The 2014 AKA American Open brought to San Diego, August 30th and 31st, 2014, for a little sun, sand, and of course, some great sport karate competition! Held at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center, this event offered exciting and interactive martial arts experiences throughout the entire weekend, including the Hyper Pro Camp and a unique, action-packed night show!

With the Hyper Pro Camp the two days leading up to the event, many aspiring martial artists were able to train with some of the top performing competitors in the nation, including Mackensi Emory, Tyler Weaver, Jackson Rudolph, Danny Etkin and more, and were able to meet and interact with them throughout the entire event.

The AKA American Open kicked off Saturday afternoon with some great creative and extreme form and weapons competition, from the under belts and the black belts alike. These competitors have some serious potential and talent. Continuous sparring divisions followed the creative divisions, and there was an impressive turnout! There were many competitors, of all ranks and ages, and it was awesome to see all of them displaying amazing sportsmanship, with mutual respect in the ring and outside the ring, making sure everyone received cheers of encouragement.

Sunday was fast-paced, starting off with traditional forms and weapons, moving right along into point sparring divisions. As the morning divisions began to wrap up, many competitors stayed to watch the black belt run offs, and cheer on the competitors, as they battled for a spot on stage and a chance to compete for the championship win during the night show.

As indicated by the constant cheers and applause from the audience, the night show was filled with one exciting performance after another! With routines that involved a sword and nunchuk combination, a bull whip, and robotic music and dance moves, this event had some very unique flare. The show opened with a dance performance from The Moonlight Chinese Dance Group, bringing a little bit of Chinese culture to the evening, and then came the Demo Team performance from Friday night’s winners – Team Freestyle led by San Diego’s own Jake Ellis.

From there, the form divisions kicked off, beginning with the 13 and under weapons championship, where Alec Jahanvash, Kieran Tamondong, and Lauren Sibley battled it out. Both boys were wielding their bos with impressive accuracy, while Lauren demonstrated some flashy dexterity with her double nunchuk routine. In the end, it was Kieran’s powerful traditional bo that impressed the judges the most and won him the championship. And that was just the beginning for Kieran, as he went on to capture the forms championship later on in the evening, defeating the creative routines of Angelina Carrenceja and Dylan Fernandes, and the traditional form of Monica Sowles.

The 14-17 divisions had a diverse line up, featuring Dominic Frangella, Daniel Gentry, Kathryn Tian, Taylor Clark, Justin Chang and Danny Etkin. In the weapons division, Frangella demonstrated control and power with his traditional bo, while Gentry highlighted style and speed with his extreme kama routine. But, it was Kathryn Tian’s unique and exciting sword and nunchuk combo form that would most impress the judges and allow her to take home the championship trophy! Danny Etkin was able to secure another championship win for himself, in the open hand form division, beating out some fierce performances from Justin Chang and Taylor Clark.

Christina McLaughlin and Ashlee Grant were the winners of the women’s black belt sparring divisions, and so faced off on stage to see who would become the overall champion. Although McLaughlin had some quick footwork, Grant kicks were quicker, allowing her to claim a 10-0 victory at the end of the round and become the women’s sparring grand champion. Ahmad Rice battled his way to first place for the men’s point sparring divisions, and was also declared the grand champion, as his challenger was unable to attend the evening competition. Both Matt Erolin and Luis Espinoza were able to come out ahead in their divisions to square off for the men’s continuous sparring championship on stage during the evening show. It was a fast-paced match, as Espinoza and Erolin exchanged hit after hit, but Erolin was a little faster and was able to score the most points, resulting in him claiming the continuous sparring championship title.

The women’s form division opened with a forceful traditional form from Christina McLaughlin, followed by some exciting creative routines from Niki Bingham and Stefani Walkling. Bingham and Walkling looked solid and showed some impressive tricking skills, but they were not a match for McLaughlin’s precise routine. Stephen Grasz showed off his traditional form in the men’s division, alongside the extreme routines of Cameron Whorton, Jacob Ellis, and Matt Earling, and a soft style form from Sky Patterson. The crowd went pretty crazy for the blended martial arts and dance routine that Ellis performed, and the scores reflected the atmosphere, as Ellis was dubbed the champion of the division.

With only two women competing in the adult weapons division, it was going to be a close battle. Both Christina McLaughlin and Kimberly Lemus put on dynamic performances, however, it was Christina’s traditional bo routine that allowed her to come out ahead and take home yet another championship trophy. The men’s weapons forms competitors definitely knew how to ensnare the attention of the audience. The crack of Sky Patterson’s bull whip echoed throughout the ball room, as he raced around the stage with his soft style routine. The double nunchuks of Anthony Murray and Cameron Whorton were a blur of color on the stage, as they deftly manipulated the complex weapons. Shahin Jahanvash commanded attention with a compelling traditional double sword form – and his powerful routine scored him the championship.

The night show also featured a fantastic synchronized team form by Niki Bingham and Stefani Walkling, a Tai Chi and soft style broad sword demonstration, and an interesting closing performance by the Zeros and the Dragon Cowboys artisans group, providing everyone with a variety of great martial arts and entertainment throughout the entire evening!

After the finals – there was still time for a dip in the pool or a chance to check out the awesome sights in San Diego!