“The Pain in Spain comes Mainly from the Plane”
ITS8 – Seville, Spain
Time to hit the road on the way to Seville for ITS #8 which is shaping up to be a big one. With well over 250 preregistrations numbers are good, we also have almost all the IHA member countries on deck and should have 12 or so Countries on the mats. First up I am flying with an airline that I don’t often take internationally, Qantas. As I am predominantly a Star Alliance Frequent Flyer, I stick to the Airlines that are members. Qantas is a member of the competing One World. However, Malcolm found a very specially priced ticket for me on Turkish Airlines (which are a member of Star Alliance) however the flights to and from Asia are with Qantas, go figure. It was the best deal at the time and saved considerably, so I get a chance to see how Qantas is on the International front.
Flight #1 Sydney – Bangkok (Qantas Airbus 330-300)
Qantas did an excellent job with the flight to Thailand, good service and food. So, a tick for the future there. Over the next couple of days, I got to enjoy some nice meals, (I will be doing a specific Album on FB for the bulk of the food pictures) get some decent foot massages, see my dentist for some work and spend a lot of time on the laptop wrapping up all the little odds and ends for the ITS.
Race Car style, but not in reality, welcome to Thailand
On the starship teeth-a-prize
*Side Note* Thailand Dentists – They are excellent, not only for the quality of work they do but also for the pricing. The ones I use have a 7-story complex with 50+ dentists, each floor has a speciality, and each visit I will see 3-4 dentists, one for a check-up, one for a clean, one for a filling for example. Apart from how cheap it is in comparison, the facilities are state of the art with Star Trek sliding doors, monitors/keyboards built into the walls of each room, etc. All for well under 1/3rd Sydney costs. For major work it would be cheaper to fly here, stay in a hotel and get the work done.
As the organisation grows it is surprisingly becoming common to bump into family members all over the world, and in this case, It was Martina from Croatia who was in Bangkok for a TKD awards induction. A good chance to catch up and talk about plans for the future, a Croatian team will be at the ITS as well.
I couldn’t let you miss out on a least one food pic – Burgers @ Chef Bar
Now it was time to take the longer haul into Europe and as I mentioned it was with some different airlines, it has been a long time since I flew Turkish Airlines and I was very surprised by how good all the aspects of the flight were. The inflight food was excellent. The flight into Istanbul went very smoothly and I got a couple of hours to see the new Airport which is huge. The Turkish Airlines lounge is incredible with its range of food stations and decision, almost like a Vegas Buffet, the 2 hour wait for a shower though was a little challenging, so I missed out and grabbed my 2nd flight from Istanbul into Madrid for the 5 hour zombie layover and then my final flight into Seville. Of course, who should I bump into at the Madrid airport but KJN Hugo and team Mexico. The world is getting to be a smaller place, and the Kwan Nyom family are everywhere.
Istanbul’s shiny new Airport
Team Mexico - Madrid
Flight #2, #3 & #4 Bangkok - Istanbul – Madrid - Seville (Turkish Airlines A330-300 (2) + Iberia CRJ1000)
Touchdown Spain and let the ITS begin! Team Spain were out in force with a welcome banner and local snacks as well as a goodie back for each arrival, I got the same treatment and I think it was a nice way to welcome the family to ITS.
Team Spain – Welcome group
Welcome group 2 – Master Henrie gets in on the action
Over the next couple of days, it was a blur with airport and train station runs for Team arrivals, lost luggage, and all the preliminary ITS setup work required. I had to chuckle at SBN Jose who recently welcomed a new baby and told him now he has 2 babies, the ITS as well and it keeps you up at night as well. It was a tiring but rewarding lead into the event.
