Musa Challenge 2022 - Minneapolis Academy
After a three year hiatus, the Hwa Rang Do Minneapolis Academy was excited to once again host their annual MUSA Challenge Interschool Tournament. With over 80 competitors from the Minneapolis Academy and Wisconsin clubs combined, the event was a full day of action-packed excitement and meaningful experience for all involved.
The last MUSA Tournament to occur in Minneapolis was held at the Field Middle School in the spring of 2019. The following year in 2020 the tournament was canceled for obvious reasons, and could not be held again until this year. One big change this time around was the location; since it would not be held at a local school as it had in past years, it would for the first time in many years be held at the Minneapolis Academy itself. Though not as audience oriented in design, with the extra space acquired by the Academy in late 2020, the school now had adequate square footage to fit all the competitors as well as spectators. All parents, family, and supporters were incredibly cooperative with each other in alternating the seating surrounding the events on the mat, and a livestream tv was set up in the game room/impromptu “cafeteria” where everyone could watch the events from afar while waiting for their participants’ turn. This livestream was also available via zoom link, so others who could not attend in person were able to witness the events from outside of the dojang.
The tournament kicked off on Saturday morning, April 30th, with an opening bow-in with all participants and some words of encouragement from the Academy’s Headmaster. In his opening remarks, Master Sirny spoke of the philosophy of the tournament, also called the MUSA Challenge, it’s meaning, and why it’s an important endeavor for all of the students. The purpose of the day is to face fear, challenge oneself, and test their skills against their peers. With excitement in the air and butterflies in their stomachs, the students all stepped up to face their individual challenges.
The 5 separate events of the tournament (Weapon Form, Open Hand Form, Grappling, Sparring, and Weapon Fighting) took place in three rings and were judged by instructors and teachers ranging from Master Sirny as a 5th degree Hwa Rang Do Black Sash all the way to our Hwa Rang Do Junior TGT students. For those of you unfamiliar with the various aspects of training, “Forms” are the memorized choreography that students perform on their own, either Open Hand Form (no weapon) or Weapon Form (with their weapon). These are meant to showcase the more artistic side of the martial art skills and students are ranked based on the judges scores of their performance. Sparring, Grappling, and Weapon Fighting are all matches, meaning students face an opponent in the ring and try to beat them by points (or by submission for certain levels of sparring and grappling). For weapon fighting, the kids use foam swords to earn points by making contact with their opponent at specific points on the body, akin to a sparring match with a sword.
The first events of the day were the two types of Forms for the Junior, Teen, and Adult students, and Tiger Basics for our youngest students (generally aged from 4 to 7). We even had two intermediate Tiger students, Ari Orson and Zachary Belair, who’d learned the Jang Bang Form, though it’s not generally learned within the Tiger student curriculum. Nevertheless, they wanted to compete with the Juniors, so they stepped up to participate in both their Tiger Basics and the Weapon Forms. We applaud their courage and determination! After each division completed their performances, the judges tallied the scores and presented the medals to the winners before moving on to the subsequent divisions and events.
Two competitors tied for the highest total score in a Form with an incredible 25.5 out of 30 possible points, each earning 1st place in their respective divisions: 3rd grader Addie Ferris with her Open Hand Form in the Tae Soo Do (TSD) Junior Girls Intermediate division, and 7th grader Oskari Lehto with his Ssangjyel Bong Form in the Hwa Rang Do (HRD) Junior division, who bested 7th grader Benjamin Glover by a sheer .3 points in an extremely close competition. The two boys switched places in the second Forms event, with Benjamin taking Gold and Oskari a mere .4 points behind, earning the Silver medal. This was actually a tremendously close competition amongst the top four, as there was only a .6 point difference between first and fourth place, all of them earning over 24 out of 30 possible points each. 6th grader Vivian Ferris took the bronze medal, and 6th grader Alex Kimball came in fourth, each .1 point behind their respective opponents. Another very close finish happened in the TSD Junior Beginner Girls division of 9-11 year olds. First place went to 5th grader Juniper Magner, second place to 3rd grader Vera Orson, and 3rd place 5th grader Claire Benson, all of whom had .6 points difference between them. Lastly, it was great to see two of our adult Assistant Instructors, William Kingsley and Aaron Godin place 1st in their Weapon Form and Open Hand Division, respectively. Fantastic job everyone!
