As you may or may not know, I’m not particularity taken with gold trim and accessories. I tend to prefer my shiny accoutrements in shades of silver.
With one glaring exception.
Gold Medals over a black belt. That is my summer fashion of choice, and it is complemented quite well by black (and blue and yellowishy-green) eyes.
After three years of not-so-awesome health that forced me to seriously curtail my martial endeavors (and work, and pretty much everything), things have been finally getting better and so this year, I went out for the US Taekwondo Team again.
I qualified in Patterns, Sparring, and my personal specialty, Power Breaking. Though on the mend, I still had to watch myself and so most of my limited training time went towards Breaking. From past experience, Patterns and Sparring are so subjectively judged that there’s no guarantee that skill and training will overcome the geopolitical biases. In contrast, breaking is very cut and dried (ha ha).
And I might also have had a little something to prove…
Four years ago, I was at a rather high point in my game, competing in several events, trained to the wazoo, and winner of two shiny gold medals in Power Breaking. I was the world champion.
That was a long time and a lot of issues ago. But I wanted it to regain my title and do it again.
Long story short, I made it. Mission accomplished. Medal achieved. 2014 Power Breaking World Champion. (Or if we use the Italian lingo, World Champion of “Destruction”). I vote we all adopt the Italian way of saying it.
Along they way, I also got to hang out with friends that I don’t get to see very often (sans FB, but that doesn’t really count), introduce some new students to the wild thing that is Worlds, see my little sister prove herself to be one of the top Technique Breakers in the world, and help coach Team USA.
Worlds is an indescribable experience that is full of chaos, tension, full-contact, not-according-to-plans, friends, victory, defeat, camaraderie, and so much more. I am happy with my own result, but I’m also so proud of my students that went for the first time. They all did me proud in different ways and some of them surprised themselves by stepping up to a level they’ve never even contemplated before and holding their own against the best in the world. (Some of them realized that I did not lie about the level of intensity and so will return humbled (hopefully) and alive (whew!) to train with a better understanding of what to expect next time.
Coaching was a lot of work and stress, but it was also a great experience. I ended up being kinda the main power breaking coach for a while and it was a mess. Already behind schedule, the organizers figured out that the boards they had chosen did not fit the board-holders that they’d had built. (*shuts mouth, but snicker escapes*) Really? No one thought to check the fit before a thousand black belts from across the world arrived in Rome to compete? That’s definitely an oops.
The first couple of divisions were done with a rather sad setup that involved an Argentinian’s black belt threaded through the holder to keep the arms up. It didn’t work so great, but it happened.
Eventually, someone intercepted the intense psychic emanations I was sending out detailing a simple modification to the rebreakable boards that would solve the board-holder problem and some other obvious issues. (As a team-member/coach, verbally making the suggestion would have been not a good idea.)
Anyhow, an Italian with a drill cut some notches and after only two messed-up divisions, the board-holding situation was more-or-less acceptable.
Serious coaching duties ensued as angry Australians got the new setup in a division where the old setup had been used and coaches pointed out the problem and things were translated into at least three different languages, and eventually the angry Aussie lost. I’m not happy for him, but it was my responsibility to take care of my guys and sometimes that means making it a very bad day for some other competitor. Competitors have to be nice, coaches have to make up the difference.
The venue was of interest. It was a stadium built primarily for martial arts events, which is definitely a rarity. It was very architecturally intriguing, but any such pros were nothing in comparison to the terrible fact that no one would or could (…semantics…) turn the air-c (as they say in Italia) on. A thousand sweaty competitors in a closed stadium in Italy in the summer… Yeah. Non e bene. Not bene at all.
The only tiny ray of awesome regarding the venue was the fact that we were in Italy and therefore the snack bar served espresso. A caffe italiano makes everything better and a caffe carreto (or real Italian coffee, according to my Dad’ new friend the barrista (barristo? guy barrista? It doesn’t matter so much in Italian, but seems potentially confusing in l’Ingles…) anyway…caffe carreto is molto bene.
Much caffe had already been enjoyed in the week before as me and my family started our Italian adventure in Venezia, where I will be going back to at some point. (BTW, the sourness of my facial expression had nothing to do with how I feel about Venice and everything to do with the fact that I am not wearing sunglasses.)
More caffe and vino rosso was consumed and we made it up into Switzerland for a day and then back down on a scenic train ride through the Alps. There was a glacier, it was awesome, and the free hotel breakfast in Chur (not pronounced like it looks) was cured hams, bologna, cappuccino, cheeses, and more yummies that cannot be properly related. Suffice to say that it makes pretty much all breakfast other than a perfect omelet seem lame and tasteless.
