Open GTUK Championship 2012.

2012 was always going to be an exciting year. Of course we have the London Olympics to look forward to, as well as the added excitement of the predicted end of the world, but what we were all really excited about was seeing how the GTUK could improve on the huge successes of 2011. The first chance to get a feel for this came on Saturday 3rd March as we gathered at the Sports Connexion in Ryton-on-Dunsmore for the Open GTUK Championship 2012.

The unseasonably glorious weather of late February had faded into the drizzle and mist of March, so everyone was keen to get inside and get on with what we do best. This could have been a challenge, with over a hundred more competitors than last October’s British Championships, but the preregistration system once again proved its worth, as club after club filed in quickly and efficiently. A glance at the programme showed that this was going to be an action packed day, and the hall buzzed with excitement as rumours of senior black belts starring in the mid day demonstration circulated.

As the competitors and officials gathered for the opening ceremony, it was clear that this tournament was going to live up to expectations. Looking around, it was great to see so many familiar faces, but it was also refreshing to see lots of new people as well. There were a lot of young students making their first tentative steps into competition, and we also had the pleasure of welcoming people from outside of the GTUK to share in our event.

Mr Gary Foster (III Degree) from TSA in Kent brought a strong team with him, and it was great to once again see competitors from the ITUK, who can always be relied upon to challenge for supremacy. A special mention must also go to the Scottish part of the GTUK. Miss McAneny (IV Degree) and her team from XS Taekwondo had endured an eight hour journey to get to us, elongated by a puncture to the coach tyre on the way down. However, we knew from experience that this would have done nothing to soften their resolve or dampen their spirits. The GTUK in England would like to thank everyone who joined us at this event for making it extra special.

Mr Darren Holmes (V Degree) then called everyone to attention, and we welcomed the senior black belts. Mr Auciello and Mr Burgess were welcomed in as the GTUK’s sixth degrees, and we all knew that we would soon be welcoming our very own eighth degree. However, it came as a pleasant surprise that Master Oldham was accompanied by Mr Barry Parsons (VI degree). Mr Parsons had been a student of Master Oldham many years ago and it was nice for many of us who have heard so many good things about him over the years to finally put a face to a name.

As the formalities concluded, it was time for the tournament swing into action. With hundreds of pee-wee and junior competitors, this could have been a daunting task, but the experience and dedication of the GTUK umpiring team meant that everything was soon working like clockwork. The standards of patterns was impressive, even amongst the very young beginners; it was inspiring to see confidence growing as nerves gave way to the realisation that just by standing up and performing their techniques in a pressure situation, they were already winners.  The sparring was also impressive and it was clear to see that several of the junior competitors will be making a big impact on the adult categories at the earliest opportunity.

The pee-wee and junior categories continued apace as the team lead by Mr Andrew Pitchford, Mr Andrew Holmes and Mr Darren Holmes ensured that all squares were in use and Mr Martin Harvey continued his slick work from the registration system by ensuring that all results were efficiently recorded on his all seeing computer system. This allowed the medals to be awarded without delay in readiness for the demonstration.

There was just time before this for the Competitor of the Day awards to be presented. These are designed to allow the officials to reward competitors who they feel have displayed the true spirit of Taekwon-do. This reflects the fact the being a true martial artist is about a lot more than winning medals. In the pee-wee section, Caelan Jackson and Katie Turland were both recognised, representing a double win for Northampton. Success was spread further afield in the junior section where the winners were Sophie Akerman of Bungay and the irrepressible Robbie Wells from Morcambe.
And so to the demonstration; an opportunity for the GTUK England squad to demonstrate the fruits of all of their hard work over the past year. With a clear emphasis on the future, the opening act was a nerveless performance of pattern Hwa-Rang by the youngsters of the squad. A fast paced show ensued, all expertly set to music by Mrs Auciello who can always be relied on to add artistic panache to squad activities. Her handiwork was also on display on the merchandise stall, which was selling yet another range of must-have T-shirts.

England squad members of all ages demonstrated a range of breaking techniques, set sparring and patterns. There were also cameo appearances from GTUK Scotland members, who showed how technically cohesive the association is by seamlessly dropping into a mass performance of pattern Juche with around 20 members of the England squad.

The highlight for most must have been seeing the England squad coaches in action. Their talent and dedication are always clear to see in training, but seeing them in full flow at a demonstration is still an awe inspiring site. Mr Darren Holmes and Mr Andrew Holmes took set sparring to a new level with a routine that encompassed everything from their trademark super-sharp kicks to a head lock and throw combination, performed entirely with the legs. Mr Auciello then showcased a beautifully choreographed routine with his young star, Mr Liam Watkinson. The high speed exchange of kicks here culminated with Mr A dropping into the splits to duck under Liam’s flying kick, to gasps from the audience.

The coaches then went on to show their destructive power by each performing a special breaking leg technique and a hand technique through a stack of roof tiles. Not to be outdone, Mrs Kay Parker also demonstrated her breaking ability.
These performances have to be seen to be believed, so check out the videos on YouTube.

Anyway, with all available building materials successfully destroyed, it was time to proceed with the adult veteran categories. It was clear that the demonstration had inspired all of the competitors to deliver their very best performances. The coloured belt members showed real intent, and it was obvious that high levels of preparation that had gone into their patterns and sparring. The future of the association is definitely assured if the talent on display here is anything to go by.

The final chapter in the story was, as always, the adult and veteran black belt competitions. The tiredness from a full days officiating melted away as the familiar adrenalin kicked in. The standard of competition was incredibly high, with the remaining officials having to be on their A-game to choose between patterns that would have graced any textbook. The sparring was fast and intense; none more so than the final of the adult male 1st to 2nd degree 65-75kg category. This bout caught the attention to such an extent that both runner up Logan Bedingfield of Bungay, and winner Miles Westwood of Loughborough University were selected as adult competitors of the day. Full results of all of the categories are now online.

Once the medals had been presented, and the officials had been thanked for their hard work, it was time for a quick change before the after-party. Those present will appreciate that I am probably not best placed to give a clear account of the evening, but I can safely say that it was an enjoyable end to another great GTUK event. The good natured competitiveness of the association was still on display late into the evening as the limbo-dancing competition reached vertebrae crunching levels. People who had been kicking and punching each other just hours before shared anecdotes and jokes, before we all went our separate ways with smiles on our faces.

This had been another great day for the GTUK. It shows that 2012 is still on course to be the best year yet for the association. Oh, and don’t worry about the doomsday predictions; we will all be safe anyway because the GTUK is already out of this world!

Charlie Cox III

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Clive Carruthers