by Chloe Parsons 4th gup
On the 5th and 6th of March, 2005 over 100 dedicated Taekwon-do students came together at Paraparaumu College gymnasium to take part in the first Masters Down Under Seminar ever to be held in New Zealand. The seminar started at 8:30am on the Saturday and finished at 12:30pm on the Sunday afternoon. But for a handful of enthusiastic Kapiti Coast students the day started at 7:00am to set up the hall.
People started arriving in groups from various clubs around New Zealand. There was every rank from white belt to 6th degree black belt, including Mr. James Rimmer 6th dan and Miss Jeanette Joe 5th dan currently the highest ranking woman in Australasia. Once formed up, there were six rows of black belts!!I n the moments while we were formed up there was an intense feeling of anticipation, especially for those who had never attended a seminar before. Suddenly we all turned to the door to face the masters. Master Michael Daher, Master Evan Davidson, and Master Paul McPhail. It had begun.
We all turned and faced the flag. It was awesome. Over 100 voices saying the student oath all together. It was breath taking and humbling to be part of such an amazing group of people.
We started with a warm up conducted by Master Davidson and then went straight onto patterns with Master McPhail. Patterns have always been my favourite part of Taekwon-do so I was really excited. He taught us that repetition does not count if you practise being bad. Practising thousands of times will not help you if you are doing it wrong. He taught us effective ways of learning and teaching patterns as well as telling us to go to the 3rd level. Don't know what that is? Well, to learn the pattern and know what you are doing - thats level one. To know the pattern and make it your own - thats level two. To know the pattern and know it so well that you are almost in a trance looking down on yourself doing the pattern - thats level three.
After that we went under the instruction of Master Daher who taught us traditional sparring and flexibility. Everyone looked on in awe as Master Daher lifted his leg over his head and fell straight forward into the front splits without flinching!!! Now there is something to aim for. He taught us that with stretching for only 20 minutes every day we too could become as flexible as he is, I don't think anyone believed him.
Daher took us through traditional sparring techniques. This differs
from conventional sparring in the way that the student approahes it.
In traditional sparring it is more like step sparring whereaas conventional
sparring is more like free sparring. I learnt that if you have confidence
in your techniques sparring doesn't have to be painful or intimidating.
Master Davidson took flying techniques. When you see Master Davidson at gradings you would never suspect that he could execute such incredibly high movements. Superman watch out!! From this section of the seminar I learnt that you need to use the ground as well as the air to get height in your flying techniques. You don't just have to have long legs but I did notice that those with long legs seem to be flying higher.
Before we left for the day Master McPhail took us through some cardiovascular exercises consisting of crunches, sit-ups, press-ups and lunges. Master McPhail told us that we shouldn't view press-ups as a punishment but as an excellent exercise to increase upper body strength so we can get more power in our patterns. There were quite a few moans and groans (and very red faces) from all areas of the hall but the loudest groan came when it was announced the seminar was over for the day.
We were all pretty tired but were excited about the next day. Who knew there was such a thing as 7:30 on a Sunday morning?? Well thats what time we were there for the second part of the 3 Masters Down Under Seminar. Everyone looked eager and ready to go. We were split up into three groups. Two groups of black belts (there were SO many black belts!) and one with just 44 colour belts. There were only four blue belts, of which I was one. We rotated round the three Masters who all had a different topic to cover.
First Master Daher took sparring and taught us how to dodge an attack coming towards you. He taught us that no matter where you are in the ring there is always another chance to get a point, even if you are being forced out of the ring by your opponent.
Master Davidson took self defence techniques. I learnt that there are various ways to fend off an attacker without getting too fancy. I have always found self defence a little scary but Master Davidson showed us techniques that felt empowering and made me feel confident about defending myself.
Master McPhail took patterns. Yeah patterns, into my comfort zone. I learnt various ways to improve the look and feel of my patterns and Master McPhail made it sound so simple. The smallest change in the angle of a foot or hand can alter the whole flow of a pattern. This part didn't last long enough for me but then the whole day had gone too quickly.
We then had a question and answer section where everyone had an opportunity to ask anything of the Masters, ranging from "how old were you when you first started Taekwon-Do?" to "have you ever got your leg stuck when you put it over your head?". Mr Trilford from Kapiti Coast Club extended an invitation to them to come back next year which was received with a huge applause from us all.
I found the three Masters very approachable and friendly and so willing to impart their wisdom and experience. They were inspiring and totally awesome in their combined dedication and love of Taekwon-do. They made you feel that you could go further and do better than you've ever done. They were encouraging and positive in their comments and in their teaching, the whole weekend was an awesome experience.
At the end we all received a certificate and had the chance to shake their hands and have a personal word. The Masters agreed to have photos taken and to sign things for us. When I say 'things' there were posters, theory books encyclopedias, doboks and even a pillow embroidered with the tenets of Taekwon-do (yep that was mine!).
The weekend is one I will never forget and I must thank Mr. Greg Trilford and Mr Richard Hall for all the organising and for allowing this to happen. I can't wait until the next one.