I left on Sunday evening, July 20th, flew to London, then onto Hungary arriving on Monday the 21st. I stayed a night in Budapest before catching a train to Debrecen on the 22nd. After checking into our hotel we walked a few blocks to the convention center where the event was being held. There I registered and weighed in at 181.1 lbs., safely under my fighting weight of 185. After a quick cell phone call, I met up with the rest of the US team in a nearby restaurant for dinner before heading back to the hotel.
All my fights were originally scheduled for Friday, but once I got there I found out that the schedule had changed. I was now fighting first-hit stick on the opening day, Thursday, then again with knife on Friday, and finish up the event with staff on Saturday. I had planned on catching an early flight out of Budapest on Sunday morning, but I figured things should wrap up in time for me to make the 3 hour train ride Saturday night, I would just have to skip the closing ceremonies.
The event began with an elaborate opening ceremony including a parade of nations. Teams had come from all over the world, including Great Britain, France, United Arab Emigrates, Canada, and Australia. Competitors filed in as their respective country’s national anthems played one by one. The largest teams were the United States, and the host school, Hungary, each with about 20 competitors.
After a long day of watching forms, I ended up fighting first in the men’s first-hit stick division. There were 12 of us on the bracket. I won my first fight against an Austrian, but lost a close second bout to a member of the Hungarian team. Luckily I stuck around after the event, because the officials suddenly decided that they were going to change the schedule and squeeze the first hit knife fighting in Thursday night. Next thing I knew I was back in the ring in the first knife fight against Perry Zmugg of Austria. Guro Zmugg is the chief instructor of Center 6 Martial Arts Training Center in Stattegg, Austria. In addition to having advanced degrees in many styles including Hapkido and Wing Chun, Grandmaster Zmugg is also the founder of the Real Arnis Federation. Perry and I were pretty evenly matched, going point for point for the full two minutes before he finally edged me out at the buzzer.
Thursday there was no fighting for me, and I was pretty bummed that I had not placed in either of my first two divisions. Saturday rolled around and I had one more chance at a medal…or did I? Turned out that one of the Team USA members from the West Coast could not attend, so there was a slot open in full contact double stick fighting. I was asked if I wanted the position, and, since it is not in me to back down from a challenge, I accepted, even though I had not trained for this particular event. When I got to the ring I discovered that the slot was in the men’s heavyweight division, 200 lbs and up. I drew a 240 lb. man from a mining town in the middle of Australia. A former world champion himself, he was no push over, but after 3 hard rounds the match was tied, so it went a fourth round, which I lost in a split decision. It was a close battle, and the crowd cheered their approval at the show! In the end I took 4th place in that division.
Finally, after a full day of fighting, including exciting team fighting with representatives from each country taking turns in the ring in rapid, succession, my event FINALLY came up. By this time it was 6 PM and the last train to Budapest left at 7. I knew it was going to be close as I suited up to fight. I ended up fighting with against Grandmaster Perry Zmugg of Austria, again. We fought for three hard rounds, each of us bruised and battered from our previous matches. In the end I lost a split decision to place second in Full Contact Bangkaw (staff) Fighting (Men's Light Heavyweight Division).
After my match I accepted my silver medal, threw my equipment into my bag, and literally ran back to the hotel to get my stuff. The elevator was too slow, so I told the man at the desk to call me a cab as I ran up the stairs to my room. I came scrambling down a moment later, checked out, and jumped into the waiting taxi. I think taxi drivers in any country like it when you say you are in a hurry and can you get me there FAST! It is like an open invitation to see what he can do, and this driver did NOT disappoint! I hurriedly purchased a ticket with the last of my Hungarian Forints and made it to the platform with a mere 3 minutes to spare before the train rolled up to the station.
As I took my seat I thought how lucky I was to have made that last train…then I looked out the window and saw the pizza shop at the terminal. I remembered that I had not eaten since lunch, and not much at that. As the train pulled away, my stomach rumbled and I suddenly became aware of the many bruises I was now sporting. It was going to be a long ride back to Budapest, but I was very grateful for the experience and the honor of fighting on the 2014 US Team.