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Why Can’t a Top Martial-Arts Athlete Compete with Men?

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The New Britain High School student won two gold medals

The New Britain High School student won two gold medals competing in South Korea recently, one coming at the Jeonju Open International Taekwondo Championships on July 20 and again at the more prestigious Chuncheon Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships this week, an event consisting of some 2,500 competitors from 50 countries.“The Korea Open is the (most competitive) international championship in the world,” said Master Kiye Cho, Rodriguez’s coach.

 

Sloane Cameron is one of the best power breakers in the world. Why can’t she compete in the sport’s most prestigious competition?

Sloane Cameron is one of the best power breakers in the world. Why can’t she compete in the sport’s most prestigious competition? Credit Lorri Eidenschink Broaddus

When Sloane Cameron positions her hundred-and-thirty-five-pound, five-foot-eight-and-a-half-inch body to break through a stack of wooden boards, concrete slabs, or tiles, she doesn’t think about what she’s hitting. The fourth-degree black belt, who started Tae Kwon Do when she was nine years old—she’s now twenty-eight—has learned to focus on a point just beyond the boards. She ties her brown hair back in a ponytail, sometimes adding a headband, then wheels her leg around to produce a swift smash, destroying whatever was in its path, injury-free.


When most people think of Tae Kwon Do—which, in the United States, is not all that often—they think of sparring, a form of competition that both men and women perform at the Olympics. “Power breaking,” also called Hanmadang—which means something like celebration or festival in Korean—involves breaking large amounts of wood, concrete, granite, and the like with specific hand and foot techniques. Practitioners rely on repeated resistance training and the idea that over time, the body can adapt to stress. Breaking in the United States has become more organized during the last two decades or so—it is probably best known here for its occasional appearances in movies and on television, typically prefaced by the warning that one should not try it at home. The number of participants isn’t closely tracked, and the sport is still small, but a few thousand women are estimated to compete worldwide. Sloane Cameron is one of the besz

But when the World Taekwondo Hanmadang, the most prestigious international competition for power breaking, takes place in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, a military city located south of Seoul, Cameron won’t be there. While the U.S. Hanmadang allows women to compete in the power break, the Kukkiwon, the world Tae Kwon Do headquarters, does not.

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