Swinney, a martial arts black belt, is competing for the 30+ Hard Traditional Forms World Title, which he currently holds.
He has held the title four times over his karate career and is going for his fifth this year.
The stiff competition doesn’t start in Sacramento, Calif., until Dec. 26 but Swinney will arrive on Dec. 17 because he is also the head medic for the competition. Once he arrives in California, his training will virtually stop and he will be in safety mode, making sure everything is ready for the hundreds of athletes who will be arriving.
So until then the pressure is on to practice all he can. Swinney said, “I strive for three hours a day, especially this close to Super Grands.”
The problem is Swinney like most people has other things he must get done every day besides just practicing. He opened his own studio, Refugio Karate, in February and teaches both private lessons and classes almost daily.
He tries to find a balance between his own training and his students, but that can be a challenge.
“When I am training, I can’t focus on my kids’ training,” he said.
In addition to his training and his students’ training, Swinney also has to compete throughout the year to hold his rank as number one. He said he has competed more this year than in past years.
“This has been my best year leading up to Super Grands,” he said.
Since he has maintained his rank this year, he will be the last contes-
contestant to compete in the preliminary round during the competition. Being the last one to compete means he will be able to watch everyone else go first and see what the competition is doing.
Typically when the competition starts on the first day, there are about 60 competitors in Swinney’s division. By the second round, there are 15 or less and the final round is only between two people.
The competition is not a physical fight between two people but rather a single man in the ring practicing his choice of martial arts. Swinney will be performing Odikwan Taekwondo.
Each competitor is given three minutes in the ring and is judged by five judges.
Swinney said when he steps into the ring it become his office and he blocks out all other sights and sounds.
“The judges don’t intimidate me because I don’t even know they are there,” he said.
“That 20-by-20 (feet) ring becomes my little world,” he said. “All there is, is me and my form.”
While most people feel the hardest part of being at Super Grands is the competition, Swinney doesn’t feel that way. “The hardest part of the contest is not the competition itself, but being a medic and having to pull people out who are injured,” he said.
When he gets to the competition, his focus become on other’s safety. He watches hundreds of different types of contests while he is there and it is his call if someone is injured and unable to continue on further. He said as a competitor himself it is hard to pull out a fellow competitor but he has to worry about their long-term safety. Most people don’t realized there are injured because of the adrenaline they feel so it is his job to be the voice of reason and keep them from further injuring themselves.
He hopes to come home in January 2012 with his fifth and final world title. If he wins, he wants to dedicate this win to his mom, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.
After this year’s Super Grands, he plans to retire.
“My plans are to focus more attention on my students, something I have been unable to do while training to get myself ready for the World Games,” he said.