Ready for combat in the Coliseum

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 November, 1997, 12:00am

Be warned, Kowloon is a particularly violent place to be this week. Hundreds of fights are breaking out each day between pumped-up martial arts experts. Luckily the men and women from 96 countries looking for combat are headed for the safe confines of the Hong Kong Coliseum, not the back streets of Mongkok.

This year Hong Kong is staging the World Taekwondo Championships for the first time. Battle in the 2,000-year-old Korean martial art started on Wednesday and finishes on Sunday.

Fighting for the United States in the welterweight category is Troy Garr, 27, who has already beaten opponents from Austria and Yugoslavia. When not punching and kicking the living daylights out of strangers, Troy lives in San Jose, California, where he works as a martial arts trainer.

What is on your mind? Fighting is on my mind. Beating my opponent and winning the world championship. Hitting my opponent as hard as I can as many times as possible, that's what I'm thinking about.

How do you win a bout? One point for a hit to the head, one point to hit the spot marked on their chest. I want to hit them good. The aim is 'trembling shock' - a hit that causes the body to jolt. Of course alternatively you can strike your opponent so hard they cannot continue. There is no coming back from a knock-out.

What does it take to be a world champion martial artist? Hard work. I started fighting when I was 12, won my first competition six months later, got my black belt when I was 16 and am now a third-degree black belt holder. I train for up to seven hours a day, six days a week, and that includes a run up to 11 kilometres before breakfast. You have to be fearless. The only thing I am frightened of is not doing my best. Nor can pain be a problem. While fighting I have broken my finger, smashed my knuckles, fractured my hand and strained the ligaments in my knee.

But these are nothing. Minor injuries are not to be taken seriously.

To what do you attribute your success? God is on my side. I read the Bible and pray. Having faith is very important. If the Lord is smiling on me and giving me strength to win then I can do it.