Compete Nationals stands out as the first 6A level World Event in the (North American Sport Karate Association) NASKA tour as well as the only West Coast event in the upper echelon of NASKA tournaments. This year, Compete Nationals was celebrating its 25th anniversary and promoters Mohamad and Amanada Jahan-vash were excited to see an increase in pre-registrations for the event as they geared up to host three days of non-stop competition. The event took place in Ontario, California, just outside of Los Angeles the weekend of February 24-26, 2012. With so many top competitors moving to the Los Angeles area to get involved in the Hollywood scene, Compete Nationals always attracts many former sport karate superstars who now live in the area. The tournament also brings out competitors from all around California looking to test their might in the ring.
After his grand championship win at the AKA Grand Nationals a month earlier, young Micah Karns was looking to finally have a chance to go head-to-head with Matt Emig and Marc Canonizado in the men’s extreme weapons and forms competition. He got his chance Friday night in the men’s extreme forms competition. The hype from January win preceded him as Emig and Canonizado were ready and determined to assure everyone that they cannot be easily defeated. Karns was spectacular in his extreme performance but Emig and Canonizado were through the roof, especially Emig who brought new flare and intensity to his performance. In the end, the three M’s would take the top spots in the division with Emig in first, Canonizado next and Karns in third.
A fourth M intervened in the extreme battle when Mickey Lee won the men’s musical form division with his soft style performance. Lee defeated Emig, Karns and Canonizado with his efforts and made the playing field in the men’s competition even broader. However, when it came down to the finals and the overall grand championship, it was Emig that would win the overall title for men’s forms. His routine on stage was simply amazing and earned six perfect 10s from the seven judges. Emig nearly made it a double grand championship evening with his wild nunchucks performance that had the crowd going crazy – until a drop that took him out of the running. Canonizado introduced a weapons routine and reverted back to kamas after a using a sword since 2009. His new routine was like a musical crescendo which started with basic kama moves and ending with complex finger spins, rolls and releases. However it was new Team Paul Mitchell member Austin Jorgenson who took the title with his impressive drunken sword routine.
While the men were jostling for status, some new pick-ups by Team All Stars solidified the team as the new all-around team to beat. All Stars picked up Dallas Liu, who is dominating in the 11 and under boys divisions for forms and weapons and Jacob Pinto, now in the 14-15 boys divisions. Liu and Pinto managed to win their creative/extreme/musical grand championships in both weapons and forms and then went to the night time finals to continue to dominate by each winning two overall titles apiece – weapons and forms.
Team All Stars also managed to make the tournament a sparring showcase as well. Jack Felton had the toughest time getting a win in his division as he faced Team Full Circle’s Justin Ortiz in the men’s lightweight division. Ortiz was up by 5 points at one point and Felton came back to win the fight 6-5. Felton then went on to defeat teammate Kreus Lay for the lightweight men’s title and went to the stage. Joining Felton on stage were his teammates Jason Tankson, the 30 and over men’s sparring grand champion and Raymond Daniels, the men’s heavyweight champion. Alex Lane, representing Team Paul Mitchell was the lone non-All Star on stage for the men.
In the finals, Felton dodged Tankson crazy kicks to win his semi-final match and advance to the final round. Alex Lane got pumped up by coach Damon Gilbert to prepare to face Raymond Daniels in the other semi-finals match. Daniels scored first and Lane was able to block the next few assaults. However, Daniels managed to time his attacks properly and ended up winning the fight with a 6-1 score setting up a Felton versus Daniels fight for the title. Despite being on the same team, losing to Daniels is the last thing that Felton wants to do when the opportunity arises to fight him in real competition. Felton and Daniels train together at times so if anyone knows how to fight Daniels, it is Felton. Felton got a point or two ahead throughout the match with Daniels catching up and tying the score to assure that Felton could not get too far ahead. In the end, Daniels got up by 2 and kept the lead to win the match, the title and the money.
In addition to sending three of four competitors to the stage for the men’s overall sparring grands, Team All Stars went all the way to the top in men’s team sparring. The threesome of Felton, Tankson and Daniels first defeated Team Proper to advance. Proper gave All Stars a good challenge with the match being tied going into the third round. Bryan Young worked hard to defeat his rival Raymond Daniels but Daniels managed to best Young by a few points to move his team forward. All Stars had no problems eliminating Team Straight Up in the next round. And in round three, All Stars faced Team Paul Mitchell in a rather heated match. In the end, it was Team All Stars with the men’s sparring title. Noticeably absent from the event were Team Full Circle and Team Victory. Victory had just won team sparring at the AKA Grand Nationals and Team Full Circle was the top sparring team in NASKA in 2011. Expect to see Team Full Circle and Team All Stars in full force and possibly going head-to-head at the upcoming Irish Open.
There were many other performances worth highlighting from this year’s Competes. In the youth divisions, Kylie Chock of California was able to win two youth traditional titles in the 13 and under girls competition. She also got on stage for the first time – twice. Jennifer Espina returned to women’s weapons competition for the first time in quite awhile. She won the women’s non-bladed traditional weapons competition and challenged the dominant women’s forms and weapons competitor Caitlin Dechelle in the finals. Dechelle cannot go unmentioned as she won the women’s forms grand championship, women’s weapons grand championship and the synchronized teams title (with her partner Marc Canonizado).
Jacob Pinto may have won the two grand championship titles for 14-17 year olds on stage, but he needs to watch out for Mackensie Emory, the 14-15 girls challenger. Emory won all of her creative, extreme and musical divisions for 14-15 girls and her routines have developed to a new level. Emory was near-flawless in her extreme weapons routine and started with a corkscrew that got the crowd’s attention and ended with a thumb spin followed by a webster to the splits that made them go wild.
Although traditional performances don’t seem to get the crowd excited like a few good tricks, Shahin Jahan-vash’s traditional double-sword routine was entertaining and engaging with strong strikes and intensity. Dayna Huor dominated the girls traditional competition so don’t count her out as well. The biggest controversy at the event came from the traditional divisions as a protest was lodged due to a move in Kyle Montagna’s traditional weapons routine that involved a jump and spin. The protest questioned whether the move was “the essence of traditional” which is required by the NASKA rules for the division.
In women’s overall sparring, Tara Van Deusen made an appearance and made it to stage to face Marissa Mayer for the women’s sparring grand championship. Mayer’s legs were something to be reckoned with as she scored twice on an unsuspecting Van Deusen before Van Deusen could get on the board. Mayer continued with her success with kicks and ended the match with the win.
Appearances by Luke Broadlick, Steve Terada, Mike Chat and the Power Rangers kept the audience excited throughout the day time eliminations and finals as the Compete Nationals 25th year went off without a hitch and was a lot of fun. The weather was beautiful, the competition exciting and the event well-fun.