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Tuesday, 08 January 2019 10:06

World Taekwondo, WT - The taekwondo of Gambia, past present and future, a look from its 38 years of development. Featured

Written by Sanine Baboucarr
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"Taekwondo is alive and well in The Gambia and making huge strides. In spite of enormous challenges, Taekwondo is growing, with increasing number of clubs and practitioners."

Taekwondo in Gambia

Taekwondo was introduced in The Gambia in the 1980s and The Gambia Taekwondo Association is said to be the oldest Martial Arts Association/Federation in the country. It is endowed with a Constitution, approved in 12 August 2017, ushering in a new Executive Committee. There are currently fifteen registered Taekwondo Clubs, with varying degrees of activity. Most of these clubs are concentrated in the Kombo area, with only one know club based in Farafeni. Most instructors are holders of Black Belt certified by Kukkiwon, with only one exception.

Changing the taekwondo´s image in Gambia

The image of Taekwondo, along with other Martial Arts, is generally negative, with limited visibility. It is generally perceived as a tool used by trouble makers to engage in violent behavior and score settling. This is because the limited familiarity with Martial Arts come from Kung-Fu movies, which are popular especially among the youth. However, this image is changing slowly but steadily thanks to the organization of visible activities such as demonstrations and public promotion tests with media presence. Aided by growing experience and dynamism of the Gambia Taekwondo Association, the planned organization of tournaments, including national championships, is expected to induce a radical change for the better in the image and reputation of Taekwondo.

The Gambia Taekwondo Association as rocked by a severe crisis resulting from unconstitutional actions by some members of the Executive Committee. The crisis lasted several months during which the Executive Committee was rendered ineffective, practically dysfunctional. An important meeting was convened by The National Sports Council on xxx. All Taekwondo Clubs attended this meeting, which served as a watershed for future development of Taekwondo in The Gambia. While some confusion remains, both The Gambia Taekwondo Association and the individual Taekwondo Clubs are reinvigorated, reenergized with a renewed commitment and determination to work together in favour of Taekwondo in The Gambia. The passion for Taekwondo is very powerful.

The Gambia Taekwondo and its Plan of Action 2019 – 2021

The Gambia Taekwondo Association has formulated a comprehensive Plan of Action for the period 2019 – 2021. This provides a clear direction, with specific activates to be implemented to take Gambian Taekwondo to a higher plateau. The Plan of Action was shared with Taekwondo Clubs for their analysis and approval. It is now being implemented, with contributions by different clubs. Future annual reports will be based on the progress on the implementation of this Plan of Action.

The Gambia has been absent from most international competitions.

In fact, the status of Gambian Taekwondo does not appear to be known at the level of World Taekwondo Africa. This is unacceptable taking into account that The Gambia is bordering with Senegal, a country that is present in all international competitions and winning medals.

Taekwondo of Gambia and the first step to initiate submission of annual reports to World Taekwondo.

The statutes of World Taekwondo (Federation) requires National Member Associations (in this case, The Gambia Taekwondo Association) to submit activity reports every year. The Gambia Taekwondo Association has not yet complied with this requirement. This report is, therefore, the preparatory step to initiate submission of annual reports to World Taekwondo. All Taekwondo Clubs have been approached. Therefore, the information provided in this report has been provided by them and vetted by The Gambia Taekwondo Association for quality assurance. This report covers the period January – December 2018.

Below is a detailed presentation and description of key activities that were carried out in 2018 by the different Taekwondo Clubs as well as The Gambia Taekwondo Association. The report also includes a brief presentation of each club as well as of its Master Instructor, with some emblematic pictures capturing their activities.

TAEKWONDO ON THE MOVE

The move is represented by important events and milestones carried and achieved by each individual club under the auspices of The Gambia Taekwondo Association and which significantly contribute to the development of Taekwondo as a whole. As this report shows, some clubs are more active than others, depending on a variety of factors, such as: availability of resources, dynamism of the founders/instructors, location, how long each club has been in existence, among others. However, what really matters is the whole Taekwondo body, to which all Taekwondo Clubs belong and their shared aspirations.

