DeRay Ivie, chief instructor at the Taekwondo Advantage martial art school in Sikeston, got a first-hand look at some of those changes by participating in the USA Taekwondo Developmental Camp and Coaching Seminar held June 5
-9 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
USA Taekwondo is the organization which replaced the United States Taekwondo Union, placing control of Olympic taekwondo under American leadership instead of in the hands of Korean masters.
Ivie was among the 48 athletes who participated in the Athlete Development Camp under the direction of U.S. National Team coaches Jean Lopez and Juan Moreno and High Level Training Center CEO Herb Perez, who won an Olympic gold medal in taekwondo in 1992 at Barcelona.
Training for participants reached a peak at 10 hours a day on Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday, according to Ivie.
"We worked on drills specific to Olympic sparring, a lot of conditioning," Ivie said. "I lost almost 10 pounds while I was there."
While Ivie is an experienced traditional martial artist with plenty of point-style competition, "there were a lot of things that were new to me," he said. "There was a lot of people there that had been fighting that way for years and years."
Ivie's instructor, Tim Wall of Sikeston, said he is looking into participating in the HLTC Systems program and Torch Club established by Perez to ensure local athletes get the proper training to prepare them specifically for Olympic competition.
The goal, according to Ivie, is to "make America a powerhouse in Olympic sparring" by tapping into localized talent spread across the United States.
While light contact point-style competition still remains popular around here, the full-contact Olympic style of competition is already replacing point-style in many areas, according to Wall.
"It's a lot better than the old traditional point style," Wall said -- both for competitors and spectators.
"They want it to be more of a fight instead of a little tag game," Ivie said. "It makes you find out how good you really are -- it's so fast paced and you can go to the knockout."
Changes are also being made to the Olympic-style fight rules to make the sport even more exciting.
Ivie said two of the biggest changes toward this goal are making the rings smaller -- down to 10 by 10 meters from the former 12 by 12 ring -- and full-point deductions for stalling and running away.
"They want to see action," Wall said.
Ivie said the experience of attending the training camp exceeded his expectations. "It really opened my eyes up and let me know a lot more of myself," he said.
"We're looking forward to taking the knowledge that chief instructor Ivie learned there and passing it on to his students," Wall said.