THE UST Tiger Jins, coming off a gold-medal win in the women’s division and a silver-medal finish in the men’s division last season, are entering the UAAP Season 86 kyorugi tournament with an offseason dedicated to refining their techniques.

During their offseason training after the two-year hiatus of the kyorugi tournament, assistant team captain Mark Gariega said the Jins used their Season 85 campaign as a point of comparison, enabling them to concentrate on refining their technique and enhancing strength and conditioning.

“Last year, which is kababalik lang, medyo wala kaming cornerstone na kailangan naming i-reach. Walang pagbabasihan ng pwede namin i-improve,” Gariega told the Varsitarian

“Unlike last year, mas nag-focus kami this season sa techniques tsaka improving kung paano kami mag-approach sa way namin makipaglaban sa opponents.”

Gariega said the Jins prioritized mastering fundamental aspects of sparring, including generating pressure on opponents and ensuring proper distance and spacing during combat.

“[Pinag-aralan namin] how to apply more pressure sa opponents. Tapos yung proper distance, kung paano mo titingnan kung gaano siya kalapit, kung abot na ba siya ng sipa mo or hindi.”

Gariega said the Jins’ coaches incorporated enhanced strength and conditioning training into the team’s program.

“Maraming changes sa strength and conditioning training namin,” he said. “This season nag-focus rin kami sa stamina, especially running dito sa field, yung cardio namin, which really helped us improve in a lot of our games.”

Reign Ragutana, the Season 85 women’s Rookie of the Year (ROTY), noted that the Jins’ thorough preparation reflected in their performance across various national off-season tournaments, including the Best of the Best Taekwondo Championships, the Philippine Taekwondo League, and the National Inter-School Taekwondo Championships.

She hopes that it also translates into the UAAP.

“Nakatulong yung mga offseason tournaments para ma-simulate kung paano gumalaw sa upcoming UAAP. Na-simulate yung galaw namin and naaral namin siya on the way. Syempre naka-add yon sa confidence namin,” she told the Varsitarian. “Pero at the end of the day, UAAP is back to zero. Parang need namin i-humble down yung sarili namin.”

The collegiate teams of the Jins will continue to be predominantly composed of seniors, as some graduating members chose to extend their stay. However, the junior team, which achieved a four-peat last season, features mostly new players, with only two athletes carrying over from the previous season, Gariega said.

The Tiger Jins aim to dethrone the formidable NU Bulldogs, who are poised for a potential five-peat this season. In the women’s division, the Lady Jins aspire to defend their title and establish a new reign, having previously thwarted the Lady Bulldogs’ bid for a five-peat.

In the high school division, the five-peat-seeking Junior Tiger Jins are looking to protect their throne.

Gariega said the Tiger Jins foresee a more challenging competition in Season 86 but have confidence that their diligent preparation will be sufficient to lead them to the UAAP crown.

“Wala namang UAAP na walk in the park lang. Lahat ng school nagpe-prepare…laging top ang mga condition ng mga players,” Gariega said. “[We need to] trust the program that our coaches gave us, yung conditioning na nakuha namin this season, and trust lang din ang mga coaches.” 

UST is the winningest school in the kyorugi tournament with 15, 11 and 14 titles in the men’s, women’s and juniors’ categories, respectively, since Season 62. The Jins notably achieved championships in all three categories from Seasons 65 to 69.

The UST Tiger and Lady Jins will kickstart their campaign on Nov. 28 at the Marikina Sports Complex in Marikina.