HEADING TO NATIONALS
Five Island Martial Arts students going to Calgary.
It’s a weeknight taekwondo class at the Island Martial Arts Centre and about a dozen padded students face each other in pairs, trading light kicks, punches and elbows.
But in the corner of the gymnasium, one person works in solitude, repeating a slow series of elegant moves that seem as much a dance as martial arts.
Janna MacLean is one of five Island Martial Arts black belts who will head to Calgary, Alta., later this month for the 2017 Taekwondo National Championships. However, unlike her teammates who are taking part in the sparring competitions, she will be the first Island Martial Arts Centre student to ever compete in the poomse, or forms, at the nationals.
Unlike sparring where students have a certain amount of creative leeway and styles vary from competitor to competitor, the poomse is a strictly regimented series of motions that encompass all of the technical movements of taekwondo but with a refined grace and precision.
“That’s how I have to explain it to all my friends — ‘Yeah, it’s kind of a dance,’” says MacLean, a 14-year-old Sydney River resident who received her black belt in November.
She said the eight separate parts of the poomse, each with its own set of a dozen or more movements, is much more demanding than it may seem. As well, even the slightest error in positioning can be costly in the eyes of the judges.
“I get extremely focused during it. And it’s very tiring. It doesn’t look like it’s really tiring, but it’s pretty difficult. For nationals, it’s going to be pretty precise, like if you had it here instead of here,” she said, moving her hand less than two inches, “that’s a point-one deduction.”
MacLean’s decision to compete in the poomse has also been a challenge for Island Martial Arts Centre head instructor Brandon Fraser. He’s had someone from Halifax come down to help work on the finer points of the poomse with MacLean and he’s also been speaking regularly with a referee in Ontario to learn exactly what judges look for.
He’s even cut pool noodles to use as guides to help MacLean with her poomse stance, which is different than a traditional taekwondo fighting position.
“The bottom movements that she makes are very specified, so we’ve tried our best to use any tools that we can to really get the standard stances and movements that she has to get down,” Fraser said.
“It’s a completely new realm for us but it’s something we’re looking to get some experience and build upon as we go.”
The other Island Martial Arts students competing at nationals are: Lexi Hillier, 11; Noah Druggett, 11; Ben Epifano, 16; and Josh Genter, 16.
The Taekwondo National Championships run form May 25-29.
Janna MacLean, 14, performs some of the poomse movements during an Island Martial Arts Centre class Wednesday in Sydney. The 14-year-old Sydney River resident is one of five Island Martial Arts black belts who will head to Calgary, Alta., later this month for the 2017 Taekwondo National Championships.