Dear Phoenix Group Members,
Happy New Year! I tip my hat to each of you for the strength and tenacity you demonstrated during 2020. The way you persevered throughout the pandemic was a great testament to your indomitable spirit. I am sure Grand Master Tompkins is smiling down on us and I suspect General Choi is impressed as well. Hopefully, the leaders in the ITF Executive recognize the Phoenix Group will weather any storm.
I would be remiss if I did not take some time to reflect on the coronavirus pandemic. My sincere empathy and condolences go out to all those who have been adversely affected. There have been jobs lost, families shattered, and lives changed. The statistics are showing that here in the United States 1 out of every 58 cases of COVID-19 ends in death. That is a startling statistic when for others it appears to be not much more than a cold. Estimates now indicate that one American dies of COVID every 30 seconds. Over 346,000 people in the USA have died. Virtually all of our families, brothers and sisters have been affected in some way. I recognize that we are fatiguing and becoming less sensitized to the gravity of the COVID pandemic but that does not diminish its significance or its devastation. The fact that we are able to put food on the table, dream, and train shows that we are definitely among the most privileged of folks. Take time to be grateful. Be sure to reach out to help your family, friends, neighbors and community. As President Choi so eloquently puts it, Taekwon-Do is not just about developing kicking and punching skills. It is about developing the whole person. It is about improving humanity. What are you doing that makes you a true Taekwon-Do student and not just a Taekwon-Do athlete? Challenge yourself to be more!
There is no doubt that for most of us 2020 was a challenge like no other. Essentially, every school was forced to lock its doors at one time or another; yet through it all, like the Phoenix we rose to the challenge. We held classes outside in parks, in parking lots, in basements, in homes, and/or virtually through the Internet. We learned to train wearing masks, wash our hands more often, disinfect, sanitize and socially distance. We adapted our testing platform so we could hold tests remotely until it is safe to travel again. We provided our members with an International Virtual Pattern competition.
As black belts, we were able to participate in an International Instructor Course as well as an International Umpire Course. For some of us, this was our first opportunity to take advantage of the courses. Congratulations to all who became certified during these most difficult times. I want to commend each of you for accepting the challenge and for being as creative as you are. It is because of you that we continue to succeed. Together we are the Phoenix, continually rising from the ashes and becoming bigger, stronger, and better!
I am unsure of the layout for 2021. With the vaccine becoming available will it allow us to physically come together again? Will the North American Championships be in person or virtual this year? Will we be able to have our black belt retreat in Alaska?
Yesterday I met with the advisory board and we have decided to bring you 10 virtual seminars in 2021. Whether you are training at home or in your facilities, the Phoenix Group will provide you with the opportunity to learn, train, grow and move forward. We are anticipating providing the seminars on the second Saturday of each month February through November. Naturally, we will need to adjust if this ends up conflicting with other ITF events. More information will come as we develop the curriculum. Cost of the seminars will be $20 with family discounts for multiple family members.
We will continue virtual black belt tests in 2021 (2 per state with a possibility of more depending on driving distances and local restrictions). We are hoping to hold a live testing in front of the promotion board in Alaska on February 27 along with an in-person seminar on the 28th.
Over the weekend of March 26, 27 and 28 we will be hosting our North American Championships in Houston, Texas. We have decided to attempt an in-person tournament assuming local restrictions allow. We have also decided to provide a virtual tournament at the same time for those not comfortable traveling or attending larger gatherings but still wanting the tournament experience. The virtual tournament will be patterns only while the in-person tournament will be patterns, sparring, power breaking, and specialty breaking. We recognize that restrictions may prevent us from sparring but we believe we can do patterns and breaking without compromise. Those interested in competing both virtually and in person will have the opportunity to do so. It is also our intention to have an in person black belt testing around the time we are in Houston.
We have not made a definitive decision about the Black Belt retreat for 2021. In April we will review the conditions and travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19 and the availability of quality presenters and in May we will make the final decision. The retreat will be early August in Alaska as was previously planned. If you are interested in presenting start thinking about it now! If you were scheduled to present at the last one and are still interested let me know. We had a fantastic line up of presenters previously scheduled and I am hopeful to get them back. I anticipate, however, that some may not be able to make it. Remember, at this particular retreat the seminar, room and board are all complimentary if you present.
As we say good riddance to 2020 let us remember the lessons learned and look forward to a better, greater year. Take time to set goals for yourself. Be a good citizen, help your neighbors and take care of each other.
Best wishes and good luck to you all,