A. The Gambia Taekwondo Association 

1. Gambian athletes participated Taekwondo competitions at the Islamic Games held in Azerbaijan in March 2018. This allowed them to gain international experience that will be useful in the preparation for future international competitions, including the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020;

2. The Gambia Taekwondo Association is organizing a major demonstration in January 2019 with the participation of all registered Taekwondo Clubs. The event will take place at the Youth Monument at a date that will communicated to you in due course. Preparations are underway;

3. The Gambia Taekwondo Association organized a seminar on the new rules of competition issued by World Taekwondo. The seminar was conducted by Master Fernando ABAGA EDJANG, of Professional Taekwondo Gambia. Most Taekwondo Clubs attended, with their Masters and students;

4. The President of The Gambia Taekwondo Association has visited all registered Taekwondo Clubs in the Kombo area. The only Club that has not yet been visited is the one located in Farafeni. These visits have allowed the President to have a clear understanding of Taekwondo situation in The Gambia, including existing limitations and potential. The Clubs have expressed their appreciation of this initiative;

5. Identified by The Gambia Taekwondo Association, upon information provided by The National Sports Council, Gambia participated in a 3-month course in China through Master Baba Sarr. Master Sarr has been requested to submit a report, which should offer useful information;

6. Five Peace Corps Taekwondo practitioners from South Korea visited The Gambia in February 2018, for one month. The purpose was to teach and upgrade the Taekwondo skills of Gambia practitioners;

7. The Gambia Taekwondo Association is organizing a training session for Black Belts to be managed by Gibril Jatta, a Gambian residing in Sweden but currently in the country on holidays. Mr. Jatta is a 4th. Degree Black Belt certified by Kukkiwon and has participated in several international tournaments;

8. In order to carry out its mandate in a more systematic manner and provide a clear sense of direction to Taekwondo Clubs, The Gambia Taekwondo Association has recently prepared a comprehensive Plan of Action for the period 2019-2021. The Plan has been approved by the Taekwondo Clubs on its meeting of xxxx. Implementation has been launched and is on-going. This has energized the Clubs, which are fully on-board and fully engaged in the implementation.

9. The President of The Gambia Taekwondo Association is now regularly contacted by Taekwondo Clubs for consultation, invitation to meetings and other activities organized by them. The relationship between individual Taekwondo Clubs and The Gambia Taekwondo Association is now very close and symbiotic, as the latter continues to gain legitimacy within its constituents.

B. Abuko Taekwondo Training Center

Founded in 2016, this Taekwondo Club is located in Abuko and is operated by Master Sun, a national of South Korea, who is a holder of 5th. Degree Black Belt. About four Taekwondo Clubs use this facility and train there. They include: Stubble Taekwondo, Salagi Taekwondo Club, etc. Abuko Taekwondo Training is endowed with excellent facilities and adequate training equipment and materials. The facility is available for training twice a week: Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Photo 2: Training Hall of Abuko Taekwondo Training Center

10. Organized a tournament on 25 August 2017. All existing Taekwondo Clubs participated;

11. Conducted a Black Belt test in April 2018. One individual was promoted to 2nd. Degree Black Belt;

C. Professional Taekwondo Gambia

This Taekwondo Club is located in Fajara. Founded in August of 2017 and operated by Master Fernando ABAGA EDJANG, this club has registered over 200 students, with 120 Active students. The male to female ratio is six to one. This club conducts four training sessions from Monday to Friday, using the Rotating Curriculum approach, with Saturdays being used exclusively for physical body conditioning. Master Fernando is 3rd. Degree Kukkiwon Black Belt, 4th. Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo Jidokwan and 4th Degree Black Belt by New York State Taekwondo under World Taekwondo Federation. Master Fernando is a graduate of The World Taekwondo Academy of Kyung Hee University (South Korea) and is one of the few International Taekwondo Master Instructors in Africa. Master Fernando is assisted by Master Babou SAINE, a young Gambian national, with a 1st. Degree Black Belt certified by Kukkiwon and international exposure. Professional Taekwondo Gambia operates in state-of-the-art facilities that meet international standards. The club will soon launch a Self-defense programme for women.

