You could be excused if you lost focus with 3,000 pairs of eyes on you.
But for Rossland martial artists James French and Matias Hofmann, focus won’t be a problem.
Both are extensively schooled in control, having achieved significant status as red stripe belts—one below black belt—and were selected as part of the upcoming Team Canada contingent heading to Coventry, England, for the 2013 World Tae Kwon Do championships next month.
Self control through meditation and practice is the basis for their training, something they have both achieved in their approximately four years at the Trail Martial Arts studio under Jason Ayles and Mike Vroom.
A lot of tae kwon do is psychological, especially in competition, said French, a 17-year-old recent graduate of Rossland Secondary School. He will compete in sparring and patterns, a combination of fast and slow, light and forceful movements together with extensive footwork.
It’s the first world tournament for French, who won gold last September in Kelowna at the Western Canadian Tae Kwon Do championships, then bronze a few weeks later at the Canadian championships.
He will be relying on muscle memory, gleaned from hundreds of hours of practice in the dojo (training facility) and countless more at home, and original mind created through “mat chat” with Ayles at the beginning of each tae kwon do session.
Through Ayles French has been able to cultivate focus on a task until he is done. But for the world tournament, French will also rely on his intuition.
“I am not entirely sure how I am going to cope with doing it in front of so many people,” he said. “You want to stay calm in a sparring match. You are extremely focused on one particular aspect of your opponent.”
Not worrying about the thousands of people on hand to watch the event, that attracts over 3,000 competitors from around the world.
For Hofmann, 12, a Grade 6 student at RSS, he is already focused, doing more mental training and meditation.
He won gold at the Western Canadian championships and followed that up with another gold in patterns at the Canadian championships.
Ayles felt he was ready to challenge on the world stage after four years of practice.
“Right now I am not thinking about how far it is and how big of an event it is, I’m thinking about going to England to have some fun,” Hofmann said.
“I’ll get to the arena and it will be pretty scary and an overwhelming sight. I’ll cope with it however I can, maybe do some meditation and try not to think of how big it is.”
Hofmann will be there with his mother, Karen Lavender, and will also be visiting his grandparents.
The two athletes will be sorted into classes at the world championships according to their weight, the colour of belt attained, and their age.
Although French prefers patterns and Hofmann sparring, each one excels in the other discipline. To bring home a medal, however, could prove tougher to accomplish than here at home, and both athletes admit the experience of a world tournament will be medal enough.