By Brett Bruton
To say that the Rhodes Taekwon-do Club’s participation in the South African Taekwon-do National Championships in Port Elizabeth this year was a resounding success is almost an understatement. With 21 medals won – seven of which were gold, ten silver and four bronze – we returned to Grahamstown on a well deserved high. Regardless of the four days of traveling, early mornings, long days and late nights, the bumps and bruises of the past weekend were forgotten. We had beaten even our own expectations and were, if I do say so myself, bloody chuffed with ourselves.
For myself, however, it was more than simply riding the waves of good spirit after a competition well competed. It was the culmination of a year of new experiences and surprises, not to mention a dash of self-discovery thrown in to boot. Standing on the bronze podium besides my fellow competitors, the weariness of the long, final day of events was forgotten as I bent my head to receive my medal. A modest bronze it may have been, but it could have been a blazing nugget of solid gold strung around my neck for all I cared as I stood, grinning like a loon in front of the gathered assembly. As wild cheers and snippets of “that’s the way, uh-ha, uh-ha, I like it, uh-ha, uh-ha!” rung out from the giant crowd of my red-jacketed Phoenix teammates, I began to realize that, somehow, the random group of strangers that I had met only a few months before I now counted as my friends. I had somehow become one of the newest members of a small family of high-flying, arse-kicking, board-breaking nutters with an extended family of colourful relatives that would put the whole of Ireland to shame. Stepping down from the pedestal, the temptation to rush off en masse and start a bar fight somewhere was strong. Somehow, we resisted.
But I’ve begun at the end – woe-is-me should my high school English teacher ever pick up this article. Never mind that the added weight of press-molded metal and colourful ribbon meant that the car trip back added R50 to the price of petrol: there will always be more competitions and more medals. As clichéd as this may sound; what truly matters are the people.
The Rhodes Taekwon-do Club is affiliated with Club Phoenix, or Bul Sa Jo Kwan, of Port Elizabeth. Having met almost none of my fellow PE teammates previously, I initially felt compelled to ‘cluster’ with my Grahamstown clan. This sentiment, however, was short lived, as we all soon found ourselves standing side by side with our PE comrades, screaming ourselves hoarse as we supported our friends and chanted encouragement at a combined volume that would have put a Durban taxi to shame – a volume that, in the end, won us the coveted Spirit Award. Tri-varsity, eat your heart out – we did this sober!
Writing on behalf or our Grahamstown clan, I think that my team would agree with me when I say that the biggest reason for our success at SA Champs is the strong feeling of comradery and friendship that permeates everything we do as a team. Whenever one of us climbed up onto the podium, the rest of us may as well have climbed up next to him or her, so strong has the support been throughout the year. From road-tripping to PE every second weekend to forgetting teammates at the Spar in Central at 11pm, we’ve done it as a group. Under the eyes of our coach and friend Matthew Esof, we have learnt to believe in ourselves. We’ve also learnt a few dirty jokes, but unfortunately I’m running out of space. They’ll have to wait for another article.
As for all of those who won medals, they’d kill me if I didn’t include them. And so, in no particular order:
Keri Werth with a silver, Robyn de Jager with a gold and silver, Laura Street with a gold and two silvers, Thabo Limema with a gold and silver, Matthew Esof with gold and a bronze, Butsha Zwane with a silver, Jai Clifford-Holmes with a bronze, Andrew Duggan with silver, Orrin Snelgar with gold and myself, Brett Bruton, with a bronze. Thabo, Matthew, Andrew, Orrin as well as Byron Truscott and Dave Morrison were also the recipients of numerous team awards.
Matt is leaving us at the end of this year, and I’d like to say that all of these medals are truly for him. Without his help, support and friendship, none of us would have been able to make this happen and we wish him the best of luck in his life to come. With that said, it’s time to kick arse and chew bubble gum.
Damn. All out of gum.