Although Switzerland was very green and pretty and cool, I’m a little more inclined towards the Italian attitude. My OCD is not sufficient to be accepted in Switzerland. I’m much more in line with the “those weeds aren’t hurting anything, let’s call it a day and drink some wine” vibe that I intuited back down in Italia.
Next stop was the little town of Cremona, mecca of all things violin, and one of the coolest little spots I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out in. There were museums, food, coffee, luthiers, full four-course Italian dinners, wine, beer, music, cobblestones, and just more fun that I can describe and a friendly atmosphere that was so relaxing after the whirlwind run we’d been on for the last couple of days.
We actually spent an extra day in Cremona, and I don’t regret it one bit. The only thing that went wrong was when we missed out train out. (Apparently, there was a little, dead-end track around behind the station and it was not seen by us…) We made the next train, but it seriously curtailed our next stop in Modena.
Modena, motor-valley, Italia, home of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, and balsamic vinegar. ‘Nuff said. My orignal plan of a day touring all the museums and factories possible turned into half-an-hour at the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari. Despite the short time we had there, it was amazing. One-of-a-kind cars that are priceless national treasures and will never leave Italy were on display and it was just wonderful. But I still love a GTO, the famous Pontiac slap in Ferrari’s face.
An overnight in Firenze, in an awesome apartment that was only at the top of five flights of narrow stairs. I got me a journal/notebook with a little of both Florentine paper and leather in it, saw a lot of under-clothed statues, and then rolled onwards and down to our final destination, Roma.
Did I mention that we rented a beach house two-minutes from the venue? Well, yeah.
It was certainly more convenient than the official hotel with was a good hour away from the venue and everyone got bused in and out every day. Not the greatest for sight-seeing in Roma proper, as it was a good forty-five minutes on the Metro to get downtown, but we did get a day in historical Rome, and the Colosseum was amazing. Even after all the marvels I’d seen over the past week, Rome was yet another level of amazing. The scope, the skill, and the mind-boggling thought of how long ago it had all been built. There are no words, just go see it.
Then the tournament started and that was about it for sight-seeing. I spent the morning staking out a couple hundred seats (the only ones with backs) in the stadium with the one other team member who stayed close to the venue. We waited for the rest of the team to be bussed in and fought off everyone but the Netherlands. They were allowed to join us in our primo-seating section because you got to like ’em. (And they aren’t a very big team and there wasn’t much free space other than our claim, since the very last team to be transported was, of course, ours.)
Worlds Adventure ’14 was a success and a pleasure and I’m already ready to go back to Italia…
(There were no lasting effects other than a renewed and strengthened addiction to good Italian coffee. I immediately was compelled to get a nespresso machine when I got home in order to survive.)
Oh, and that was just part one…
Upon returning to the US of A, we spent less than a week desperately reloading ammo before we packed the pickup full of weaponry and headed to Raton for the 2014 Rocky Mountain 3-Gun World Shoot.
Five days of mountainous natural terrain stages, hundreds of round of ammo, and one very big surprise.
Despite neglecting my 3-gun training for Destruction practice all year, and in spite of the fact that I was still rather jet-lagged and just generally exhausted from Worlds, I had to shoot on the 6th day too.
Apparently, I finished 3rd Lady (by score) and thus made it into the Brownell’s Lady Shoot-off. I had no idea what that would entail, but I showed up and got to go head-to-head with the top Lady in 3-Gun, Lena Miculek.
She smoked me.
Then, I got to face-off with the next best thing, Dianna Liedorff. I didn’t win that one either, but I came darn close, especially considering that I was shooting Tac Irons (no magnification) and they all had scopes. There was this one pesky 6″ plate at 300 yards that just wasn’t easy…
I didn’t win the shoot-off, but I found out that even taking forth, I got a not-insignificant cash prize. And then I went to the prize table and got to stand in the FFL line! Woot!
I also got a medal for taking first Lady in Tac Irons (despite being the only lady in Tac Irons…but I did finish well, so I’m still pretty proud of it.)
Being the definitive dark horse in the shoot-off against the top three ladies in 3-gun was a hoot. (The “hello, and who are you?” moments were rather amusing as well.) They were all real nice and now they do know me. No more hiding, I guess…
And finally, I got a personal invite [forceful invitation, “you should really come…win guns…hint. hint, hint…”] to the Lady 3-Gun Pro-Am Challenge. I was also told that due to my Lady Tac Irons victory over all my nonexistent opponents, I would be considered a pro next year. But hey, you could probably win amateur tac irons this year…guns…win guns…
I acquiesced. It was a good move.
I just got back from Atlanta and the Lady Pro-Am Challenge and I’m just gonna say that it turned out well. Look for a post about it soon.
Oh, and I’m a semi-syndicated, paid columnist now too.
It was a hell of a summer and that’s just the truth.
It looks like I’m back.
Hell yeah! I missed being me!