After finishing out the Forms divisions, the matching components were kicked off with Grappling. Our most popular event of the day, a whopping 76 out of 82 participants stepped into the rings to compete in this challenge. Divisions involving the Little Tigers, Beginners, and some Intermediate students adhered to the rules of Position Grappling, meaning the winner was determined by points earned only through positions against their opponent. Those who were advanced enough in their skills to compete with the Submission Grappling rules, could also attempt to win using joint locks and chokes. There were many exciting matches and the students fought their way back and forth to gain advantageous positioning for minutes at a time, proving to test the endurance and determination of the competitors. One close battle in Tae Soo Do Advanced junior boys division had 5th grader Braxton Glover down 4-5 against his opponent. With seconds to go, he got a control position, the center referee was counting “1-2-“, and right before she could get to “3”, the time keeper yelled “TIME”, ending the match. A meager 1 second from victory, this unfortunately put Braxton out in the first round, proving that every second truly counts in the ring. The winner of the division, 4th grader Soren Moen, achieved two submissions throughout the event, an armbar in his first match and a rear choke in the championship round. Another noteworthy match saw two junior intermediate boys battling it out for a full 5 minutes in the submission championship round: 5th grader Sawyer Williams held his own against 7th grader Alejandro Sesma, who towers over him by roughly a foot as one of the tallest junior boys at the school. Both boys had just achieved armbar submissions against their previous opponents, and despite Alejandro’s unyielding submission attempts and control positions, Sawyer refused to be submitted and the boys ran out the clock. The enthusiastic crowd was truly impressed with their efforts, strength, and sheer grit. The match ended with a mere 2 point difference with Alejandro emerging victorious. Once again in the adult divisions, our instructors proved themselves, as the lead youth Instructor Daniel LaFave ended his Adult Submission Grappling division in 1st place, followed by Assistant Instructor Nick Frugé in second and Aaron Godin in third. Well done, gentlemen!
Next up was Sparring, the stand-up fighting most closely resembling a fight you may encounter in the streets, but still done with control and full body padded armor. As with the other categories, the rules of play are more advanced with age and rank, and again showcase both “point” and “submission” paths to winning the match. Two of the youngest participants of the day, 5 year old twins Abraham and Emmylou Parrish, traveled to the tournament from Wisconsin with their parents Matthew and Sarah. Matthew is a member of the Eau Claire club and has been involved in Hwa Rang Do for many years, even spending a couple of years learning at the Academy here in Minneapolis. While the twins have not been in the rings in a tournament before and have rarely had a chance to match up against anyone but each other, they enthusiastically gave their all as they tried to stay upright in armor that probably weighed as much as them. A fun experience for both the kids and audience alike! On the other end of the experience spectrum were the HRD Juniors performing Yongtoogi, a level of sparring reserved for only those who’ve received their Black Belts, and the only version to allow submissions. While there were no submissions that day, many attempts were made, and one truly memorable 540 jump spin kick was landed solidly to an opponent’s head. While it landed with a bit too much force to be qualified, it will certainly not be forgotten.
The day finished with the final event of Weapon Fighting; for our youth, this meant a series of sword battles. The winner was determined by points within the 2 minute time limit, but a total score of 3 points ended the match. The winners truly earned their gold medals, as every 1st place winner in the youth divisions had a perfect 3 point score in every single sword fighting match that led to their victory, this included: Lena Buley, Ari Orson, Faye Ebnet, Sawyer Williams, Steven Nache, Nora Thul, and Orion Sirny. It was also noted by the crowd the rapid speed in which Orion Sirny, victor of the HRD Junior division, was able to strike his opponents with a focused barrage of attacks to all possible point scoring areas; head, wrist, sides, and legs with spirited kiaps!
Overall, the day was an enormous success as it not only gave students the opportunity to test their skills in the ring, but also to overcome their fears and compete with their peers. With multiple events to participate in, the Academy was very pleased with the outcomes of the day, and especially proud to see so many champions; a total of 71 out of the 82 participants medaled, meaning nearly 87% of the competitors earned a Gold, Silver, or Bronze medal in at least one event. Master Sirny was also proud to see that his Minneapolis leadership group, the Teuk Gong Team (TGT) students, earned a combined 53 medals throughout the event. In addition, the Grand Champions were all TGT members, with the exception of the Tiger Champion who is too young to be considered for the elite team. Competitors were only eligible to be Grand Champions if they competed in all possible events, and from there they were scored based on the number of each medal they earned throughout the day.
Congratulations to everyone on a fantastic MUSA Challenge! The Academy heard from many parents how much everyone gained from this experience, in a truly unique school where students learn life lessons that are often not taught anywhere else. The courage to overcome the nerves that were felt heavily in the morning brought forth excitement and pride as the students proved to themselves how well they could do if they just chose commitment and let determination prevail over the fear of giving up. These important lessons inspire the growth that is necessary for all people to become the best versions of themselves, examples to others, and leaders in their communities. It is what Hwa Rang Do strives to impart in all of its students, that win or lose, your spirit must be strong and no matter what happens, the world keeps moving. One must meet the challenges of the day with back straight and eyes straight, and face whatever comes.
The Minneapolis Academy is grateful to everyone who participated in this important event. It was such a joy witnessing the students feel the intensity of their accomplishments as all of their peers cheered them on. The school is proud of all of the competitors, not only for their performances, but the for the support they give each other on a daily basis, spanning across all age groups. You all are truly Tomorrow’s Leading Knights and the future of Hwa Rang Do!
The Hwa Rang Do Minneapolis Academy
The Grand Champions:
Tiger = Conrad Diersen
Junior Girl = Penelope Mendiola
Junior Boy = Alejandro Sesma
HRD Junior = Benjamin Glover
Adult = Aaron Godin