Like millions of domesticated pets across the Western world, I have spent many a happy moment sitting on the sofa with my owner on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Although unlike those pets, I prefer to think of John as my responsible guardian / business partner. Anyhow, many of those happy moments were spent fudo-dachi with John watching martial arts films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon featuring charismatic film star Chow Yun-Fat or Fist of Legend with famous actor and martial artist Jet Li. Just so you know, fudo-dachi is a martial arts move and means ‘immovable stance’ in Japanese. That’s the only martial arts move I can perform but I do it well! I leave the foot-sweeps and lotus kicks to the experts.
The Regional Arena in Manchester was host to 250 of these experts in October for the 2015 World Taekwondo Federation Grand Prix and John and I were invited to attend by our good friend and professional photographer Mark Pain. This was my first real life display of Taekwondo and I have never seen anyone kick so high as the contestants bobbed around each other on their mats. They were agile, nimble of foot and fast, delivering swift kicks to each other and seeming to love it. The human fascination with combat baffles me but from a purely athletic point of view it was impressive to witness. We were told that many of these athletes were contenders for a spot in Rio 2016 for the summer Olympics but with 3 days of competition ahead of them, they would have to work for this privilege.
The contest matched pairs of participants together in 8 weight divisions to kick each other repeatedly using a combination of flying kicks (known as the ‘roundhouse’), axe kicks (heel drops to the head, yes that’s right you heard correctly) and the fancy spinning hook kick that you see Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee perform on the big screen. The head, neck and torso are acceptable strike zones and points are scored for landing blows to the opponent while points are deducted for illegal moves such as grabbing, pushing, throwing or attacking with a hand or knee. I’m still reeling from the axe kick which involves lifting your leg straight up to your forehead then slamming it down on to the opponents head.
Despite being exposed to this exhibition of resilience and strength, I was sure that my toughest move that night at home would be wrestling my teddy to the floor and throwing him in my water bowl. After all, I am a peace loving cat who is even kind and friendly to the belligerent pigeon that taunts me on the fence in the garden as I wash my whiskers after dinner, strutting up and down with his chest puffed out! May be I should show him I mean business by practising a few jiu-jitsu moves in front of the window, after my nap of course!