From January 12th to 15th a unique and new event took place in the beautiful La Nucia, Spain, the ITF Elite Stage & Competition. This event was the concept of Grandmaster Bos and Sabum Paco Ferrando and came to fruition following discussions at the ITF World Cup in Koper and the wish to provide more opportunities for development for ITF athletes and to put the athlete at the centre of our focus as they are the future of our martial art and sport. The event was held with the support of the AETF led by President, Master Leonardo Oros Duek and saw national team athletes, coaches and umpires from 8 countries (Spain, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, England, Norway, Netherlands and Israel) come together for four days of sharing ideas, training, learning from each other and enjoying our wonderful martial art in a very friendly and warm atmosphere.
Each day of the event was packed with high level training, with patterns & sparring sessions happening in parallel, where the athletes could freely choose which activity to train in. The training sessions were led by some of Europe’s most well known coaches and each session was coordinated by Grandmaster Bos who was always on hand to support, offer advice and insight and give input in the sessions being led by the team.
Day one started with Master Tomaz Barada leading the warm up in typical high intensity fashion which prepared the athletes for the activities ahead.
Pattern training took place with Master Stephen Ryan from Ireland & Master Jose Luis Diego from Spain and supported by Sabum Nim David Atencia from Spain. The session focused on physical & mental preparation for patterns competition and building performance, with the clear message that pattern competitors must treat themselves as and train as athletes in the same way that an elite fighter does.
In parallel to this was sparring with Grandmaster Willy van de Mortel & Master Johann de Silva focusing on movement, timing, controlling space & the use of the blitz to initiate and build scores. Following this was a second sparring session led by Master Barada and GM Van de Mortel, introducing some very effective hand and kicking combinations which pushed the athletes out of their comfort zones.
In the evening the athletes & coaches were able to relax and enjoy a walk along the seafront which was a close distance to the hotel.
Day two opened with the presence of the Mayor of La Nucia & the President of the Royal Taekwon-Do Federation as well as former ITF Secretary General, Master Juan Ferrando, who all gave a warm welcome to all participants and reiterated their support for Sabum Ferrando and FEST.
Day two training sessions were again split into two elements running in parallel where the athletes could choose freely which activity to train in. The patterns training was led by Sabum Silvia Farigu & Master Christian Oriolani from Italy and Master Jose Luis Diego from Spain where a lot of useful exercises were shared for developing kicking ability, core strength & explosiveness as well as many technical tips and methods to improve technical content and the overall performance.
On the sparring side multiple sessions took place, with modules being led by Master Stephen Ryan from Ireland, Master Tomaz Barada from Slovenia, Master Stephen Cooley from Ireland, Master Johann De Silva from England and Grandmaster Willy van de Mortel from the Netherlands. The sessions focused on a wide range of topics to improve sparring performance, from tactical development, building momentum and scores, ring craft, controlling space, countering effectively, the use of constrained sparring scenarios, exercises for conditioning and effective sparring drills. At the end of each session, athletes were able to ask questions and get further advice.
Day two finished with a discussion on season planning, goal setting & performance profiling, where each athlete was given the opportunity to make an analysis of their current level, discuss the attributes of the world champions present at the event and discuss goals to set for the season ahead. There were many engaging discussions with the World & European Champions present offering insight from their experiences and very interactive discussions among the groups working on the exercise.
Day three was competition day but with a difference, the focus was to allow the athletes to get as many opportunities to compete against other athletes and other countries as possible and the athletes relished the chance to get mat time against other high level performers without the pressure of a European or World Championships and where they could try some of the exercises from the previous days to challenge themselves in a mix of individual & team events in both patterns and sparring. The competition day was again coordinated by Grandmaster Bos who kept things ticking along smoothly and the coaching team were able to give feedback to the athletes following each performance in sparring and patterns.
During the lunch break of day three, our host Sabum Paco Ferrando arranged for a large Paella that was enjoyed by the more than 150 athletes, coaches and umpires under the January Sun in a beautiful ambience.
During day three we had the honour of having the full AETF Board of Directors present to view the event along with AETF President Master Duek and special guest ITF President, Grandmaster Paul Weiler, who both gave speeches and encouraging words to the young athletes for their efforts. Some small gifts were also given from the AETF to the coaching team and to the coordinators GM Bos & Sabum Ferrando as well as to Master Juan Ferrando as a token of appreciation..
Following the lunch break on day three, the competition format changed to team events, where teams were made by mixing different nations together in both patterns & sparring. It was a pleasure to watch the elite level on display throughout the day.
During each of the days during the downtime, the group enjoyed fun social activities together as well as making funny videos of their experience at the event.
On the last day, the athletes again enjoyed some light training where they could get further feedback from the coaching team as well as video analysis and group analysis of the whole event. Finally, four beautiful belts which were sponsored by Top Ten, were presented to four athletes chosen for their performances during the event, taking into account their level of performance, social engagement and embodiment of the spirit of the Elite Stage. The event closed with warm words from Grandmaster Bos & Sabum Paco Ferrando, thanking all involved for their efforts and support for the 1st ITF Elite Stage & Competition. We are already looking forward to the second edition on January 11th to 14th 2024, book the dates in your Calendar so you don’t miss out.