On Saturday afternoon, the Tufts tae kwon do team set out on a roadtrip into enemy territory. It was an epic five hour journey full of snacks, GPS mistakes, and sing alongs to “I’ll make a man out of you,” our unofficial team song. Exhausted, we finally arrived in Morristown, NJ, at the house of a teammate. Her family was super happy to have us there, and we got a good rest (unlike last tournament during which we slept on the floor of the local dojang) and an AMAZING breakfast of bagels, pancakes, and “disgusting eggs,” which is some secret combo of eggs, ham, and jelly. Once we had eaten our fill, we went off to represent Tufts in the Eastern Collegiate Tae kwon do Conference at Princeton.
Being completely honest and unbiased, tae kwon do fights are pretty sweet. The lightweight fights require competitors to be quick on their feet and use sudden attacks to score. Middleweights need both power and speed to win, and those matches are often the most exciting to watch. Heavyweight matches are just what you expect them to be: two giant fighters duking it out. We fight using WTF rules—that stands for World Tae kwon do Federation, guys—so the score is tallied according to kicks. And tae kwon do is known for its kicks. Think jumping spinning hook kick, which is basically meant to take out the opponent’s head.
Led by Master Mike Harb, the team charged into the fray. Let me take a small detour to tell you about Mike. At the beginning of the year, he was given fifteen or so white belts to train. Over the next few months, this Aussie worked his way into our hearts while training us to be fighters. Mike Harb stands at just about five feet tall, but he somehow has more energy than the rest of us put together. It’s a team consensus that if he says something, you do it. To quote an upperclassman, “If Mike told me to get in the ring, strip naked, and quack like a duck, I’d do it in a second.” Mike knows his stuff.
While we usually have a few teams advancing to higher level rounds, this tournament was particularly hard on us. However, that didn’t stop the team from having a good showing. To start with the prize of the day, Nicole Tang, E ’15, won an extremely shiny gold medal for her form (sa jang, for those who are curious or who speak Korean).
We had some great matches as well, but there is one in particular that stands out. A few days prior, I had told my friend Dariusz, E' 15, that I wanted to see him fight a hundred and twenty percent one day. He’s already a good fighter and I thought it would be cool to see what would happen if he cut loose, and when he did, it was amazing. Usually the match scores are relatively low—a normal score would be 7-4 or so—but Dariusz fought like a demon, and ended up with a 50-point match. The crowd around that ring was one of the largest all day. Unfortunately, he lost 30-20, but that fight was unforgettable.
So we headed home nursing various bumps and bruises, laughing at our mistakes and victories, and singing more Mulan—Tufts tae kwon do at its finest.