Athletes get ready for world stage

By Kevin Wilson

Taekwon-do is generally an individual sport, but members of a local martial arts chapter are making a team effort to ensure representation on the world’s highest stage.
Three members of Eastern New Mexico Taekwon-Do are spending the next few months getting ready physically, mentally and financially for the International Taekwon-Do Federation World Championships.
The championships are scheduled for Oct. 14-19 in Daejeon City, South Korea. The three members representing ENMTKD are Audra Brown of Portales, Nicole Frank of Portales and Mark Yoesting of Clovis.
The three members are hopeful they can put ENMTKD and its parent organization, the Yom Chi Taekwon-Do Association, on the map. The three members are part of just 40 qualifiers from across the United States.
“This is our Olympics,” said Frank, who qualified in sparring and patterns. “Unfortunately, with the (Athens) Olympics going on, (the World Taekwon-Do Federation) gets all of the attention.”
The Yom Chi Association is one of four recognized independent national organizations for the sport. Its championships are scheduled for Setp. 25 at Greyhound Arena.
The members competed June 24-26 in New Haven, Conn., for an ITF qualifying event. The top three finishers in each event earned a berth into the world championships.
“Placing third was disappointing, but overwhelming,” said Yoesting, who qualified in sparring. “Like Master (Walt) Lang said, third place is as good as first at this point.”
The competitors felt the qualifying tournament exposed them to a few different styles of taekwon-do, and they expect to see more in October.
“Around here, everybody enters the same tournaments,” said Brown, who qualified in power breaking and patterns in the junior division. “You know everyone and you always spar the same people. It was weird sparring someone I didn’t know (in the qualifiers).”
The three events the members will compete in encompass all of the things a student would learn during proper taekwon-do training.
• Power breaking involves striking a stack of multiple boards (or other suitable material) with enough force to demolish the target, according to the ITF’s Web site.
• In the patterns event, every competitor has the same routine to performwith hand and foot techniques. Competitors are judged on how true their performance is to the original.
• In sparring, two competitors attempt to strike each other on the body (shots to the head, neck or below the belt are off limits), and can use their hands and arms to block any attack. Competitors receive different point values for where and how they strike the opponent.
“There has to be control,” Frank said. “You can’t draw blood, you can’t render them unconscious. It’s all about control.”
The members admit that it hasn’t completely soaked in, knowing they will be competing for a world championship in a few months.
“It’s taken a lot of time to sink in,” Brown said. “It probably won’t (completely) sink in until you’re actually there.”
To get there, the school’s student body, which ranges from 125-150, is working on fund-raising for Brown, Frank and Yoesting. The members estimate they’ll need about $3,000 for each member for travel, room and board and other expenses. — in addition to extra money for Steve Blakeley, ENMTKD owner and senior instructor, and other members.
A car wash Saturday was the first of many events the group plans. The group also has an account established with Portales National Bank, called the Eastern New Mexico Taekwon-Do World Team fund.
For information on how to help the organization, contact Blakeley at the school at 359-0449.