12. A Kukkiwon-certified International Referee and also 4th. Dan Black Belt from Senegal, Ms. Seynabou Diouf, visited The Gambia at the invitation of Professional Taekwondo Gambia. The purpose of Ms. Diouf visit, who did a courtesy call to The National Sports Council, was to conduct training on those rules. Ms. Diouf spent two weeks with us;

13. Professional Taekwondo Gambia invited students of Salagi Taekwondo Club to participate in their training sessions. This was intended to motivate these students and help them upgrade their skills. This practice is expected to continue, with the involvement of other clubs;

14. Professional Taekwondo Gambia has provided assistance to other Taekwondo Clubs, including uniforms (Shipjin Taekwondo Club, Farafeni Taekwondo Club), kicking targets (Farafeni, Shipjin), lighting (Shipjin Taekwondo Club).

15. Professional Taekwondo Gambia has invited a Taekwondo Master from Senegal, specializing in Demonstrations. It is expected to be a 2-week mission during which, he will train the Demonstration Team of Professional Taekwondo Gambia. Other clubs will be invited to participate. Discussions are ongoing on the logistics of the assignment. The mission is expected to take place before the next Promotion Test (scheduled for April 2019);

16. Professional Taekwondo Gambia conducted the first Taekwondo Bootcamp for its students in November. This 2-day event took place in NEMASU ECO LODGE, located in Gunjur. The objective was to provide an environment for longer and more intense training sessions to equip students with the necessary resistance for international competitions. Another Bootcamp is expected to take place before the next Promotion Test, tentatively scheduled for April 2019;

17. Professional Taekwondo Gambia organized a seminar for its students on Breakfalls, as part of its Self-defence training programme. In this respect, a Judo Master, Mr. Luc Piazaud, was invited for a 3-hour training session;2018. The initial idea was to train these soldiers until they reach Red Belt. They would go back to their barracks and start their own Taekwondo Clubs. Professional Taekwondo Gambia would continue supporting them until they reach Black Belt;

18. Professional Taekwondo Gambia reached a partnership with The Gambia Armed Forces to train fifteen soldiers. The programme was launched in April 2018;

19. Professional Taekwondo Gambia carried out four Rank Promotion Tests in April, August, November and December. 42 students participated at the last test, with hundreds of spectators, with the 19 Little Dragons (5 to 10 years old), this Club has promoted 61 students in this last round of testing and promotion (November-December 2018). Participants successfully tested for Yellow Belt, Orange Belt, Green Belt, Blue Belt and Purple Belt. Professional Taekwondo Gambia is on track to have its first Black Belt in December of this year;

20. Professional Taekwondo Gambia was regularly in the media, including several Radio interviews (Africa Radio, xxx Radio), TV interviews (QTV) and print media articles (The Point Newspaper, The Standard Newspaper). In fact, QTV did a documentary on Professional Taekwondo Gambia that was aired many times. Although much remains to be done, this media blitch went a long way in improving the visibility of Taekwondo in The Gambia and dampening the negative image that still bedevils Taekwondo.

21. Professional Taekwondo Gambia was invited to and participated in a demonstration organized by The Gambia Karate Federation. This event took place in the Youth Monument, located in Westfield, where the Demonstration Team of Professional Taekwondo Gambia was able to perform some drills to the ovation of the public;

D. Unstoppable Taekwondo

Unstoppable Taekwondo was founded in xxxApril 2016 and is operated by Master Baboucarr Bobb. It is located in Old Joshwang, in adequate facilities endowed with toilets and water. This Taekwondo Club has registered 120 students, of which 16 are girls. Master Bobb is a 1st. Degree Kukkiwon Black Belt, with ample experience in Taekwondo, including participation in international competitions. The club operates every day.

22. Unstoppable Taekwondo conducted a community-service event, by sweeping the streets of Joshwang. Other Taekwondo Clubs are encouraged to emulate and carry out initiatives of this nature;

23. Unstoppable Taekwondo participated in a competition in Senegal, bringing back five medals and certificates in different categories.

24. Unstoppable Taekwondo moved to new and better facilities, allowing its students to train in a cleaner environment. I have visited the club and found it to be acceptable: it includes electricity, toilets and generally clean;


E. WAM Taekwondo

WAM Taekwondo is the youngest kid in block, having opened its doors to the public in xxx. It has been founded and is operated by Master Baba Sarr, how is a holder of a 1st Degree Kukkiwon Black Belt. He has recently returned from a 3-month training in China. This club has quickly registered 12 students and 10 of them were promoted to Yellow Belt on 29 December 2018.