View from Team Hotel #1
View from Team Hotel #2
One thing to note was that it was hot, and the first part of the week baked us with temperatures between the high 30’s and low 40’s. But unlike Sydney a dry heat, of course for our Northern European members it gave them a reason to ‘hydrate’ more. By now most of the luggage found its way, nothing was permanently lost which was a good thing and the bulk of the teams had arrived and settled in. Up first in the sun baked Seville was the Sun Bae and ITS was officially underway.
The sign said Hapkidoist with a Walking stick, check!
We had a team coach for the week so each morning it was time to saddle up for the drive to the training venue, the first day was at KSN Eloy’s Dojang and over 70 senior belts (Red Belt+) jumped on the mats, now remember it was 40+ degree’s outside and KSN Eloy’s AC decided that it was on a go slow day, so we estimate the Mat temp to be around 50 degree’s. People were going outside to cool down, and during the day we drank over 200 litres of water. Still the energy and the focus was high, each of the seniors got a chance to work on idea’s that would improve Hapkido overall, which turned out to be a great high level technical workshop.
Team Sun Bae before the Sauna
Team Sun Bae after the Sauna, still smiling if a little dehydrated
We stopped for a late lunch and due to the heat, we were running a 9am-2pm schedule with no real break then lunch after. This way we got to get the bulk of the training done before the real heat kicked in around 4pm here. Seville is one of the hottest places in Europe by average temperature. We took the group to a nearby restaurant for a local lunch where we drank all the water and coke.
Lunch time crew
After lunch it was time for the senior Black Belt testing and the first of the new system, we had 3 testing for 2nd Degree, CGN’s Aldo, Stephanie and Ashton, 3 for 3rd Degree, Mira, Shane and Marcel followed by our first ever test for 7th Degree with Master Henrie. The first test went well and everyone was happy with the new system, it should only produce better and more focused senior belts in the future. There was a brief break before Master Henries test. The test for 7th Degree includes a presentation of a physical thesis on Kwan Nyom Hapkido, for his test Master Henrie was focussing on sword. As a surprise I had asked Shihan Anthony (Kenjutsu 7th Degree “Sword Master”) to sit on the panel. I think everyone was incredibly impressed with Master Henries’ work, and he along with the rest of the group will find out their results at the Celebration Dinner.
The morning round table
Possibly the main part of the ITS is the camaraderie, catching up with family from all over the world on and off the mats. Of course, there is an incredible amount of excellent training time but that is only a part of what makes the event so powerful. One big part of the experience is the team hotel where you are constantly bumping into old friends and making new ones from all over the IHA world, whether it is at breakfast, in the lobby or on the rooftop bar. It is always the happening place to be during the ITS.
ITS Hell Week day #1
Day one of the U Hok Saeng kicked off literally and figuratively with kicking, however before the action started, we had some of the local Council members visit to present a plaque in appreciation for us holding the event here. That was a nice touch and helped start the week off even better. I did make some changes this time to the ITS teaching roster and before we started, I called together the senior level instructors (Head Instructor & Chief Instructor) and let them know that they were running the week. I was going to be here to help, do signatures and add my 2c but in general it was their show.
The week kicks off, and the pun had to be made!
Some of the many merchandise from all over the world for sale.
Over the week each day a different senior worked on parts of the coloured belt curriculum and we also featured one or more senior guests covering a favourite topic. This way every senior got a chance to both teach and train, and the juniors got a chance to meet more of our international family. It was an excellent week, lots of energy, the hum on the mats was of constant work and friendship. Lots of seniors worked on signatures as well, both for their levels and instructor requirements, a very proactive and productive time.
A typical ITS hangout near the hotel
Is your car cactus? The Aussies will get the joke at least. In Australia we call something Cactus when its broken.
ITS preferred, at least 2 of them
One of the biggest benefits of ITS is a sheer number of partners, not only over the week where you can change countries each time you change partners but also for things like Multiple Grabs. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive from the seniors for the energy on the Crazy end of the mat for multiple grabs.
