Naperville Challenge on

Competitors line up for adult weapons at the Naperville Challenge.

By Stacy Strunk

Hosted by Sharkey’s Karate Studio, the Sixth Annual Naperville Challenge convened April 7, 2013 at the Y Sports Complex in Naperville, IL. This is the second year that The Challenge has been held at this location and promoters chose well.

If you haven’t attended a Challenge since it was held at the Lincoln Junior High School’s gym, the newer venue would be a real treat. Whereas the middle-school location was filled to capacity, encouraging claustrophobia and PTSD-induced flashbacks of dogeball games, the new location is both spacious and bright. Natural sunlight pours through windows around the entire east side of building, much to the delight of the karate parents grabbing video of their kids.

In fact, the building is so spacious, it appears to be dimensionally transcendental. And by that, I mean the inside of the building was much larger than you’d think by its parking lot. (That was a Dr. Who reference. If you didn’t get it, it just means you spend more time in the dojo than on FaceBook or watching BBC America.)

A true regional tournament, this AAA rated AKA tournament mostly draws from the Greater Chicago area, Indiana and Wisconsin. This particular tournament, however, may have had a slightly larger pooling area because it was also a regional qualifying tournament for the 2013 World Karate Council USA Nationals. The blackbelts who brought home trophies, also brought home invitations to the national tournament in June.

But many familiar faces were missing from the tournament, too. Jeremy Talbott, a fixture in the blackbelt 40-49 division was noticeably missing; especially since he was at the tournament, but officiating rather than competing. (Perhaps, we should give him a pass this time since his school was hosting the event.) His absence cleared the way for David Odle to take home first place trophies in both creative/traditional weapons and traditional forms.

The adult blackbelt division was particularly exhausting for the older groups. All adult black belt divisions met in the same ring, in order of age. So the largest group, 18-29, would do their weapons kata, while the 30-39, 40-49 and 50+ competitors (which made up a total of six additional competitors) waited. Then, the youngsters competed in forms, while the older groups waited again. So, the older competitors either practiced their kata or felt their joints growing stiff during the wait.

There were new faces, too. Corey Holzman-Crass made the trip from Wisconsin to snag first place in the traditional weapons category in the 18-29 division. In a division where bo kata are a dime a dozen, his kata can only be described as “daaaaamn.”

Traditional forms, in general, were standout events for the 18-29 group. Payton Foley, completely shut out her competition, pulling two perfect 10s and three 9.99s from her judges. She also received the largest cheers from the spectators, which is rare for traditional forms. It’s usually the creative and extreme kata that gets all the love.

If you have time in your competition schedule, next year, try to fit this regional tournament. There’s a good group of competitors who attend. The facilities are awesome and there’s still plenty of room to grow at this location.