25. A new Taekwondo Club, WAM Taekwondo, has recently opened its doors to the public. It operates in the premises of “Daddy Jobe” school located in Kanifing. It is operated by Master Baba Sarr,, who is a certified Kukkiwon 1st. Degree Black Belt and has just returned from a 3-month training in China. The Club has quickly registered 12 students;

26. WAM Taekwondo organized its first Grading Test on 29 December 2019, with the participation of 10 students being promoted to Yellow Belts,

Ndirr Taekwondo

27. Ndirr Taekwondo is located in Bundung, operating within the premises of Nusrat school. Master Ndirr is a 1st. Degree Black Belt but has not yet been certified by Kukkiwon. The club has xxx students and trains xxxx;

28. Ndirr Taekwondo organized a demonstration in Bundum on 23 December. Over 5 Taekwondo clubs participated with over 50 students. Other Martial Arts Clubs also participated, such as a Karate Club and Kung Fu;

KEY CHALLENGES FOR TAEKWONDO OF GAMBIA

Myriad challenges militate against the development of Taekwondo in The Gambia. However, the approach that has been adopted by The Gambia Taekwondo Association is that, while tackling these challenges, some of which may take long time, to work within existing space and existing human capacities, making determination and passion the key drivers.

• The main challenge has to do with resources. While the constitution provides a funding mechanism for The Gambia Taekwondo Association, whereby Clubs and individual practitioners would pay an annual fee, low income remains an important restriction for the effective enforcement of this constitutional provision. Consequently, most clubs lack even the most basic training and equipment and materials, most important of which being adequate training facilities. Many clubs train outside in open aire, in rather unsanitary conditions. Similarly, the Gambia Taekwondo Association lacks the necessary equipment to support the organization of tournaments: Matts, protective gear, etc.

• While most Taekwondo Masters running clubs hold Black Belts, important weaknesses remain that result in poor quality training. Specific and targeted seminars to address observed weaknesses would go a long way. A related problem is that most Taekwondo Masters are illiterate. This makes it difficult to organize workshops and other activities that require fluency in English;

• In spite of the growth in Taekwondo in general, there are no trained, Kukkiwon-certified referees in The Gambia. This impedes ability to organize tournaments.

• Taekwondo development has limited itself to the Kombo area, with very little in other areas of the country, to the exception of Farafeni, where is a club with ten students. However, activities there are seasonal in nature, stopping during harvesting;

• The Executive Committee of The Gambia Taekwondo Association does not have a secretariat, an office space where it could conduct its business. Even holding meetings is an important challenge;

• Perhaps the most important challenge is the crisis that has rocked the Executive Committee since early 2018. It found itself in a whirlwind that brought it to a virtual stand-still, incapable of carrying out its mandate, dragging the clubs with it. Fortunately, the crisis is now being left behind, thanks to the decisive guidance of The National Sports Council and direct involvement of individual Taekwondo Clubs;

• Taekwondo, along with other Martial Arts, have a negative image. It is generally perceived as a tool to settle scores practiced by trouble-makers. Efforts are being made to change the is perception but much remains to be done.

• As a corollary to above, Taekwondo is perceived as a male activity practiced by the youth. In this respect, it is very difficult to attract females and adults. This is across the Martial Arts spectrum, not just Taekwondo.

CONCLUSIONS

Taekwondo is alive and well in The Gambia and making huge strides. In spite of enormous challenges, Taekwondo is growing, with increasing number of clubs and practitioners. A major remaining blind-spot refers to the organization of tournaments. However, the foundation has now been laid and this should be launched this year. There is enormous potential, but specific, well targeted efforts are necessary to translate this potential into actual capacity and performance. Taekwondo could become the second most practiced sport in The Gambia, after Football. Important challenges stand in the way to the achievement of this goal. However, these challenges are not unsurmountable, just the opposite is true: They can be overcome. The fact that young Gambians, both, male and female, are able to practice Taekwondo under very difficult conditions is the best evidence. Where do we go from here?

Leadership is the key factor, a transformative leadership, leadership that can galvanize the Taekwondo world around common goals. The Plan of Action is the roadmap. Its implementation should lead to the development of Taekwondo in The Gambia. While The Gambia Taekwondo Association is responsible for the management of Taekwondo, both The National Sports Council and The National Olympics are similarly critical. Their engagement has proven to be very effective, especially regarding broader issues affecting The Gambia Taekwondo Association and Taekwondo in general.


