The AKA American Open hosted in beautiful San Diego, California has been one of the fastest growing tournaments in America. This up and coming event has made huge steps every year. Some of the best competitors from southern California and several NASKA world champions were in attendance the weekend of August 23-24, 2013 at the Town and Country Resort.
For the second year Hyper Martial Arts hosted their Hyper Pro Training camp, with over 120 participants at the sold-out camp we noticed a lot of upcoming competitors who we know will have a huge impact in the future of sport karate. Campers were able to learn from Hyper pros such as: Matt Emig, Jackson Rudolph, Mackensi Emory, Tyler Weaver, Sammy Smith, and Carson Crawford.
Eliminations had super-competitive divisions especially the 16-17 year old boys. The event allowed the world to see the continued growth of Keenan Carr. Carr is a California resident who has been making huge steps on the NASKA world tour. Carr wowed the crowd with several performances Friday night and was able to secure two spots in the Saturday afternoon grands. Another competitor in the 16-17 year old division who caught our eye was Cameron Whorton from Chozen Martial Arts. Whorton had a few great performances Friday night and just missed out on a couple wins. Tyler Weaver did not perform in any weapons divisions over the weekend but was able to get the nod in musical forms.
Stephen “Thor” Grasz was in attendance and was able to win the Men’s Japanese form division on Saturday for the fourth straight year. Another adult who dominated his divisions was Shahin Jahanvash. Jahanvash was able to shut out the competition in traditional weapons winning both the bladed and non-bladed divisions.
Even with such high caliber competition at the event the kids run-offs had some very familiar match ups. The 14-17 year old girls CMX grands is a battle we have been watching for years as Sammy Smith and Mackensi Emory squared off again. Both competitors looked extremely strong and made the call a close one in both weapons and forms for the judges. Smith was able to win the weapons grand championship but was not able to shut out Emory who evened the battle with the forms title.
AKA American Open director Joe Ellis and his team did a fantastic job of having their event run at a fast pace. With little to no down time in between divisions, competition and run-offs were finished before 3:30 leaving plenty of time for competitors to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather and relax before the finals.
Opening the night time show the home town team USA Freestyle would face Team XGT to decide the champion of the Demo team division. USA Freestyle had the San Diego crowd on its side and was able to make sure the first championship of the evening stayed in San Diego.
The 13 & under weapons grands showcased three competitors who have made numerous stage appearances over the last few years at NASKA events. The experienced Danny Etkin, Derek Meegan, and Kaelyn Whaley are all no strangers to high level competition. Keilia “Kiki” Okubo was another competitor who caught our eye in eliminations. At a young age Kiki throws some highly dificult tricking combinations in her form. Okubo was looking great until a drop of the weapon took her out of the competition. Meegan and Whaley both had great traditional performances and Danny Etkin had the crowd cheering for more with a dynamic performance. Meegan has been on a roll all year with his solid and crisp performances and was awarded the grand championship by the judges.
Next up in the 14-17 forms division Team Emig members Mackensi Emory and Tyler Weaver both showed amazing extreme forms as always. Local competitor Rhea Edpao stood her ground with a strong traditional form. The fourth and final competitor was Jackson Rudolph. Rudolph is a regular in the weapons grands but showed he is not just about spinning a bo with hard strikes in his traditional form he showed us he has been training in open hand. With another highly competitive division Tyler Weaver was just too much to stop and took home the victory.
The women’s weapons championship showcased three top west coast competitors, Christina McLaughlin started off the division with a strong traditional bo form, followed by Jennifer Luna’s sword form, Thekla Hutyrova was on fire with her extreme nunchuck form and looked like she was going to take the win home to Arizona but dropped her weapon at the end of her form. The judges had a tough decision on their hand with two very good traditional performances to choose from. It was close but McLaughlin was able to edge out Luna’s sword form.
Three men made it to the forms finals and young Jake Ellis started off with a high energy form and you could see in his eyes he really wanted to take the trophy home with him. In his way was Sky Patterson of Los Angeles and Stephen “Thor Grasz. Grasz performed a flawless traditional form and was able to take home his fourth straight forms grand championship in the AKA tournament’s fourth year.
Next Team Emig’s Mackensi Emory and Tyler Weaver came back on stage to perform their synchronized team form as a demo. Emory and Weaver were on point and had the crowd on their feet cheering the whole performance.
Christina McLaughlin returned to the stage to face Charlanne Oka for the women’s point sparring championship. McLaughlin started off strong gaining the lead in the match by using her speed to get in close and blitz Oka. However Oka was able to use her height and experience to catch up and gain the lead right before time expired.
One of the most exciting parts of the night time show was when the Hyper Pros took the stage for a special performance. The crowd was going crazy as they watched Matt Emig, Mackensi Emory, Tyler Weaver, Sammy Smith, Jacob Pinto, Danny Etkin, Carson Crawford, Jackson Rudolph, and Hans Wikkeling trick and flip all over the stage.
Next Michael Moorman and Ahmad Rice took the stage vying for the men’s sparring championship. In this hard hitting match Rice was able to start and take a quick lead. Moorman started to mount a comeback but it was too little too late and Rice was able continue to move and blitz Moorman for the win.
Kiki Okubo was back at it and wanted to show she belonged with the top competitors as she started out the 13 and under forms grands. Okubo performed a great extreme form. Derek Meegan was next up trying to win his second grand championship of the night. Monica Sowles had a strong and solid traditional form. Also back for a second shot on stage was New York’s Danny Etkin. Etkin took the stage and went crazy with high level trick combinations and strong basics. Etkin could not be stopped this time and won the grand championship.
The 14-17 weapons championship saw the return of Rhea Edpao who started off with another great tradtional performance. Sammy Smith followed with a high energy nunchuck form and Jackson Rudolph was back with his bo in hand. Rudolph pulled out all the stops to win the weapons’ title, he even finished by release catching and balancing his bo on top of one finger.
The women’s forms championship had Jennifer Luna, Christina McLaughlin and Thekla Hutyrova back on stage along with Samery Moras. Luna and McLaughlin performed very strong traditional forms, Moras showed off her flexibility with great kicks in her creative form. Thekla was so close to winning the weapons title knew she would have to stick her performance to win and that she did and the audience showed her love as she was awarded the title.
The men’s weapons championship gave Jake Ellis and Sky Patterson their second opportunity at the finals, they were joined by Gavin Furrey and Shahin Jahanvash. Ellis started off with another high flying extreme form followed by Patterson’s whip form. Gavin Furrey was next up and had a great sword form with tons of high level releases and manipulations in it. Last up it was Shahin Jahanvash who had swept the traditional weapons divisions. Jahanvash’s double sword form was sharp and clean. The judges had another tough decision on their hands. After the scores were calculated and re-checked it was announced that Jahanvash would be crowned the champion.
As tradition the “Dragon Cowboys” stunt team was back to close out the night show. The team had the crowd speechless with their performance. Weapons, fists, and kicks were being thrown all over the stage, much to the crowds delight.
With the night show ending before 10:00 this left plenty of time for competitors to hang out by the pool and socialize or go out and explore the city. We look forward to next year as the AKA American Open will be held over the Labor Day weekend.