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Tae Kwon Do Club Competes in First Meet

By Elizabeth Kim and Christina Park


Last Saturday 19 MIT students each fought hand-to-hand against students from eight other colleges.

The MIT Sport Tae Kwon Do Club, only five months old, competed in its first intercollegiate tournament, hosted at John Jay College in New York City. Though entering as underdogs with sixteen of its members never competing before, the Engineers confidently set aside their fears and inexperience and earned fifth place out of nine schools.

The day began with the poomse (forms) competition, in which tae kwon do students perfect their skills and highlight the beauty of the “art” side of martial arts. Each competitor performed a choreographed set of blocks, kicks and punches, and was given a score based on their demonstration of power, grace, balance, and agility. Jack C. Kwok’s ’01 crisp and powerful forms proved that practice makes perfect, and he took 3rd place out of 40 yellow belts in his division. “I was very excited about the tournament and did my best to prepare for it,” said Kwok.

In the sparring competition, the divisions are broken down into black belts, color belts and white/yellow belts, and schools form teams of three (consisting of a lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight). The respective weights spar two-round matches against each other and winning two of the three rounds advances the team in a single elimination fashion. Points are scored by executing a strong kick that displaces the body, or demonstrating a controlled kick to the head.

MIT’s overall ranking in the tournament received a boost from the women’s black-belt sparring team (Alice S. Chau ’04, Maria E. Stiteler ’03, Christina S. Park ’02), who reached the finals and finished in second place.

Chau showed a lot of heart, toughening up in the face of asthma to land multiple head kicks to her opponent.

Despite her lack of experience in competition, Stiteler also proved to be resilient, refusing to give up in her match and finishing strong.

Against Cornell, Park figured out her opponent’s strategy early on and adapted her own to control the match 5-1.

The women’s yellow belt sparring team (Jessica C. Huang ’03, Elizabeth S. Kim ’01, Melissa M. Barbagelata G) also contributed to MIT’s score, winning third place in their division with a cumulative record of 4-1.

Huang used her height and flexibility to her advantage, easily winning her first match with several kicks to the head.

With a burst of energy and determination, Kim came back from a 2-0 deficit of the first round to score two points in the second round and win by decision of aggression.

Barbagelata’s strong kicks and intimidating spirit joined those of her teammates’, facing no problems in her first match against U Penn.

The men’s teams faced stiffer competition. Despite a valiant effort by David A. Wilson ’04 and a 7-0 win by Chinedum O. Osuji G, the men’s black belt team was eliminated in the quarter-finals, lacking a lightweight. The men’s yellow belt teams faced tough competition as well, but they did not lose heart or momentum in fighting their best.

Head Coach Dan Chuang (third degree black belt, U.S. Cup Team member), said, “The team was really anchored by its two captains, Christina Park and Chinedum Osuji, both of whom were able to share their wealth of experience in coaching the team.”

Chuang further noted that “Chinedum is the 1998 National Collegiate silver medalist in tae kwon do, and Christina is a former junior National medalist. They won all of their matches and helped coach the team on a chaotic and stressful tournament day.”

The MIT Sport Tae Kwon Do Club was started last fall by Chuang and Park in response to the MIT community’s demand and need for an organization that teaches, trains, and competes in Olympic-style tae kwon do. As the most widely practiced and standardized form of tae kwon do worldwide, it is unique in its rules of competition and emphasis on its sport aspect. In the northeast during this past decade, a lively and passionate community has sprung up around Olympic-style competitions among schools such as Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, Yale, and many others. MIT has now joined this community and made its name known.

When asked of his impressions on the team, Chuang commented, “the club performed extremely well, especially given how new many of them were to tae kwon do competition. Most of the team members have been doing tae kwon do for only about a semester, and they were competing against much more seasoned and experienced competitors from other schools.”

Chuang said that he hopes the team will perform better as they gain more experience and the club grows.

Two days after the competition, the team began to train again in preparation of their next competition on April 8th at Yale University.