Despite New Sparring Format, Sport Taekwondo Wins Nationals

The MIT Sport Taekwondo Club competed at Stanford University in the 33rd National Collegiate Taekwondo Association Championships on April 25–26. The team of 39 competitors from MIT claimed first place by a wide margin in both the Novice (color belt) and Overall Divisions. Tied for second place overall were the University of Califoria-Los Angeles, and UC-Berkeley.

This nationwide tournament attracts some of the best collegiate athletes from all over the country. There are two competitions at the tournament: poomsae (forms, or pre-coreographed moves), and kyorugi (sparring). Each of these competitions are further divided into belt and weight divisions.

MIT was dominant in the Novice Division, taking first by placing a number of athletes in both forms and sparring. In poomsae, the scoring rules were very different from the usual style used in other tournaments. Changes in the ready position, stances, and breathing styles made this new style challenging, but the MIT team practiced hard and entered the arena fully prepared for the new style. Their hard work and practice paid off: MIT won ten gold, eleven silver, and three bronze medals. The blue and red belts were particularly dominant — five of the medals were won by blue belt women, three more came from the men blue belts. All of the red belts from the MIT team placed in their respective divisions.

MIT gold medalists in color belt forms were Andrew Sugaya ’11 and Sarah J. Wright ’11 in the white/yellow belt division, Jing “Jenny” Cheng ’11 in the green belt division, Ranbel F. Sun ’10, Allan Fong G, Stephanie R. Chiang ’08 and Elisabeth M. Markham ’09 at the blue belt level, and Ning Wu G, Jaclyn J. Ho ’09, and club president Corinna Hui ’09 among the red belts. Earning silver medals were Mark J. Yen ’11, Grace S. Kim ’09, and Andrew A. Hsiao ’10 at the white/yellow belt level, ZheChen “Mary” Hong ’10 and Chensi Ouyang ’08 among the green belts, Miranda J. Ha G, Vijay Umapathy ’10, and Christine Chin ’09 at the blue belt level, and Wenxian Hong ’10, Ziyan Chu ’07, and Forrest Liau G in the competitive red belt division. Taking bronze were blue belt Tylor Hess ’10 and red belts Omar E. Fernández ’10 and Stephanie E. Nix ’09.

Sparring at the national level was also slightly different from the format with which the team is familiar. Matches had three rounds, rather than the usual two, and points were harder to score since three of the four judges needed to see each kick, rather than two of the usual three. Furthermore, kicks to the head were allowed in all divisions. Despite this somewhat different set of rules, MIT again rose to the challenge, earning five gold medals, six silver medals, and eight bronze medals in sparring.

In the white and yellow belt division, Yen and Wright earned silver medals, and Sugaya, Hsiao, and Kim earned bronze. The MIT women’s blue and green belt featherweights swept despite being in one of the larger divisions, with Ha, Han Zhu ’09, and Hong placing first, second, and third respectively. Also earning medals in the green and blue belt division were Umapathy and Chiang (gold), Chin and Fong (silver), and Markham and Sun (bronze). At the red belt level, Wu and Hui earned gold medals, Liau took silver, and Ho and Nix took bronze.

For the Championship Division forms competition, the black belt competitors were divided by dan (degree) and weight class. All six MIT first-dan black belts medaled in poomsae: Richard-Duane S. Chambers ’05 and Nicole D. Teague ’11 both earned bronze medals, Aaron L. Sampson ’10 took silver, and John T. Wong ‘06, Rene R. Chen ’07, and Rebecca Hung ’11 all took gold medals in first-dan forms for their respective weight classes.

The second day of competition at Stanford focused on black belt sparring where the MIT team placed third in the Championship (black belt) Division. Erica Y. Chan ’07 and Teague won bronze medals while Alicia Zhou ’06 won silver.