Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met.
- Lord Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses
Legend has it that there were 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae.
Last Sunday, Rayners Lane Taekwon-do Academy was represented by just eleven fighters at the battle of St. Albans.
These brave few threw themselves into the fray with scant regard for life or limb, sure that though they might have been outnumbered, they could never be outgunned.
The Maunders duo of Wesley and Abigail, and the Berry brothers Liam and Ryan led the vanguard into the Patterns division, spearheaded by Charlotte Fox.
As our crack squad of hellions poured unto the breach and took their positions around Rings Two and Three, the Academy's supporters whooped and cheered.
Limbs flew, snapping into blocks that flowed like freshly spilled blood into strikes. Again and again, stepping and punching in a logical sequence against one or more imaginary opponents.
Power. Precision. A final crescendo. Kihups rang throughout the arena like a hail of bullets. Scorecards flapped like battle pennants.
Amid the fog of war, it was hard to see who had won. Mr. Fox peered intently at the far corner as the smoke cleared.
"I thinků yes, Ryan's won something!" he cried, and indeed he had, grabbing a third place and the first of many glittering prizes for the Academy.
Seconds later, Abigail emerged triumphant. Gold for an impeccable rendition of Dan Gun.
Without even a chance to savour the flavoursome tang of victory, it was on to Junior Sparring. A sea of armour-clad Juniors thronged the hall, straining at the leash of courtesy to face up and get involved.
Charlotte and Abigail's pads screamed Girl Power but not in the way the Spice Girls ever intended. Pink footpads and pink gloves flashed through the air, landing point after point. The sidelines hummed with activity as the Judges flipped scorecards as fast as they could be flipped.
Within a couple of intense, short rounds, the girls had earned themselves and Rayners Lane Taekwon-do Academy another Bronze and Gold respectively.
The sibling duo of Liam and Ryan mirrored the effort in their events, taking home another medal apiece. Some muscular punching earned Ryan Gold, while the elder Berry brought home a brave Bronze.
Meanwhile, Wesley was facing a tough route to the final. By the cunning expedient of repeated hammerfists to the top of his opponent's head, the young fighter had racked up a 5-0 lead.
Then disaster struck.
A foul was called and Wesley's score reset all the way back to 0-0. The 8th kup laughed in the face of the deduction. He fought his way back to another win, only to be checked in the final by an older blue belt fighter who somehow managed to fight in with the yellow belts!.
Wesley walked away with his head high and a Silver trophy, vowing that next time, the Gold would be his.
The Junior bouts complete, the rival factions took a breather.
A peace, ignorant of all the combat that had gone on minutes ago, blanketed the hall. It was Christmas in No Man's Land, and both sides emerged to chat and stretch together, wilfully ignoring that morning's hostilities.
The troops feasted on little hot dogs while the commanders picked daintily at fancy pastries. Sworn enemies regaled each other with unlikely war stories, and compared scars - souvenirs they'd brought from wars gone by.
But this war had not yet been won.
As the Generals totted up their victories to date and planned for the next onslaught, an uneasy tension returned, and the threat of impending violence snaked its way between the rival camps.
The latest reports from the front came in and all eyes turned to the scoreboard.
The Academy's warriors were sitting in a distant second place, eyeballing the trophy for best club.
No number of hot dogs could satiate the hunger of Rayners Lane Taekwon-do's troops. Before too long, battle resumed.
In the senior 3rd Dan + Patterns division, Mr. Anslow impressed the judges with the 4th Dan pattern, Ul-Ji, beating the excellant patterns man/nemesis Mr Snow (5th degree) and his rendition of Yong-Gae. In third place was Mr Whithead (3rd degree) who perfomed Choong-Jang tul.
These grizzled veterans barely had time to rest their battle-worn bodies before they were called up to duel in the Veteran's Sparring event.
Hampered by a 20kg weight difference, some slippery mats and some even more slippery kicking, Mr Anslow narrowly lost to the event's host, and eventual winner, Mr. Snow, who was in fine form on the day and must have been secretly training for his first foray into the veterans divsion.
Thankfully, Anslow Sabum-nim more than redeemed himself, winning with some dynamic hands and feet in the final round-robin matchup. The bout was an entertaining toe-to-toe, brawling war with Lincoln LTSI's Mr. Hurt. It was surprising to see the quality of the techniques in this division considering its a veterans section, with all the oppoenents showing the younger black belts some crisp jumping techniques, technical kicks and fast hand combo's.
Mr. Avis stood out from a crowded field in the 1st and 2nd Dan Patterns division, with a crisp and powerful showing. Colin 'The Engineer' Avis took home Gold and brought the Rayners Lane Taekwon-do Academy's medal count crashing its way into double figures. Hope against hope, the tide of war seemed to be turning.
