I want to preface this post by saying that I don’t get it. I have been in Taekwondo for four and a half years, and have in that time achieved my 2nd Dan Black Belt… but even before I started I am reasonably sure that I would not have gotten it.
A commentator on Australian TV watched the competition at the recent Olympic Games and said that it didn’t look like a very hard sport, and the competitors just seemed to be dancing around and waving their legs at one another. This obviously upset a few people… it doesn’t necessarily offend me per se, but it leaves me wondering how someone can have so little respect for a sport, a martial art, and athletes, and to say it in a public forum is just stupid.
I did not hear the original rant, but I can imagine it contained comments about how much protective gear the competitors wear… and it is true, we do. I own one of those chest protectors, and have sparred with a lot of people who were wearing them. I know for a fact that getting hit on the protector can hurt like hell… I have unfortunately broken an opponent’s ribs through one.
Now, if someone says on TV that they think a sport – baseball, basketball, soccer, or whatever – is stupid and not really a sport, there isn’t a whole lot of repercussions that can be meted out. It can be debated of course, but that’s about it. Martial arts, on the other hand, is based on an activity that we all start doing very early on… so when The Footy Show invited him on to spar with the Australian Taekwondo competitors, he had the opportunity to put his money where is mouth was. Here is the video of what happened:
In this video we see that the commentator (whose name is not mentioned) has a big mouth, and makes a big show of dancing around (and to any experience martial artist looking stupid)… until Safwan Khalil (who lost his Bronze Medal match in the 58kg division) lands his first naduban kick, which is essentially a spinning roundhouse kick, and one of my favourites. The commentator goes down in a shock… but does get up for more of a beating. As he gets up he is swearing and clearly in shock as to how hard the kick (which was clean) really was, and how far it sent him reeling. When he is back up a double roundhouse kick combination doesn’t actually knock him down… he backs away quickly, and then drops to the ground holding his stomach (through the padding). He spends a few seconds on the matt before getting up.
The host at this point feels that Mr. Khalil needs a bit of a rest, and brings his fiancé, Carmen Marton, in to take his place. Ms. Marton also represented Australia in London, and her first spinning jump-back kick knocks the commentator flat on his back.
True to the tenets of Taekwondo that we are all taught, each time they knock the competitor down, they help him to get back up. Their sportsmanship is apparent throughout, even to this <word removed by censors> who was so disrespectful toward them.
At this point the host put an end to the bout, and asked the commentator if he had anything to say to the athletes. Unable to stand, he apologizes. I am sure he now has a much better respect for the ‘sport’ than he did before.
For the record, I have never been faced by anyone (outside of the ring) who knew that I was a Black Belt and still wanted to fight me. To the credit of most, the Black Belt is a very widely respected symbol, and while it means so much more to those of us who wear (or aspire to) it, to much of the world it is the international ‘don’t mess with me’ symbol.
I want to express my respect for Mr. Khalil and Ms. Marton for their achievements, as well as for the commentator, who did have the nerve to get into the ring… and after being hit a couple of times, still got up again. He has courage, and I would love to invite him into the sport… I know that any dojang in the world would love to invite him in to help guide him on the path to Black Belt excellence!
(For the record: I consider myself to be a better fighter than a lot of the higher belts that I train with… that does not mean I wouldn’t get my @ss handed to me in a proper sparring match… I have never been much for sparring because my previous fighting styles go against the tenets of TKD… and I would never want to hurt anyone in a sparring match!)