Breakfalls are Us
Multiple Grabs is in session
Gluten is Evil…
Of course, the week was not just work and no play. The training would wrap at 2pm, the bus back to the hotel by 3pm and then everyone would catch up. Groups would head out for meals, to sightsee and to general catch up. It made for Hapkidoist all over Seville having a good time. Of course, Seville is a beautiful city so sight seeing was on the cards for everyone, as well as side trips to places like Cordoba.
Sun Bae was up first and then the U Hok Saeng week into the history books, now it was time to wrap up the training with the Highlight the Masters Seminars. A full mat with students from over 10 countries all eager to add to their Hapkido tool boxes, coupled with passionate instructors makes for a good combination. Each of the seniors got a chance to run the mat for 45 minutes, and a couple did extra duty working with the little Hapkido team, around 100 of the local kids. A couple of the highlights of the day was Shihan Anthony’s cutting demonstration as well as watching GM McMurray enthral the children.
GM McMurray and the Kids #1
GM McMurray and the Kids #2
Master Henrie, Master Roddy with the help of BSBN Henk & KSN Diane wrangle the little ones
If you don’t like group shots please look away, but with an event like the ITS there has to be group shots a plenty!
Kodanja – 4th Degree and higher
Yudanja – Black Belts
At the end of the Photo’s there was a break so I could make final announcements and the IHA representative team surprised me with some special recognition. SBN Nathan read out a speech (translated by KJN Hugo to Spanish) and the Representative team presented me with recognition to 9th Degree in Kwan Nyom Hapkido. It was a special moment for me to have that recognition by the seniors in front of so many of the IHA family and it will be one of my true gems. The speech and subsequent video of the presentation are online on Facebook. I posted some thoughts afterwards on Facebook and I will post those here:
I wanted to take some time to think on the ITS before posting up my thoughts. I have always found that expressions from the moment are always bright & passionate, coloured by the immediacy, but thoughts a few days after are those that you keep and cherish. The ITS was indeed a hugely successful event, the combination of Kwan Nyom members and more from 10 countries, working hard on the mats every day. The moments in-between to re-kindle friendships and to make new. The camaraderie that was evident everywhere, whether it was Breakfast at the Hotel, meeting for meals, or simply bumping into others in the streets was amazing. For me the overall feeling of family was the success, the fact that our family has grown whilst still maintaining those close connections is so important. This week I took a step back or in fact forward in letting the seniors lead the mat, and a most excellent job they did. I was also incredibly touched and surprised by the family recognition on the Friday afternoon, having the family behind it as well as also there to share it was truly a moment that I will indeed cherish forever. Without a doubt I would like to make sure that all the heroes involved in making this a success know how thankful I am that you were and are a such a large part of this success. I thank you all for being part of this path we call Hapkido and for being part of my extended family.
A moment to remember
After the day wrapped it was time to get ready for the final official ITS event and what I had been looking forward to all week, the celebration dinner. As the dinner location was almost next door to his Dojang, it also gave everyone the opportunity to visit the home of Kwan Nyom Hapkido in Spain. SBN Jose then had each country team enter individually and on the entrance steps, he had his students with signs written in each language. The dinner featured local dishes and it was good to see everyone mixed on the tables enjoying their new friends and making new ones.
The dinner group recording memories
During the dinner we had a brief break and everyone got to enjoy some of the local Flamenco with a couple of dancers joining the celebration dinner. It was then time to move onto the more serious part of the night the recognition and eventually the announcement of ITS#9. Congratulations to those Black Belts who earned their new belts, new 2nd Degree’s KSN Ashton, KSN Stephanie and KSN Aldo, new 3rd Degree’s BSBN Shane, BSBN Mira and BSBN Marcel. Then a special moment with the promotion of the first ever 7th Degree in Kwan Nyom Hapkido, Master Henrie. As a special gift I gave him the first of the Yellow Diamond Dobok he is now entitled to wear.
