covers the 2012 AKA American Open

Danny Etkin won two youth grand championships at the 2012 AKA American Open.

The west coat has a reputation for great martial arts but very few NASKA events. Joe Ellis has joined Mohammad Jahanvash in bringing talented forms competitors to California with his AKA American Open event. Held Labor Day weekend, August 31-September 1, 2012, the AKA American Open is proving itself to be on the upswing with some of NASKA’s fierce competitors flying in for an exciting event.

Competitors are all familiar with the pre-event small talk discussions over flying, the hotel, who’s attending, and when the event begins. We heard positive remarks on all accounts for the AKA American Open. Lots of direct flights to  a major hub like San Diego, the hotel was a ten minute drive from the airport and the event was held in a hotel with attached convention center – and it started on time.

The Hyper tricks battle was the talk of the evening on Friday. This is especially true because of the rare appearance of Kalman Csoka, who retired last year after taking sword competition to a new level. There were many teams who performed for judges Kalman Csoka, Matt Emig, and Tyler Weaver. Mackensi Emory wowed the crowd with a snapuswipe and subsequently throwing another one in a combination. In the end, Kyle Mclean and Ryan Rempfer took the win. “It was intense and could have gone either way. Kyle Mclean did a 540 gyro knife on his last move which did it for me,” said Matt Emig after the event.

The youth forms and weapons grands were Saturday’s main attractions. Danny Etkin drew some of the largest crowds once his dubstep music blasted throughout the convention center. Cameron Whorton was also the talk of the event. Whorton won the 14-17 Creative, Musical Extreme (CMX) forms run offs. He had high energy throughout his form and utilized the entire ring. Guys like Cameron are what gets people excited for the night time show.

The Dragon Cowboys kicked off the night show at 7:00 sharp. They waved around a Chinese dragon – perhaps to compensate for the lack of Wushu competitors. The specially challenged champions entered the stage next for a demonstration and then it was on to the competition.

Kieran Tamondong started off the 13 and under forms championships with one of his first performances on stage at a national event. He showed off his flexibility and strength by holding long front kicks in his traditional routine. Ari Edpao, from the Los Angeles area, was not easy for Danny Etkin to follow. She showed high intensity and clean technique. In a rare moment, the room was silent during a traditional form. Danny Etkin, one of the favorites this weekend, won the competition with all 9.99s and one 9.98.

Cameron Whorton really made Mackensi Emory work hard for the judges’ decision in the 14-17 competition. Whorton had clean tricks and was well synchronized. Whorton set a high bar for Emory and went on to win the 14-17 forms grands.

Rhea Edpao, another familiar face from Los Angeles, stepped up first for the 13 and under weapons grands using her sword. She cut with great precision and used most of the stage. Derek Meegan brought the crowd back to a traditional mood right after Kaylen Whaley’s musical sword form. Meegan received the best crowd response out of all the traditionalists. Danny Etkin brought the energy back up with another flawless weapons form. The crowd had high expectations and he certainly delivered with a second title.

Sammy Smith got the crowd going in the 14-17 competition and then let them down when she dropped a chuck at the end of her form. She had great speed and agility throughout the entire form and would have been a great challenge for Tyler Weaver. Weaver’s new song brought a lot of suspense to the stage. He was the crowd favorite and definitely lived up to their expectations and was scored 9.99s all across the board as he won.

Bryan Young took on Cory Lemon for the one and only fight of the night for the men’s sparring grand championships. Lemon took the win in a close match. It was disputed that his last kick hit Young’s hip but the judges saw it otherwise.

After the fighting, it was on to TRICKS! The Hyper demo was very fun to watch. Matt Emig and Kalman Csoka swapped weapons to show their diversity. Emig dropped his nunchuck (his usual weapon) but managed to hold onto the sword. We’re sure that he’ll give it deep and emotional thought and maybe switch weapons at the upcoming Diamond Nationals tournament (October 12-13, 2012 in Minneapolis, Minnesota).

Thekla Hurtyrova won the women’s forms grands. She won last year and showed significant growth in difficulty and technique.  She also defeated Celeste Lopez in the women’s weapons grands. National competitor Stephen Grasz won the adult weapons grands. It was absolutely an improvement seeing as how the last time he competed in California he cut his head open during his performance! – #Compete2012.

The show wrapped with an incredible Chinese Dragon demonstration. Their troop placed a couple very tall platforms on stage for a rendition of a man taunting a sleeping dragon. It was as if the circus was in town. With the night show concluded, competitors and spectators had the chance to enjoy San Diego during the long weekend. The AKA American Open continues to grow in participation and will eventually be a cornerstone of martial arts competition for the West Coast.