(Greenwood Village, CO) – The Sabumnim Barb Kunkel Fight For Life Classic drew over 300 competitors from across Colorado and several other states in what many were calling the best tournament in recent memory, if not ever. Master Steve Rosbarsky of Missoula Taekwondo Center came all the way from Montana. “It was an incredible honor to be able to have a small role, with such an accomplished group of people, to show support such an amazing person.” Indeed, there were an abundance of volunteers and high level referees (including many IRs) from around the country who came to show their support. There was certainly more of a cooperative than a competitive spirit, though that didn’t mean that the athletes were giving less than their all. If anything, people seemed to want to use this tournament to make a mark.
There was no shortage of high level martial artists at the event, including Grandmaster Sang Lee, 9th dan and former Vice President of the World Taekwondo Federation as well as Grandmaster Bruce Harris, current CEO of USA Taekwondo. There was even a mini-reunion of the 1988 US Olympic Team. It was clear that Master Kunkel has touched the lives of many of the top Taekwondoists in the US during her career, which has seen astounding levels of productivity as both an athlete and as a school owner.
Martial arts leaders are by definition confident people who stand up for what they believe in and aren’t afraid of confrontation. Differences of opinion are inevitable, but everyone put these aside to unite for this cause. Master Sammy Pejo of US Taekwondo Center summed it up: “What a great opportunity to support our great Taekwondo friend in her tremendous battle. It was great to see our Taekwondo family all fighting together for the same cause”
Master Angel Aranzamendi of A Team Taekwondo ran the holding area, no small task with the number of competitors and the number of events. He also took on a large role in organizing the event. “For over two decades Master Kunkel represented or country as an Olympian, Coach, and USAT Board member. Then cancer struck and she fought it had on. On Aug 9th she learned that many of us stand at her side with unwavering support.”
In what is likely a first for a martial arts event, a fundraising jar was passed around with the goal that if it was filled by the end, Master Kunkel would sing the refrain from “Let it go.” Despite her threats to personally spar anyone who contributed, the support was overwhelming. Despite the ferocity of the threat, people must have felt safe that it wouldn’t be carried out. You can view the video of the song as well as many other pictures and videos from the day on the ESA Website archive.
The event was a fundraiser to help Master Kunkel with her medical costs, and this was helped by several generous donations and sponsorships. Daedo Truescore donated the rental of the electronic hogus, while Vision Martial Arts also sponsored the event. The idea is that the event will continue in the future to support other worthy causes. There was great support from many schools, including Master Yosvany Taekwondo, Gonzalez Taekwondo, US Taekwondo Center (Colorado springs and Aurora) and many more.
There were many great sparring matches, board breaks, weapons routines, and demo team performances. However, there was also the sense that the results were overshadowed simply by being there. It was a great lesson in the true virtues of martial arts, and how being part of something larger can help students to grow. Current Colorado State Taekwondo Association President Master Andre Olivera of Champion Taekwondo Academy summed it up with his typical level of excitement: “This day will be remembered forever!! The best Taekwondo event that Colorado ever had!!!! I am so proud to be part of it!!”
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