and stance changing. I didn’t feel like doing anything crazy. Suddenly, I felt the urge to run to the toilet so I did, only to go the wrong way. I ran and ran and emptied my nervous bladder. As I was leaving though, I ran into a team mate. He told me the same thing as the other lady.
‘Belts don’t matter. He’s tall but you’ve fought me and your fought Ben and you’ve fought Mohammed (tall black belts). Like me, I got my black belt through good poomsae and your kicks are hard man, I’ve felt it. In fact, I’m going to stay and watch your fight.’ I didn’t have the heart to say that I lost whenever I fought him or the other black belts since I didn’t want to ruin the moment but non the less, it did make me feel a little better. I ran back to my spot and waited. I was waiting for my coach to be my coach but in the end he was busy with another competitor. I had the lady who drove me as a coach and to be honest, I was glad since I really liked this lady. She seems like a cool person outside of Taekwondo and is also a skilled fighter in Taekwondo too. I trusted her to be my coach and you know what? She did a really good job.
After queuing up, it was time to fight. He had told me earlier on that he had never fought before and that he was here for the experience. We had agreed that there would be no head kicks and that was that. We stood facing each other, we bowed, the ref messed up and made us repeat the process and then it was go time. I bounced around, trying to test out to see what he was like. He wore his shield low, despite his incredible stature so I realised that it would be possible to kick to that height fairly comfortably. I did a few fakes and he was intimidated. Despite telling him it was my first fight, it wasn’t. He was cautious. I could stop his kick without even kicking or blocking. Me simply moving forced him back. He would move back without reason as well, which made sense since his long legs would require greater reach. Earlier on I had watched him train and his kicks were incredibly slow. At the time I had felt that he was probably just taking it easy for the warm up. Turns out I was wrong. It got to a point where his kicks were so slow that I could just walk in and his kick wouldn’t make contact. I’d move in and he’d move out. I knew from experience that chasing someone was a bad idea. I needed him to come to me and the only way he would was if I would stand still. I’d wait for him, and he would come in, and I would move to strike. Often he would move back mid kick and as such, I knew I would not be able to move during his kicks. I subconsciously decided to wait a little longer before moving in to fight back. He threw a kick and I blocked it and we exchanged a series of kicks. One of the point scoters then stopped the match and they decided to give him the point. This continued, he’d kick and I’d block and he’d get a point and I knew that even my coach saw that. Anyway, first round was over and it was 0-2. He was in the lead. My coach told me to not move back, something I didn’t even realise, and some other advice and suddenly it was round two. I now knew how this guy moved and decided to mount a counter attack. I threw many kicks, took his palm to my nose, kicks to the groin, but I kept pushing. Time kept ticking and he scored a point and I scored two. I glanced at the clock and there were 7 seconds left. He kept trying to run and kick but I knew his moves now. I managed to land a solid kick. It was sudden death. First point would win. I knew he was slow and I could dodge. I also knew that if I was close, he would not get me. I blocked and kicked and fought and in the distance, I heard my instructor yell kick and I managed to somehow become triple jointed and kick him and I scored the point, winning me the match. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t thrilled. I was ecstatic. I could not wipe the smile off my face an the lady who gave me rides was thrilled too. We did the usual stuff and shook hands with the opponent and their instructor and went and got some medals and yeah, it was fabulous. The lady took the medal and put it on for me and told me that in her country, they put the medal on the winners but here they didn’t. It felt good, like more legit. I was thrilled.
And that’s how I got my medal. My friends saw it and they were ecstatic, they couldn’t believe that I had won against such a Titan of a man, and to be honest, I couldn’t either. It’s been a good day and it’s aids been worth the wait to be honest. Now just to wait an hour for my dad. I can’t wait to show everyone.
I feel like I’ve grown a little. First match ever I lost by heaps, second match I lost by less and now my third competition, I’ve won. I know he probably wasn’t as skilled as other fighters but it gives me confidence to have won a gold medal. It will be you to remind myself that I can do it and that I will keep growing and continue to be better than yesterday.