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Beginning on Thursday, August 31, 2006, I was greatly honored to accompany Master Robert N. Wheatley, President of the US-ITF and Chairman of the Promotions and Disciplinary Committees of the ITF, on a visit to Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, México, to conduct a black-belt examination and seminar for Mr. Ramón Velázquez Monge's school, Velmoon's Taekwon-Do. Master Wheatley invited me as his personal assistant and interpreter.
I had actually been to Puerto Peñasco once before, for a triathlon sponsored by the Tucson Racing Association in May, 2005. However, I did not know at the time that there was an ITF school in the area–it was not until July of last year that I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Velázquez at Master Wheatley’s US-ITF Summer Camp in Reno, Nevada.
Those who were there at Master Wheatley’s camp will remember Mr. Velázquez, III Dan and ranking ITF member in México, as well as his students Noé Vázquez, II Dan, and Brian Quiñones, I Dan, from their visits to Reno. I also met these gentlemen again in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October, 2005, when Master Néstor Galarraga, VIII Dan, hosted the VIIth Panamerican Championships and offered his tournament referee course.
On Thursday, the 31st, Master Wheatley and I flew into Phoenix, where we were met by Mr. Velázquez, and one of his students, Carlos Pérez, who lived in the U.S. for many years and speaks perfect English. The drive down to Puerto Peñasco takes almost four hours as we headed south, the desert became filled with saguaro cacti, and ringed by stark purple mountains.
Puerto Peñasco is known by us gringos as “Rocky Point” as it is the closest that Phoenix residents can go to dip a toe in salt water, it is quite popular as a vacation getaway among “los norteños.” After checking in to the “Vina Del Mar” hotel, overlooking the beach, Master Wheatley and I had dinner at the hotel restaurant. As the sun set, we had an amazing view across the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, to the western shore of Baja California Norte. Seeing the pelicans wheeling and diving in the fading light put the perfect end to the day.
On Friday, Carlos gave Master Wheatley and me a wonderful guided tour of the town. The amount of new construction that had taken place in a mere fifteen months since my last visit was simply staggering.
On Friday evening, Mr. Velázquez allowed me the honor of teaching his classes for several hours while he completed preparations for the next day’s test and seminar. Watching his black stripes in class, I could tell that he had prepared them well for their test. Finishing up at about nine o’clock, I noticed that the temperature was still almost 40 degrees C...over 100 for us Yanks. As we moved the mats to the nearby community hall for next morning’s activities, I was glad to note that the hall had air conditioning. Mr. Velázquez set the A/C to run overnight, and indeed, it was nice and cool when we started the test at about 9:30 a.m. the next day.
Ten students (three adults and seven juniors) successfully tested for their First Dan on Saturday morning:
A special award for best Ho Sin Sul was awarded to Octavio García, for a particularly fluid and accurate display of techniques including escapes, grappling and joint-locking, as well as blocks, strikes, and kicking techniques.
Álvaro Pérez received the award for High Test Score among the seniors Kristian López won that honor among the juniors. Overall, Master Wheatley and I were very impressed with the level of education. Both in technical achievement and in general knowledge, it was apparent that Mr. Velázquez and his assistant instructors (including Mr. Vázquez, who has his own school) had prepared their students exhaustively for this examination.
The level of performance was all the more impressive in that the temperature in the hall that day had climbed to well over 42̊C (about 110̊F!), as the A/C in the test hall had stopped working early in the day.
After the test, Mr. Velázquez hosted a leisurely lunch at "Aquí es con Flavio," a local seafood restaurant. After a short "siesta," we returned to the hall (where thankfully the A/C had started working!), and approximately 70 students of all ranks were treated to more than four hours of Master Wheatley sharing his wealth of knowledge of Taekwon-Do. I manned the microphone and did my best to interpret for Master Wheatley==luckily I had brought a decent dictionary! Even so, some concepts required a bit of explaining...for example, "thrusting" and "pushing" are both rendered as "empujando” in a basic dictionary I will need to consult a more technical text to separate those terms, as well as “piercing,” and others.
Still, with a little pantomime and Master Wheatley's crystal-clear teaching, and some able demonstrations by Mr. Velázquez, Mr. Vázquez, and some of the other seniors, we were able to complete Master Wheatley's very demanding syllabus.
Just before we "wrapped" with some group photos, Master Wheatley allowed me the very special honor of performing Tong-Il for all of the students and their families. After I had done so, he had quite a surprise for me–he presented me with my certificate for promotion to VIIth Dan, from my test in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in April of this year, at an event hosted by Dr. John Szostek. He also presented me with a new belt, a gift from US-ITF Vice President Master Gordon Jue. Master Jue sent his regards to our Mexican hosts, as he could not personally attend this event–he was already busy with his preparations for leading the U.S. team to the Junior Worlds in Australia, which are in progress as I write this.
After the seminar, we were invited to Mr. Velázquez's home, where his gracious wife had prepared a typical Sonoran feast of "carne asada." We then passed around a guitar, and serenaded each other. Of course Master Wheatley treated us to a few Leonard Cohen tunes, of which he is a quite skilled performer. But we also got him to sing along with such Mexican favorites as “Las Mañanitas,” “Cielito Lindo,” and. of course, “La Bamba.”
On Sunday, Mr. Velázquez and Mr. Vázquez drove us back to the airport. As always when I visit México, I had mixed feelings as we crossed the border heading north–an emotion that I know that Master Wheatley shared. This was his first visit to México==-as he will no doubt tell you himself, our hosts gave him every reason to fall in love with their country.
VII Dan ITF/US-ITF
Vice President and General Counsel, US-ITF
Spanish Translation can be found Here
Courtesy Lourdes Geoghegan
Written by: Terence Geoghegan - 23rd October 2006
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