Attacking with poise and power, one Terrace martial artist seized gold in two different categories at the recent taekwon-do provincials Nov. 19.
Having trained at Atlantis Taekwondo in Terrace for two years, Amanda Annibal was described by coach Cody Skog as a dedicated and hard working athlete.
A green belt with a blue stripe, Annibal was pitted in her final match against a red belt three levels above her.
The Smithers opponent was also six-feet tall with a farther reach than Annibal, who is 5’2’’.
The battle was a fight to behold, with points jumping back and forth as the fighters seized opportunities to attack.
Both opponents utilized a wide variety of moves, from side kicks and double kicks, to turn and kick punches, Skog said, but Annibal’s controlled aggression led the fight.
“She’s the one to make the first move,” Skog said. “She’s a bit of a machine in sparring… not afraid to get right in there.”
Skog said Annibal had trained hard on her techniques and her striking was controlled and concise.
“Her distance and timing were on point,” he said. “And she had a sweet back kick that she kept landing.”
That final battle was one of three matches which Annibal fought in the female adult sparring class in the provincial championship in Kamloops Nov. 19.
The ten martial artists in her class varied in skill level from white belts to black belts, and Annibal said she felt a bit nervous at first.
The stakes were high in every match, since sparring is single elimination with the International Taekwon-Do Federation who ran the championship.
But Annibal claimed victory in both her early sparring matches.
“Everytime they would raise my hand and say that I won, I was just shocked!” she laughed.
Annibal said she did not expect to do very well, and went more for the experience.
“I was just going to have a good time. I wanted to see the black belts fight,” she said.
“I ended up doing really well, so it was super exciting.”
After those first two victories, she fought and beat the red belt in the finals, an opponent who had eliminated her in a tournament last year in Prince George.
Annibal said felt surprisingly relaxed in the fight. She had trained in new techniques with her coaches right up until the night before, and their advice was still clear in her mind as she entered the ring.
“They reminded me, ‘Amanda, try not to take too many punches. Get out of there,’” she laughed, explaining how in prior competitions she has gotten over-aggressive and lost.
Her strategy was to do her punches, get out, and counter attack right away, she said, adding that she was focused on executing as many different attacks and moves as she could.
“I didn’t want them to know what I was going to do next. I didn’t want to be predictable,” she said.
Cheered on by the rest of the Terrace crew, she kept moving, striking with short and quick attacks.
Though she took a number of hits, she claimed gold with the vote of three of four judges.
Annibal’s sparring victory was achieved largely because of her speed and technique, which also earned her a gold medal in the patterns division.
The patterns competition is based on control and technique. Martial artists individually execute a pattern of moves, and every detail is analyzed for points, right down to the way a wrist is turned or how a foot is pointed. It also takes into account the flow and power of the air attacks.
Annibal dispatched the green belt patterns accurately and concisely in all three of her matches, and was awarded the gold medal.
She says she recalls feeling embarrassed doing patterns before, but she practised them hard and now she understands the value of them.
“It’s like shadow boxing,” she said. “Boxers fight an imaginary opponent, and then when they get in the ring they have muscle memory, they’ve practised their combos, they’ve got it visualized.”
Annibal said that knowing why she is doing the moves, knowing the value of the patterns has given her the drive to practice and do well.
“It makes you faster. It makes your kicks and blocks and strikes more effective later, “ she said.
“Now when I’m sparring, I’m not just blocking the same way anymore,” she said.
Annibal was not the only Terrace martial artist to earn provincial medals.
Leo Strimbold and Thayna Healey also claimed gold in their patterns competition and Keelan Hill won gold in sparring.
Thayna Healey, Nickolas Scott and Cody Skog and Ocean Skog took home silver in their sparring divisions, and Cody and Ocean Skog both got silver in patterns.
Seth McCormick and Keelan Hill both won bronze in their patterns divisions.
A taekwon-do team from Terrace plans to head to Regina next May to compete in nationals.