Dedicated Darcy Brings AIMAA First 'Worlds' to Dublin
by Rob Corwell
Tae Kwon-Do veteran John Darcy has never been so busy lately. For well over a year now he's being working hard, and constantly, at organising and promoting the Action International Martial Arts Association's (AIMAA) 'First Open Martial Arts World Championships', a huge tournament that takes place in Dublin's National Basketball Arena, Tallaght, over three day in September 2000.
The 'Worlds' are taking place to mark the 20th anniversary of the AIMAA, and its president and
founder, the world famous Grandmaster Hee Il Cho, will be in Dublin to see his open tournament bring together
numerous martial artists from around the world. "Considerable interest from all types of stylists have been
shown in our First World championships," Darcy said. "The competition will have a total of 250 divisions, whlch ensure that all our competitors are properly catered for. We'll have entrants from five years-of-age upwards and from white belt to senior black belt."
For those who take part they will have the chance to take home a prestigious world title in a cross-section of divislons and categories, among them: one-polnt sparring, continuous sparring, World Taekwondo Federation
(WTF) Olympic style sparring, WTF and Internatlonal Tae Kwon-Do Federation (ITF) patterns, traditlonal forms, Korean hard style, Japanese hard style, non-traditional free style open forms, non-traditional free style muslcal forms, weapons forms, grappling divisions (for seniors only), team sparring, team forms and breaking divisions.
A regular visitor here
"Specially commissioned gold, silver and bronze medals have been designed by Grandmaster Cho to commemorate his first World championships," Darcy said. ity of hosting our first world championships." "It really is a great honour for Ireland to host this martial
arts event, which, I believe, promises to be the largest 'open' marual arts tournament ever held in this country." Grandmaster Cho is well known to Irish martial artists, particularly Tae Kwon-Do exponents, as he has been a regular visitor here for over 20 years. From his base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he has been planning and overseeing every detail of the forthcoming event for the past 18 months.
Internationally recognised self-defence instructor and technical director of the AIMAA worldwide, Master
Philip Ameris, will also be in attendance and will act as their chief arbitrator over the three day of competition. Master
Ameris - who is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and 'Master' visits Ireland regularly to instruct at seminars - has 20
years experience of competing in both American and international events. Throughout his career he has won numerous titles in Tae Kwon-Do, Kickboxing and grappling. Master Ameris was head coach of the AIMAA USA team in 1998.
In preparation for the Worlds, Darcy - who runs his own club in Santry, Dublin - set up a world championship office within his dojang to deal with the enormous amount of general enquiries. Along with AIMAA Ireland national secretary Quintella Walsh, they have responded daily to enquiries from around the world. "Such is the competition for a world title that individuals and teams from some 25 countries have already preregistered many months prior to our closing date," Darcy said. A contingent of 200 American AIMAA students and instructors will also attend, accompaning Grandmaster Cho, Master Ameris and Wendy Cheung, the highest ranking female black belt in the Association. The AIMAA director for England, Ian Clode will also bring a large contigent of the group's schools throughout England and the Channel Islands. Another special guest at the event will be well known film star and former personal student of Grandmaster Cho, Daniel Bernhardt, start of Mortal Kombat and Bloodsport II, III and IV.
"We also have entrants from much further afield," Darcy added. "Just some of them will include Master Javed Khan, who will head a 20-person squad from the Indian Tae Kwon-Do Association; Mr. Sunday Igbenedion, team manager and coach of the Action Martial Arts Training Academy, Lagos, Nigeria, who is bringing a team of 14 students, and Mr. Mohamed Mohideen (Karate Do Daido JuLu in Sri Lanka) with his team of 32 students. Others attending include Mr. Reetesh Shah of the Nepal Martial Arts Association together with some of his students from Kathmandu, and Mr Wilner Fignole of Haiti in the West Indies".
A large number of the entrants and their coaches and instructors will arrive in Ireland about a week prior to the championships to participate in the AlMAA's International Black Belt Testing which takes place on 17 September. "Students from red belt will be tested for their 1st degree black belts, and black belt instructors will be grading for promotion from Ist degree right up to 'Master' level of 6th degree," Darcy said. Darcy - currently a 5th dan and European director for the AIMAA - along with Wendy Cheung, will be grading before Grandmaster Cho for their 6th dan promotions which will earn them both the title of 'Master'.
Testing for black belt
"Most instructors are either testing for black belt promotion or have students testing, and rather than the pressure of grading taking away from their preparations for the Worlds, many of them feel that it's an added bonus as their personal training is more focused and complete," Darcy said. AIMAA Ireland regional director and head of coaching, 4th degree Peter Byrne - who is based in Aughrim, Co. Wicklow has students from his four schools testing from red belt up to 3rd dan. Along with instructing at his Wicklow clubs four nights a week, Byrne is also in charge of running intensive AIMMA Ireland squad sessions on a regular basis. The AIMAA Ireland team who will compete in the tournament is made up of Philip Fox, 2nd degree team captain and chief instructor of the Univeristy of Limerick TaeKwondo; Daragh Bolton, 2nd Degree and chief instructor of AIMAA Stillorgan, Dublin, and Jim Courtney, a 1st degree black belt from Dublin.
Chief instructor to the AIMAA Arklow Ee Kwon-Do Club, 3rd dan Michael Fitzgerald, also has a busy schedule, as along with preparing for his own personal grading to the rank of 4th degree - international instructor grade - the Wicklowman is busy coaching a large group of his students for the championships. "If all that wasn't enough for Michael, when he's not training and instructing in Tae Kwon-Do, he's also a prominent member of the Arklow Pipe and Reed Band, and is also busy rehearsing with the band who will perform at the opening ceremony in the Basketball Arena," Darcy said.
