After more than two years of competing in virtual events, Guam Taekwondo Center athletes filled the Micronesia Mall center court on Saturday, dazzling onlookers, shoppers and family members in master Noly Caluag’s 10th Taekwondo Poomsae Tournament.
With nearly 70 martial artists demonstrating their forms, Master Noly and his students helped kick off GTC’s first of two signature events, ushering in the organization’s 20th year of proving some of the region’s highest level of martial arts instruction.
“I’m overwhelmed because after a two year hiatus,” Noly Caluag said. “I didn’t expect this,” added Caluag, who commented on the large crowd and impressive student turnover.
“Seventy-five percent of our students participated, and that’s a very big number,” he said.
Newbies and nerves
Consisting of competitors from six years of age to adulthood, many of the students were competing for their first time.
Noly Caluag said that the black belts did very well, but many of the first-timers were visibly nervous.
“I’m confident that they’ll do better the next time around,” he said.
While several competitors gave it all, gold medalists included Alyxa Oftana, Alessandra Leon Guerrero, Jarvin Rabino, Josiah Perez, Abby Padayao, Gavin Twaddle, Maru Magbitang, Chloe Jaleco, Hailey Diaz, Kristian Fernandez, and the Gianchand siblings, Kaylee and Connor .
“I didn’t think I would get gold this time,” said the 19-year-old Oftana, who competed in the Women’s Black Belt Senior Division. “I was a bit nervous,” she said, sharing that the long, pandemic-inspired absence left her a little self-conscious, not having performed in front of hundreds of spectators since before COVID.
“I had a lot more pressure this time, especially because I’m not used to having so many people in the audience,” she added.
As the forms demonstration continued, Oftana controlled her nerves and delivered a flawless performance.
“I was also excited,” she said. “I love seeing people watch our martial arts, I think it’s a very eye opening experience for people. So if I can show more people like the public what we do, I think it’s just a very nice experience for everyone.”
When the tournament was first announced, Oftana was taking her finals at the University of Guam. With only a few weeks to prepare, Oftana filled her spare time with inspired training sessions.
“In the beginning of May when we heard about the tournament, I was still in college classes. So a lot of finals were happening around this time,” Oftana said. “So I had a lot of late nights practicing for this.”
Weapons and kicking
Amid the competition, an all black-belt team led by Jed Caluag and Ryan Gaza conducted a mastery of weapons demonstration, including the execution of thunderous, high-jumping spinning kicks.
Noly Caluag that the community can expect a weapons display and kicking tournament sometime toward the end of summer.
“I’d like to thank the community for the support and the responsiveness to the instruction that I’m giving,” he said.