FORWARD

• The Executive Committee will continue to strengthen its relationship downstream with Taekwondo Clubs and upstream, with The National Sports Council and The National Olympic Committee.

• A key initiative consists of giving form to the management structure that is envisaged in the constitution, including extending the presence of The Gambia Taekwondo Association outside Kombo area and throughout the country. The constitution includes several committees and other advisory bodies that would support the Executive Committee in the delivery of its mandate. Work is already underway in this respect, which should conclude shortly. This includes the preparation of the Terms of Reference of each committee and the appointment of its members.

• It is an aspiration of the Gambia Taekwondo Association to ensure participation of The Gambia in international competitions, including the upcoming Olympic Games. This requires the organization of tournaments, which would include National Championships. The acquisition of the required equipment and materials is a matter of utmost priority. The Gambia Taekwondo Association is aware that the Embassy of South Korea supports the organization national championships in several African countries, under the banner of “Ambassador’s Cup”. There is no reason to believe that The Gambia cannot be covered by this programme. Engaging the Embassy of South Korea, based in Dakar, is another priority.

• This report is the first of this nature, but, will not be the last. In fact, the preparation of annual report both, for relevant national authorities and Kukkiwon and World Taekwondo will become institutional practice of The Gambia Taekwondo Association.

 

THE GAMBIA TAEKWONDO ASSOCIATION

PLAN OF ACTION 2019 – 2021

Main Goals:

Gambian Taekwondo gains medals at international competitions.
At least one Gambian Taekwondo athlete achieves a world ranking.
Taekwondo gains recognitions as important national sport.

Expected Results Specific Actions Timing Focal Point Budget

-Functioning and performance of GTA significantly improved and streamlined
1. Adopt a culture of written communication
2. Organize a special meeting of ExCom to chart the way forward
3. Develop Terms of Reference of Constitutional committees
4. Designate members of Constitutional Committees
5. Revise the Constitution
6. Design a structure of representation of GTA by region
7. Initiate contacts with other Martial Arts clubs
8. Ensure meetings of ExCom and other constitutional bodies are fully documented through minutes, as required by the Constitution
9. Collect all relevant legal documentation on sports: Act of Parliament creating the National Sports Council, etc. 0
10. Send an apology letter to Master Sun, also nullifying the warning letter received from the Association 0
11. Establish a Secretariat to run the day-to-day business of the GTA -The quality and technical level of Gambian Taekwondo upgraded
12. Establish standards for the authorization of clubs
13. Organize workshops and seminars on relevant matters – define priorities
14. Keep the clubs informed of developments at ExCom, including major decisions
15. Establish clear code of conduct building the Tenets of Taekwondo and Student Oath
16. Initiate contacts with Taekwondo Federations in the region, beginning with the Taekwondo Federation of Senegal
17. Create the conditions for launching of tournaments
18. Establish clear testing guidelines, fully aligned with Kukkiwon guidelines
19. Establish a strict training programme for students representing The Gambia in international championships
20. Identify and regularly organize team-building activities
21. Conduct regular visit of existing clubs
22. Design training programmes for adoption by the clubs
23. Define a belt system for adoption by all clubs
24. Establish a calendar of meetings of ExCom
25. Conduct a census of Taekwondo students
26. Undertake specific actions to ensure Gambia participate in international competitions
-The profile and visibility of Taekwondo is significantly enhanced for an improved image, both nationally and internationally 27. Regularly prepare activity reports for Kukkiwon and WT 0
28. Regularly engage with WTAF
29. Provide student IDs
30. Address the issue of insurance, possibly jointly with other Martial Arts Federations
31. Setting up WhatsApp groups with all club members
32. Launch preparations for the next Olympics
33. Send a letter to Bobb reinstating his membership to GTA
34. Engage regularly with the media
35. Organize first joint demonstration
36. Create a website for GTA
37. Revitalize the Facebook Page of GTA
38. Select a media outlet (TV and/or Radio) for a regular programme on Taekwondo -Financial health of GTA strengthened
39. Organize fund-raising activities
40. Set up a bank account for the Association
41. Establish fee structure to be paid by Clubs and members
42. Secure funding from the Government to support Gambia’s participation in international competitions.

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