New 2nd and 3rd Degrees
Kwan Nyom 7th Degree #1
Incredible achievements so far and still more to go as it was time to recognise the Instructor promotions, new Instructors SBN Jose and KSN Eloy, Senior Instructor KSN Stephanie and Chief Instructor BSBN Shane and BSBN Marcel. Then a special promotion with our first ever Head Instructor in Mexico, KJN Hugo. With those promotions complete. SBN Jose wanted a few moments to thank everyone for the hard work over the ITS including the amazing team of Spanish volunteers, and he presented me with a sword to remind of this great event, I presented him with a custom plaque of the ITS logo to hand proudly in his Dojang. Then I still had a couple of surprises and now it was time to hand out some very special recognition and that was 2 promotions to Master level in Kwan Nyom Hapkido, welcome and congratulations to Master Dave and Master Ron!
New Kwan Nyom Masters
Facebook Translate has to make you chuckle even if it is the correct idea.
It was now time to reveal the host of the next ITS, and we started a new tradition with the ITS banner KJN Hugo had donated. Each ITS host will hold the banner and display it proudly leading up to the ITS then hand it over to the next host. The crowd was quiet and bets were being made. Actually, SBN Jose had set up a system of bets on which USA Dojang it would be and the winner would get the pot towards their travel to the ITS, a great idea. With 12 US Dojangs there was a plenty of choices. The reveal video was a little different with some humour leading into the reveal of Charlotte, North Carolina being our next host city! ITS#9 be there or Bust! KSN Stephanie stepped up to accept the ITS Banner and we all pledged towards working towards being part of our next big family gathering.
ITS#9 – Charlotte, North Carolina
The next couple of days was a chance to wish the teams well as they headed out and of course work towards the next events with the 2020 World Tour, ETS#3 and NATS#2, a busy year ahead. From there it was time for me to hit the road with a couple of flights into Germany for an overnight stay before heading to Sofia, Bulgaria and country #58.
Dinner with Team Mexico of course
I found my café.
I read that address as Pain first
Missed it by that much!
Flight #5, #6 & #7 Seville – Madrid – Frankfurt – Sofia (Iberia CRJ1000 and Lufthansa Airlines A320)
My first quick visit to Sofia, Bulgaria and I had arranged a one-day tour to see the highlights as well as booking a couple of the notable local restaurants to enjoy the food. I have found that a big part of enjoying a visit to a foreign city depends on the weather, if you visit at the right time of year the people are friendlier and the city is far more vibrant. I was lucky that it was indeed that time with weather hovering in the mid 20’s and the sky was clear the entire time. I plan to send postcards from each of the new countries, however I have found that the formal Eastern Bloc postage system challenging, you can’t buy stamps at any place except the post office and the one in Sofia was entirely tourist non friendly. Still the challenge was met and the postcards are inbound.
Sofia #14 – For the Finns, Hesburger is here
Flight #8 & #9 Sofia – Vienna – Belgrade (Austrian Airlines Embraer 195 and Bombardier Dash-8)
Another couple of connecting flights, this time from Sofia into Belgrade via Vienna with Austrian airlines to arrive into new country #59. This time I was here to see the city but also had arranged to meet up with a local Hapkido Instructor, KSN Dusan. We went straight from the Airport to grab a late dinner before checking into my hotel. The next morning plans were for a Hapkido class for his students before some free time for sightseeing. The local students enjoyed the session and I am sure that they will be working towards joining some of our other European events in the future.
Belgrade #1 – Now where did I park the car?
Belgrade #2 – The food has a kick.
Belgrade #3 – Team Hapkido Serbia
Belgrade #4 – Tesla
Belgrade #5 - Tesla Museum
Belgrade #8 – The sign meant I had to climb it
Some good sightseeing, lots of history to enjoy, along with some good food. However, a small side note I had to chuckle at briefly, I was seeking laundry and relented in giving it to the Hotel (They are notoriously expensive). Timing meant I couldn’t use a local place as they were all closed Sunday. It was in by 10am, and it would be back at 6pm. When I checked with the front desk, I was told the next day (when I was flying out), I questioned the reason and the lady laughed “This is Serbia!”. I eventually got most of my laundry back the next afternoon just before flying out, missing my socks. They have since turned up and are holidaying in Serbia, sock shipping was added to my list in Skopje.
