Club brings home four medals from world championship
Three members of Colby Tang Soo Do traveled to Greensboro, N.C. this summer to compete in the World Tang Soo Do Association (WTSDA) World Championship and brought home four medals for their performance there.
Aaron Kaye '11, Rob O'Connor '12 and Aodhan Bowman '13 spent July 16-18 surrounded by over 1600 competitors representing more than 25 countries.
Kaye, the founder of Colby Tang Soo Do, won two bronze medals in the second-degree black belt division for 19-23 year- old men-"one of the most competitive [divisions out there]," he said. He placed in both forms and sparring. One of 16 competitors in his division, he was the highest placing American.
Bowman is a green belt and has been studying Tang Soo Do with Kaye since his first year on the Hill. He placed second in forms and third in sparring within the 17-34 year old male division.
"I'm pretty pleased with my performance," Bowman said. "You can't really be disappointed when you place in the World Championships. Of course, though, no matter how you do, you're always looking at how you could've done better. No one's perfect, and there's always ways you can improve."
Kaye, an authorized teacher since the age of 13, founded the club during his first JanPlan. He trained alone during his first months, and soon his peers began expressing interest in studying with him. The club started with about three participants during its first year and has been gaining members ever since, reaching about 20 students last year. The club is recognized by the WTSDA as Northern Mountain Tang Soo Do.
"It can be quite intimidating," Kaye said of the size and intensity of an international competition. This is the second time that he has competed in the World Championship. His first was two years ago; the tournament is held every two years. However, this is the first time that Kaye's students have competed.
Kaye, who put 22 hours a week into training before the tournament, said, "It was especially intimidating for me because I had students competing for the first time." This time I wasn't only worrying about my own training, but what they were doing."
What made training all the more difficult was the physical distance between Kaye, Bowman and O'Connor. Because the trio was not together on campus for the summer, they had to prepare for the tournament alone.
"Mentally it's really fatiguing," Kaye said. He helped himself through it by practicing visualization. When he trained, he imagined that he was in the midst of competition so as to increase the intensity of his workouts. At the tournament, he did the opposite to calm himself down. "When you're there you pretend you're training," he said.
Competing with people from around the world was a "really refreshing experience," according to Kaye. He made friends at the tournament and enjoyed being a part of the top-tier martial arts community.
Competition, however, is not the focus of training in Tang Soo Do, according to Kaye. "What sets us apart [from other forms of karate] is that we're considered a martial art." We're not sport-oriented. So although we have competitions, the way to view it isn't as one against your opponents, but as one against yourself."
"I'd rather see people come in third place but train as hard as they could than come in first and not reach their fullest potential," he said.
Kaye has been raised on Tang Soo Do: his father runs two studios back home, so Kaye began taking classes at the age of four. "I have been training 17 and a half years now," Kaye said.
"Having done it my whole life, it's really more a part of my identity. It's not something I think about and say, 'Oh, I need to go practice....It's really ingrained; there's just time there for it."
According to its website, WTSDA "has more than 500 member studios and over 100,000 members in 36 countries."
Tang Soo Do is a 200 year-old Korean martial art. According to the WTSDA website, it "teaches empty hand and foot fighting, fighting forms, self-defense and weapons. Tang Soo Do also teaches people to live a healthy and harmonious life."
Everyone is invited to join join the club-most students come in with no martial arts experience. Practices occur at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays in the aerobics room of the Harold Alfond Athletic Center.