With the rising popularity in ground fighting-type techniques, the grappling division - which is confined to seniors only - has sparked a great deal of interest from a wide range of martial arts schools. Christy Foley, an experienced grappler and Tae Kwon-Do student at Darcy's Turnapin School in Santry, is the grappling coach of the AIMAA Ireland tea. "Without a doubt AIMAA Ireland will be well represented at the Worlds," Darcy added. "The championships is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all Irish students and instructors to compete in a real world class event which will give them the opportunity to win beautiful gold, silver and bronze medals - which are being awarded in all divisions."
Grandmaster Cho is clearly pleased to be able to bring his first World championships to Ireland. From his base in New Mexico he said: "I've had a most enjoyable relationship with Mr John Darcy for nearly 20 years, and have been very pleased with his great leadership and enthusiasm for AIMAA Ireland. After his participation of support in the Association, there has been a tremendous growth of the organisation and motivated students."
He added: "Mr. Darcy has several trustworthy characteristics that allowed me to appoint him the responsibility of hosting our first world championships." Another factor for picking Dublin to host the event is its geographical location. "There are many neighbouring European countries where martial art practitioners can easily travel to attend our event," Grandmaster Cho added. Grandmaster Cho also said that AIMAA Ireland is also a major part of the AIMAA thus providing the Worlds with a greater number of competitors as well as a larger audience.
'Opportunity to learn'
"I've also held the same intention for my tournaments during the past 10 years with the Los Angeles Open," Grandmaster Cho said. "It's with the same intention that I now present the AlMAA's First Open Martial Arts World Championships. It's an iopen' event, therefore we welcome practitioners from around the globe - of absolutely every style. The purpose of the event is to bring together these great martial artists from around the world and create an opportunity to learn and gain from each other. Although there is a definirge diversity of styles in the martial arts, I strongly believe in one philosophy that all martial artists share, which is based on modesty, integrity, self-control, perseverance and indomitable spirit."
"The AIMAA welcomes and honours everyone attending our event as special guests. There will, however, be a good friend and former student of mine, Mr Daniel Bernhardt, who will also be attending. He has appeared in several martial arts movies and I have had the privilege to work with him in Blodsport 11 and Bloodsport 111 as well," Grandmaster Cho added.
Asked about his future film career, Grandmaster Cho said: "As far as my involvement in the entertainment industry, I've been focusing more on what I know and do best, which is teaching and training in my art. Especially since my relocation from California to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have been fully devoted to my school.
However, if any opportunities arise where I may be able to promote the martial arrts in a better way, I'll definitely consider working in the film industry again."
"Accepting failure is a far more difficult task than accepting success. Keeping in mind that losing is taking a step back to reinforce the next step forward, I hope that all competitors will show good sportsmanship and accept losing with the same enthusiasm as winning," Grandmaster Cho said. "The important thing to remember is that our world championship most importantly aims to be an unforgettable learning experience for all competitors. Because it's our first World event, I also ask for everyone's understanding in that there will be mistakes as well as some inconveniences, but we definitely will try to avoid any, thus providing the most enjoyable event possible."
Irish squad warm up
AN 11-MAN, one-woman squad from the AIMAA Ireland competed in a recent competition in Doncaster, England, in preparation for their First Open Martial Arts World Championships which takes place in Dublin's National Basketball Arena. A total of 36 people travelled to England to support the team who took on a strong English AIMAA selection. The event was organised by English 2nd dan Mark Guest to raise money for the local children's hospital in Doncaster.
Travelling with the Irish group was John Darcy, 5th degree European director of AIMAA, and Peter Byrne, 4th degree Irish regional director and team coach. All the English AIMAA instructors where there to support the event and to attend a referees' seminar, conducted by Darcy, which took place the morning of the tournament. The seminar was a last minute refresher for instructors who will take part in the Worlds in Dublin.
Following introductions by Paul Durry, 3rd dan, the Irish team were led out by coach Byrne and team captain Philip Fox, 2nd degree. The English team was coached by Guest and team captain was Andrew Chambers. The English team took an early led by winning the first two bouts. Eddie Galvin and Paul Keheo then secured Ireland's first two wins to give the Irish team a much needed confidence boost.
The next few bouts were halved between the two teams with Irish wins for Michael Sorochan and team captain Fox. At the end of the sparring the English team were just one point ahead, but the Irish had a very strong grappling team to come, consisting of Charles Fleming, his brother Ian, Gerry Long and Will Power. Here the Irish proved too strong for the English team who were defeated in all of the bouts to lost out on an overall scoreline of 10-7.
After the excitement of the sparring and grappling, the audience very entertained by an excellent demonstration by senior member of AIMAA of both Ireland and England. Wicklowman Byrne performed a 4th degree pattern 'Yoo Sin Hyung' and then demonstrated his breaking ability and self defence techniques. European director Darcy also showed the audience what AIMAA was all about by demonstrating his superior breaking power, smashing his way through two suspended boards with an overhead cross punch; two suspended boards with a spinning heel kick, and five boards with a back turning kick. The Dubliner's final 'break'was one board about 8ft. off the ground. He smashed through this with a spectacular twisting kick.
After the presentation of the medal to both teams, Durry reminded everybody that this was a celebration on AIMAA Tae Kwon-Do and no celebration of AIMAA was complete without talking about its founder and president 9th degree black belt the world famous Grandmaster Hee II Cho who is regarded as one of the best masters of Tae Kwon-do. Later in the evening the instructors and students attended a special dinner where Guest thanked the Irish delegation for their support in raising funds for the local hospital.