Mysteriously, the crowding of the black belt Patterns division was only exceeded by the dearth of competitors in the Sparring division... perhaps our reputation preceeds us somewhat!
In the black belt sparring final, the Whirling Dervish Mr. Gautum faced up to Mr. Avis. Mr. Gautum used his awesome experience to produce some silky combinations and used the slide-y conditions to good effect, flooring Mr. Avis several times in the first round.
The Engineer rallied in the second, but it wasn't enough to prevent Mr. Gautum avenging his earlier loss in the patterns division to Mr Avis. Still, Mr. Avis got to take home another Silver. To quote the poet, Homer (Simpson), "De-fault. The two sweetest words in the English language!"
The Black Belt Destruction event was contested by a similarly shallow field but the challenge was on none the less.
Stepping up to duel against some boards of adamantium-like strength, Mr. Gautum composed himself and measured up with immaculate poise.
Mr. Gautum eyeballed the target and an expectant hush descended on the assembled spectators. The calm before the storm.
Silence turned to violence.
A battle-cry rent the air, shaking the hall, and the blade of a foot sword blasted towards its victim.
Even in the dying days of the USSR, no Red Square saw anything like the brutality of the next few seconds. The aforementioned 'red square' being one of the UKTA red boards which I believe is equal to 3 standard boards... and these were fresh out the packet on the day!
Vik the Elder bludgeoned his way through three out of the four breaking techniques to steal away the honours from a field consisting of Mr. Anslow and Mr. Avis. His final technique, a screaming knifehand strike that sledgehammered its way through the Iron Curtain.
Finally, it was time to roll out the big guns. Richie, Doun and Lyndsey answered the call to arms and assembled at their respective rings for Patterns. Within minutes, the top two places in the 10th to 7th Kup division had gone to the two young Turks performing Dan Gun.
Stepping off the podium with a big grin, Doun was admonished by Mr. Anslow.
"More humble Dunny!"
But only sparring - the art of hitting people when they're trying to hit you back - could feed the hunger: The hunger to prove one's worth as a student, as a fighter, as a human.
Doun and Richie flew through their first two fights. Edgy and excited, Richard 'The Butcher' Baker was unable to get past the bargepole reach of his next opponent - a mountain of a man with a ferocious over-the-top punch.
Doun "Albert" Choi was dwarfed by the same fighter in the final, but did battle nevertheless.
It's often said that pain is just weakness leaving the body, but Doun didn't feel too strong when he impaled himself on a fierce side-piercing kick. Massaging his kidney back into shape, he picked himself back up off the floor to finish and lose the fight with a couple of points and a semblance of dignity.
Meanwhile, Lyndsey 'The Little One' Reynolds, was battling in a crowded field of coloured belt fighters. In Patterns, the 1st kup placed fourth in a well-contested division.
As for Sparring, Lyndsey threw her trademark barrage of punches at her leggier foe, but the judges were insufficiently impressed. The Little One had to console herself with a Bronze and dreams of what could have been.
The Academy's final prize of the day was picked up by Doun, who side-piercing kicked his way through a somewhat easier red board to pick up a Destruction trophy.
A ceasefire was declared and combatants on all sides downed arms.
Rayners Lane Taekwon-do Academy's troops dusted off their wounded and began to disband, heading home for their hero's welcome.
"War! What is it good for?" Edwin Starr once asked. His conclusion? "Absolutely nothing".
The elite squad of Rayners Lane fighters who did battle that day would beg to differ.
All had proven their mettle, and were content with a second place earned by an undermanned squad in hostile territory, to a capable and larger army.
Then something amazing happened.
The final scores trickled in, and totals were totted up. Rayners Lane (and a dazzling array of poorly spelt variations - Ryner Lanes, Rayner Lanes, Ranyers Lane): Nine Golds. Five Silvers. Five Bronzes.
Lips moved and brows furrowed as the assembled warriors practised their basic arithmetic.
We had done it. We had edged out our enemies with a narrow two point victory - a margin even thinner than LTSI's floor mats.
As Charlotte hefted the Area Title Trophy, almost as large as herself, even Mr. Anslow allowed himself the humblest of smiles. He deserved it. After all, the Spartan's didn't even win.
Just for the record... though this report is humerous in nature, the event was excellant and well hosted. Well done and thank you to the host Mr Smith, LTSI Chief Instructor Mr Snow and everybody involved.
LTSI Invitationals 2007
Report by Jonathan Choi
LTSI Invitationals 2007
Report by Jonathan Choi
A Humourous Report