Report from the Northern Ireland International Poomsae Championships

The Northern Ireland International Poomsae Championships are once again setting the standard for competitions both in the UK and across Europe.

This year’s event welcomed 390 players from 13 countries, from 9th Kup to 7th Dan, and from 5 years old to 76 years old.  They competed across six rings under the watchful eyes of 34 judges from 11 countries, 24 of who were highly respected and experienced International Referees, travelling from as far away as the US to be part of the Championships.  Under the leadership of Grandmaster Tong Wan Shin the quality of refereeing was undeniable, with several competitors saying that the judges were one of the best groups assembled outside the European championships themselves.

Hosted at the Queen’s University Sports Centre in Belfast the competition was opened by competition Director Master Damian Duffy, with further welcoming addresses from Grandmaster Shin and Mark Abberley, the British taekwondo CEO.  It kicked off exactly on time, with players on all rings starting simultaneously.  Performances throughout the day were of the highest standard, with local and UK players raising their game to match the challenge of their opponents from all round Europe and as far afield as Hong Kong and Korea.

Helped by many volunteers from local clubs and with the readability of the tomahawk PScore system, everything was run to a strict timetable with each division starting within a few minutes of its scheduled time. This allowed players to know when they should warm up and prepare and how long they had to relax between individual, pair and team events.

The morning session finished with the para-Poomsae competition, allowing everyone to see the real abilities of these wonderful athletes.  The Northern Ireland had Para entries before WTF had even drawn up rules and those of us who have been lucky enough to have seen development of Para-Taekwondo over the years were delighted to see the improvement in standard.

After lunch we started with the Freestyle competition, with the male division won by Cheol Taekwondo Academy’s Peter Mongan.  Maybe his choice of rocked up Irish Traditional music that helped sway the judges!

Once the event was finished at 6.30pm it was time to identify our best players and award the team trophies.  Without a doubt it was the Czech Republic’s Simona Kalakova who stood out as the best female Dan player, while the UK’s U17 player Jack Durcan impressed as the best male player.  Sponsorship from Kwon saw each receive a Kwon bag, while Kicksport provided each of the best players with a new MTX brand dobok.

With most Kup grade competitors being Northern Ireland based it wasn’t a great surprise to see local boy Enzo Lacules lift the best kup player, even though he is still under 9 years old!  The best female player was Dorota Byrne, who has only been training for a year and has only just moved to the +35 division.  (Maybe we should have kept her age a secret!)

Overall the three top Dan grade teams were Livingwell, Central Taekwondo Academy and Premier Ki, while the Kup trophies went to three local clubs – Lisburn Taekwondo Club, Queen’s University Club and Cheol Taekwondo Academy.

The organising committee as also proud to announce that they used the event to raise £200 for local charity Cancer Lifeline and over £350 for the Alzheimer Society.  Hopefully other competitions can link up with charities to do the same.

Despite a tiring day many players returned the next day to take part in an excellent seminar under former world Poomsae champion Master Sung Hey Kim and his son Tae Woong Kim who is a member of the WTF demo team.

Two hours for Kup grades and an extra three for the Dan grades meant a lot of sweat, plenty of learning and no shortage of laughter – especially with our more ‘mature’ participants cartwheeling down the hall in the warm up!

Special thanks to Master Jaeung Shin for his help throughout the seminar and for making it possible for us to host the event.

The competition has a very special atmosphere so the organising committee hope that not only was it an enjoyable competition but also that the competitors and judges will take home many pleasant memories of Belfast and Northern Ireland.