South Africa: Impressive Medal Haul By Tuks Taekwondo Athletes

Martial art movie fans are used to see their heroes flying metres through the air in an attempt to kick the bad character senseless!

Sometimes these feats might seem like on-camera foolery, but that's not really the case.

Martial arts athletes are capable of doing incredible stunts. The Tuks Taekwondo athletes proved it last weekend with an impressive display during the opening ceremony of the Tuks Taekwondo tournament.

However, according to TuksTaekwondo chairperson Deran Naidoo, in reality the sport is not about flying kicks resulting in shattered pieces of wood.

'Yes, we are able to do so, but that's pure fun. You can say it's the "Hollywood aspect" which we use to market our sport. In reality, taekwondo is all about five principles - courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and an indomitable spirit,' explained Naidoo who himself is a second dan taekwondo athlete.

During Saturday's competition athletes from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Botswana competed. The Tuks Taekwondo athletes managed to win 21 medals (seven gold, eight silver and six bronze).

Naidoo said he took up taekwondo because he's no fan of training in a gym and tends to find it boring.

'I wanted to improve my cardio fitness and become more flexible. Through taekwondo training, I achieved both.'

Taekwondo is an Olympic sport. Athletes compete according to the rules of World Taekwondo. In an Olympic sparring match, all strikes are full contact, and the clock continues when points are scored.

A standard point system works like this: One point for a regular kick, two for a turning behind the kick, three for a back kick, and four for a spinning kick to the head. Athletes wear a chest protector and helmets as well as some other protection.

Naidoo admits that it's difficult for South Africans to qualify for the games because taekwondo is one of the smaller martial arts sports which means there are not that many competitions.

What is the secret to winning a taekwondo sparring match? 'Reflexes, and having a good pregame strategy,' is Naidoo's immediate answer. 'I guess it all boils down to muscle memory. If you observe your opponent, you will get an idea of what kicks he favours in executing. That helps you to counter instantly.

'People often might think we just kick for the sake of kicking during a sparring match, but that's not so. In senior competitions, there is a plan with each kick. You want to outwit your opponent.'

Junhyeop Kim, a Grade 10 pupil at Pretoria Boys High School, was one of the Tuks Taekwondo athletes who impressed with his skills during Saturday's opening ceremony.

Kim explained the reason why taekwondo athletes mostly kick during a sparring match. This is because the reach of a leg is further than that of an arm and one is able to put more force into a kick than with a punch.

'While we mostly kick in sparring match we will resort to using our arms when being attacked.'

The Tuks gold medallists were: Stephan Cloete, Thai Nguyen, Jessica Niemand, Robert Henke, Christel Brooks (2) and Justine Jiang. Silver medallists: Tamryn Geldenhuis, Suah Jeong, Daniel Pienaar, Euiseok Jeong, Roy Chen, Thato Aphane, Lea Botha and Isaac Choi. Bronze medallists: Bernard Rademeyer, Suah Jeong, Jessica Niemand, Aymar Talawou, Maxine Loganathan and Lea Botha.

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