Five years after competing on an international stage for the very first time, local taekwondo pomsae (forms) competitor Jim Gies would be travelling to the mecca of martial arts.
With the World Cup in Wuxi (China) opening up their event to the pomsae athletes, as well as their more traditional sparring base, Canada would send three representatives, including the local man who heads up North Roots Taekwondon in Falconbridge.
If visits to Mexico and Scotland in 2014 provided a learning experience, this latest venture was a chance for Gies to apply the lessons into practice. ""I was very happy with the way I trained this time, because I wanted to do better than I had last time," said Gies.
"I just didn't want to have any regrets this time."
The time between his appearances on a more global setting had created an opportunity to strike a healthy balance in his life, allocating more time to his coaching pursuits, including the goal of helping his twin daughters, aged ten, earn their black belts.
"I really wanted to spend a lot of time focusing on them, because I had spent a lot of time training on my own," said Gies. The shift in focus towards greater mentorship with his students, at the expense of workouts where he could develop on his own, ultimately paid dividends in a great many ways.
"I met a lot of great coaches down south," he said. "They showed me a lot of techniques, how to go about preparing better. Here in town, I'm pretty limited, trying to figure out stuff on my own, through the internet or the occasional meet down south."
"Some of these are guys that I competed against, so it was nice to get feedback from guys who were better than I was," added Gies. With every passing year, the resolve not to make the same mistakes twice was strengthened for the 40 year old local man.
"Last time, I think I could have worked a little harder," admitted Gies. "I didn't set aside enough time. My kids were a little younger, and I worked a lot more." Still, this self-assessed epiphony would matter very little if the net effect did not lead to an improvement in competition.
"I think I'm much smarter in my approach now, I don't push myself as much when I'm sore, I have a greater focus on better nutrition. I'm more calm, with more pausing to show technique - just more confident," suggested Gies.
"You can practice all you want at home, but when you step on the mat, you get nervous, you tense up, old habits take over. This time wasn't as bad, because I got called up right away, so I didn't have time to think about it."
While the World Cup setting may not yet draw the same field as the bi-annual World Championships, Gies and his Canadian counterparts were more than up to the challenge at hand.
Facing competitors from locales as diverse as Iran, Chinese Taipei and the United States, Gies secured a silver medal in the individual event, and then teamed up with pairs partner Lisa Mae Petropoulos from Toronto to claim bronze in an even deeper field.
Participating in the U60 classification, Mohsen Kazemi, who rounded out the Canadian troika, matched Gies with a silver medal performance of his own, with Petropoulos earning a second bronze medal, this time in her solo division.
"Just being in China, as a martial artist, seeing all of the old structures and buildings that relate to martial arts, everybody is a little more nervous," said Gies. "And then the culture is different, the food is different, the altitude is different."
Not that Jim Gies has any regrets. That just wasn't going to happen. Not this time.
With essentially no government funding for the pomsae component of taekwondo competition, Gies was understandably thankful for the support he received from local sponsors, including ETC Industrial, John E. Smith Realty, Gerhart Dental Group and Hanmer Massage Therapy.