Flight #10 & #11 Belgrade – Vienna - Skopje (Austrian Airlines Airbus 319 and Airbus 320)
Smooth flights into Skopje with Austrian and I grab a taxi to my hotel. The taxi driver speaking little English drops me at the wrong hotel, there was a moment of you don’t have a reservation, but yes, I do, before we worked out it was the other hotel with a similar name all went smoothly. They even got their driver to drop me over there, now that was good customer service. Oh and Macedonia brings the country count to #60.
Skopje #1 – So the hotel restaurant makes the best burgers
Skopje #2 – It beats Macca’s just
A good stop and with a different flavour to the last 2 countries, a little more rustic here. But still the sights and food were good. The flying out was a little ugh with my flight at 4:30am into Vienna for a 4 hour wait for the next flight into Moscow with a 5 hour wait to get my last flight into Rostov. It was one of those Road Warrior days, and off I went heading towards Russia.
Flight #12, #13 & #14 Skopje – Vienna – Moscow – Rostov on Don (Austrian Airlines Airbus 320 and S7 Airlines Airbus 319)
All went fine, I cleared Russian customs and went looking for an ATM, of course none on the air side of the terminal. Still I managed to get into the S7 (Siberian Airlines) lounge and kill some time before flying with them into Rostov, a new airline to tick off the list.
Pancakes in the S7 lounge, add some lemon/sugar and I might move in here
S7 were fine into Rostov, they are the Russian equivalent of a low-cost carrier. I was met at the airport by KSN Georg (KHF 2nd Degree) and Alex (the local driver + translator + crash dummy). We take the 30 min drive into Rostov for a bite to eat at a Georgian restaurant before I check into my hotel. Remember food pictures have been added to the folder ITS Euro Tour Cuisine on Facebook. Rostov is a manufacturing and agriculture town for Russia so a lot smaller and less history than either Moscow or St Petersburg.
Rostov #1 – Hotel Hermitage
Rostov #2 – Some signs make me chuckle
Rostov #3 – More impressive inside
Rostov #4 - The inside
Rostov #5 – The shoulder is an extra lane and they were doing the same speed
I have a free day so Alex picks me up in the afternoon and we check out the older town area for the church and Kazak museum, before picking up KSN Georg and heading to the airport to collect Master Alexander (KHF 6th Degree). It is off to dinner at a Kazak restaurant that not only has authentic food, but also design elements and a singing group. The next day is Hapkido time and I work on Hook Punch Defence, Clinch tools, Hand Attacks and S Locks to give the local group a taste of Kwan Nyom. Dinner is off to local Korean restaurant for some Russian style Bulgogi.
Rostov #6 – Training Space
Rostov #7 – Mini’s get parked everywhere
Rostov #8 – Hapkido Seminar
Rostov #9 – When in Russia
Rostov #10 – Parking is a lost art in this part of the world
Rostov #11 – I will ‘Steak’ you little man!
Rostov #12 – The Datto lives
Rostov #13 – Converting them to ACDC
It was a good visit to Rostov, some Hapkido, some sightseeing and some good food, ticks a lot of boxes. Of course, one thing I did notice is the advanced parking skills, or lack of them. Even if there are lines no one parks between them, basically you park wherever you want, that includes 2 deep blocking the road. Leaving was another one of those 4am flights, who really thinks that is a good time to fly? The flight into Turkey goes smoothly and I get a good view of the 4th most populated city in the world. 18+ million makes for 72% of the Australian population in one place.
