Small Country, Great Ambitions: Uruguay Taekwondo

Cristina Rufener fills us in on the activities of the Uruguayan taekwondo community.

WTF taekwondo was introduced to Uruguay in 1976 by Grandmaster Byung Sup Lee Kang, who, in 1981, co-founded the Taekwondo Federation of Uruguay (FUT), which has been a recognized member of the WTF since 1982. From being the only academy in the whole country at that time, there are now official centers nationwide where WTF taekwondo is taught by recognized instructors of the FUT to thousands of students.

Taekwondo as a sport has spread to each department of Uruguay and has become one of the most popular and practiced martial arts. Taekwondo sport technician courses are coordinated by the FUT, which aims to turn out more qualified instructors to spread WTF taekwondo practice. In 2012, 15 new instructors graduated from a course that has the distinction of being mixed with a virtual campus platform that manages theoretical information. This course will run again in April 2013.

At least three local official championships take place every year in Uruguay. Last year the 5th Paysandu Open welcomed over 200 competitors from all over the country and Argentina; the 26th Lee Cup saw more than 250 competitors from Uruguay and Argentina; and the XXX National Championship had about 300 competitors. There, for the first time in South America, a TK5 competition was performed between Argentina and Uruguay. Also last year, the Festival of Korean Culture took place with the support of the Korean embassy, where the FUT displayed kyukpa, hosinsul and poomsae exhibitions, and a Korean congregation performed a "Gangnam Style" show. This year we plan to have the same three championships and the first national poomsae championships.

In order to carry out competitions with transparency and fairness, we hold courses for the education of referees. Last year, 20 new kyorugi referees graduated from the course, raising to more than 40 the number of home-grown referees. This March, a new course began. Every year, national referees have to attend refresher courses to input the updated rules and this year we aim to form a national referee association to regulate the grade and competence of referees. This year, the first edition of the poomsae referee course is also being delivered by instructors who went last year to Argentina to get trained.

From its earliest beginnings, Uruguay has been participating in- ternational events, like the ODESUR Games, the Pan American Cham- pionship, the U.S. Open, etc. We intend to develop taekwondo to the highest professional level and for this we train our team selection with both local and foreign competitors – the latter, mainly from Ar- gentina. Last year we had three friendly events with academies from Buenos Aires and provinces, and this year at least four training meet- ings are planned.

In 2012, for the first time, Uruguay was present at the World Poomsae Championships in Tunja, and in the Argentinian National Poomsae Championships. We won a gold and a silver medal. This year we will attempt to hold an official poomsae selection to participate in international events.

Uruguay is a small country, but the Taekwondo Federation of Uruguay works hard to put taekwondo practice within the reach of any citizen, and aspires in the near future - via professors, authorities and competitors - to have a representative competing in the Olympics.