Vietnamese martial artists set off for the Greek island of Rhodes on Wednesday to compete in the first-ever World Taekwondo Beach Championships.
The inaugural beach taekwondo championships, organized by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), will take place on the island from May 5 to 6.
The competition looks to expand the martial art from an indoor-only sport to one that can be enjoyed in any environment.
Five hundred and sixty-four martial artists from 26 countries will compete in the championships, comprising only ‘poomsae,’ a non-sparring event in which participants perform a pre-arranged set of movements.
Free-style poomsae, technical breaking, and free-style dynamic kick events will also be featured during the championships.
According to Nguyen Thanh Huy, head coach of Vietnam’s taekwondo team, instead of the traditional ‘dobk’ worn by taekwondo practitioners, athletes at the World Taekwondo Beach Championships will be permitted to wear non-traditional styles of uniform, including sleeveless shirts and short pants.
Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hijabs will also be permitted, according to the WTF.
The major difference between indoor and beach taekwondo is the soft and unpredictable texture of the sand, which requires good balance from martial artists to secure a solid footing after each flying kick, Huy said.
Huy added that Vietnamese taekwondo athletes spent a few days in the southern Vietnamese beach city of Vung Tau to practice their pomsae performances on real sand before setting off for the championships.
As the costs to send athletes to Greece were relatively high – over VND60 million (US$2,600) per athlete – some members of the Vietnamese team were forced to stay behind, Huy said.
“Though we’ve practiced on sand in Vung Tau, the upcoming experience during the championships will undoubtedly be a lot different,” said Chau Tuyet Van, the standing taekwondo world champion. “Nevertheless, this is a good opportunity for us to prepare for the upcoming SEA Games 2017.”