Flight #15 Rostov on Don - Istanbul (Turkish Airlines Airbus 320)
Istanbul #1 – The city awakens
The new airport is located a fair distance and with the traffic it is just on an hour to get to my Hotel. I picked one near the old town and it is located in some small streets which it seems are also parked Russian style. It turns out the area around my hotel is the Russia market part of the city, go figure. The hotel lets me check in early and I grab some sleep before heading out for a look around. That night I go through the Uber/Taxi tango to get to my restaurant booking, a 12-minute drive is actually closer to an hour. Traffic here is really impressive. The next day is tourist day, so I meet my guide and we hit the city for a look around. Istanbul is located in an amazing place straddling the connection between Europe and Asia, lots of history and a vibrant energy that comes from the sheer amount of people.
Istanbul #2 – Haga Sofia
Istanbul #3 – Haga Sofia
Istanbul #4 – Haga Sofia
Istanbul #5 – Haga Sofia
Istanbul #6 – Topkapi Palace
Istanbul #7 – Topkapi Palace
Istanbul #8 – Topkapi Palace
Istanbul #9 – Topkapi Palace
Istanbul #10 – Topkapi Palace
Istanbul #11 – Topkapi Palace
Istanbul #12 – Topkapi Palace
Istanbul #13 – Some guides use flags; however, the force is strong with this one
Istanbul #14 – Haga Sofia outside
Istanbul #15 – Blue Mosque
Istanbul #16 – Blue Mosque
Istanbul #17 – Serefiye Cistern
Istanbul #18 – Baklava + Turkish Delight
Istanbul #19 – Herbs + Teas
Istanbul #20 – Grand Bazaar Entrance #1
Istanbul #21 – Grand Bazaar
Istanbul #22 – City @ Night
Istanbul #23 – City @ Night
Istanbul #24 – YouTube #Saltbae
There is an amazing amount to see here and I only scratched the surface with this visit. Lots of good food, traffic is ugh, but I imagine the rail and tram system would be a good option, I felt safe wandering around and it is another one of those put it on your bucket list places. I quite often venture out for a haircut local style. For a laugh check my old Kuwait report for possibly my most challenging one. However here I did get to experience something new, after the reasonably normal trip and shave the barber picked up a lighter which he then waved past my ears, I imagine to burn off some small hairs, however there is that moment of whaaat when it first happens. Still no ears singed and no barber hurt, haircut complete. Time to hit the road for my last stop on the way home, back into the air with Turkish Airlines for the long haul to Jakarta, Indonesia.
Flight #16 Istanbul – Jakarta (Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-200)
The flight was smooth and I will say that Turkish Airlines inflight service is amongst the best, possibly top 5 of the airlines I have flown with. We arrive a little early into Jakarta and I clear customs quickly, grab my bag and meet my driver to the hotel. I have read up on the horrendous traffic here, and as much as it is reasonably chaotic it wasn’t that bad. As long as you are ok with lanes meaning nothing, people parking in traffic with hazards on and motorbikes swarming everywhere it is quite normal.
Jakarta #21 – It works
Jakarta #2 – City @ Night
I had planned to take a look around the city but after the new cities on this trip, I took the rest and relaxation option instead. I actually visited Jakarta when I was around 8 so this technically is my 2nd visit. Still I did have a couple of nice meals, pictures had now been added to the Facebook Album and got a chance to sleep some normal hours. Whilst I was here though I did earn some status upgrades, Platinum with United Airlines, Silver with Qantas and Gold with Grab Taxi. All ticked over while I was here in Jakarta. But now its time to hit the skies for my flight home with Qantas.
Flight #17 Jakarta - Sydney (Qantas A330-200)
As always it is hard to do all this travelling without an amazing support team, in this case the ITS team, the Travelling team, and the CSD team. You are all truly special people and I am ever thankful for your support, help and belief in the Hapkido path.
That concludes the 2019 ITS Tour Report!
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