A taekwondo grading was being held at La Salle school and a source of great anxiety and nervousness to all fellow participants. At least, to those who wanted to do well.
The morning kicked off with a warm-up with all the tiny kiddos in the main hall. The long and lanky and the secondary school students were stretching out on the grounds. Then this was followed up with a demonstration inviting the audience to oooh and aaah. Everybody craned their necks to get a better look.
First, the girls danced using punches and blocks to Michael Jackson’s Beat it then the boys came out and displayed impressive jumps and kicks. One particular boy earned tumultuous applause at his fifth attempt to jump over a fire ring and break the 3-inch wooden block, by which he was finally successful. I would be thumping my hands hard if I were not holding a camera, because attempting a move for several times until you succeed in front of a large audience was not as easy as it sounded.
Anyway, I could not start to describe the moves because words alone were not powerful enough for the strength and accuracy displayed. The only thing that could describe the demonstration was the recorded video.
As the demonstration ended with a dance with Taekwondo’s signature written all over it ( the coolest thing you can hope for a dance), the mother sitting behind me was explaining the dance moves and bone-breaking kicks to her little son.
“ Because they are very good and sir taught them, look- that’s sir.” She pointed towards our taekwondo master Mr Leong who was clad in a black shirt and purple tie.
At the end of the demonstration, I was sure that the mother had created a heroic image of Taekwondo art in her son’s mind, because the explanation went along the same lines all the way till the end.
After the demonstration, it was the white belt students’ who started the exam. I stood and watched as the tiny children, some I was sure only three years of age, pull out moves as instructed by the seniors. A confused three-year-old was doing everything in the opposite direction and using the opposite hand, but very cutely so. A boy with the looks of Bruce Lee and the fierceness in the eyes like Bruce Lee was performing by far the best; he did everything with strong resolution which was a rare quality in children. All around were eager parents taking videos and pictures of their children.
Then to my surprise, I noticed an exotic-looking mister standing beside me. I followed to where his eyes were looking and found a little girl with braided golden hair and lots of nervous energy. After the little girl took her exam, I could not resist my curiosity to talk to the father, who was jolly-looking and bouncy. The little girl—Natalie, was now happily jumping and circling around her father.
The father was from Denmark–so you could imagine that I had to tilt my head back and look upwards at the father—and little Natalie was studying in an international school. When asked of how he finds Taekwondo, the father said it was for the discipline but admitted that Natalie was not overly enthusiastic about Taekwondo. However, he smiled pleasantly at the mention of the demonstration and said he found it highly entertaining, so this might be another motivational jab of needle for the Taekwondo demo team to work harder.
I then escaped the crowded hall and went to get some fresh air. The students who looked tiny were having fun talking and laughing, though some were training to get prepared. An Indian boy provided some sort of amusement for me when he attempted to provoke his friend for a fight to no success.
As I continued to look and wander around, I found to my delight— Mr Ropathy and Mr Kim from Denmark, two among the founders of Power Sport Parents’ Support Team(PSPST). It’s easy to recognize a founder; they all had four stars on their T shirts! Curious at Mr Kim’s origins, I asked him if he was a Malaysian and he was not—but he felt that this country was as good as home. Of course it was, he was already becoming a committed member and enthusiastic to provide help in Taekwondo’s events! Mr Kim explained that PSPST was meant to raise funds for Power Sport Parents Support Team ( they were selling sandwiches and drinks) and to give motivation to the children at tournaments. I prod a little further and found that both Mr Ropathy and Mr Kim had children who were entirely passionate about Taekwondo—Mr Ropathy’s son Yovinassh had actually progressed till red-black belt at the age of 11 and Mr Kim’s son was going to challenge 2nd Dan in April.
Readers, it is very heartening to hear when people are passionate and very committed to a cause, and there I met two who were willing enough to spend time and share their children’s love in taekwondo. Though when I asked if their sons will be pursuing a career related to Taekwondo in the future, like a trainer, Mr Ropathy shrugged and smiled while Mr Kim replied playfully, “His father haven’t made up his mind.”
Not wanting to miss the black belt presentation, I hurried back to the main hall and watched as Mr Leong presented the students who sat for black belt exam last year with their black belts. Some had tears swimming in their eyes as this is indeed a proud moment. This is an acknowledgement of their hard work and determination to achieve well in taekwondo. Today, they will be going back as black belt seniors. Of course, some had failed in their first attempts to pass the test the defeat will only motivate them to work towards the next level. As I watched, I noticed a tiny white belt girl standing off at a corner and watching in awe as the seniors put on their black belts. Hopefully she won’t be scared off.
The morning grew hotter and I resorted to using leaves to fan myself as I sat and watched my sisters take their turns at the green belt exam. A boy wearing a yellow belt and sitting to my far right was enjoying himself immensely with a box of chocolates and biscuit treats. When I caught his eye, he looked away and ate guiltily—it’s shown on his face! He shot furtive glances at me to make sure I did not have my mind on his chocolates. I guessed one way of treating yourself after a taxing exam was chocolates.
To be honest, I told one of my sisters after the exams that I thought she was dreadful, but sometimes honesty was not the best policy. I mean, I can understand that with so many onlookers, they can make you feel uncomfortable and all sized up so you might mess up your exams, but you’ve got to get used to it and try to conquer your fears. It’s never easy, but I don’t think I can empty the hall or tell people to turn their backs and talk among themselves every time I am nervous.
I left La Salle just after the green belt exams, though there were more to see towards the end – sparring and all that, I was not sure that I had the energy to continue sweltering at the hall. So all in all, I had a fun time getting know people from foreign countries.
It just shows that Taekwondo is mightily popular in any race—be it Malay or Chinese or Indian or people as far away from Denmark, especially in a multi-racial country like Malaysia, you get the message that this is a widely-celebrated sports.
So why not join the club?
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