The AKA Warrior Cup has always been a definitive force in the Sport Karate World. Between its extensive history paired with the relentless innovation of the promoters, John Sharkey and Hunter Lyon, it’s an event that sets the bar with professionalism and quality every year. 


This year was no different, after the hiatus of 2021, the Warrior Cup was back in a new location – The Rennaisance Schaumberg Convention Center and Hotel – and capped two fierce days of competition with an absolutely amazing Finals that brought a new level of professionalism and class to the sport. 


From the beginning of the Banquet on Thursday night, there was a sizzle in the air. People were excited to be back, and as we progressed into the Friday Competitions, there was a change-up in the normal competitors, we were seeing new faces with incredible skills battling it out with familiar friends. It was electric, and the competition level was insanely high. With some truly huge divisions, like the 50 fighters in Men’s Open Weight, to some new faces making big waves, like Wassim Dridi absolutely dominating in his performances and going all the way to stage – there were plenty of moments that resonated and filled the eliminations with a sense of “new” that has been long overdue. 


Over the last year and a half, has been running the Virtual Tour and creating competition experiences for anyone with a zoom connection, a little space, and a desire to push themselves to be better. The year’s Warrior Cup was a place where many competitors and judges from the Virtual Tour were able to finally bring their skills into the ring under the same roof!


What’s more, these athletes, along with a few others, all donated their time giving back to the community on Friday night. ran a skills and drills workshop with Amber Rutherford, Laine Barrett, Angel Diaz, Ben Jones, Diego Rodriguez-Florez, Erin Smith, Kaelyn Kowalski, and Michael and Sam Brumme who all led the group with their favorite warmup, and then split everyone into small teams with their competitor of choice where kids got to work on refining techniques, polishing up their form just a little for the next competition day, or even learning something totally new with their superstars. It was a heartwarming moment that highlighted the fact that not only are these competitors phenomenal athletes but wonderful teachers as well. 


Ben Jones, who demonstrated incredible stamina and focus by competing in two different teams BACK TO BACK on stage with a smile and poise the whole room felt, worked with a young man on some cool kama tricks. Kaelyn Kowlaski who dropped on stage, laughed, then picked her bo back up and proceeded to put on an incredible performance, taught a rather star-struck young competitor basic bo techniques. These are but two examples out of many of our superstars being wonderful humans and working with the next generation.

That is exactly how heroes are made.


Was the AKA Warrior Cup a superstar event? Yes. 

Did it showcase amazing technology and a level of production quality that this sport needs to move forward? Also yes. 

However, the moments that were most impactful were watching the Sport Karate Community band together and giving their time, love, and attention to the individuals up and coming in the sport, then turning right around and competing fiercely and respectfully with the best in the world. Giving back, teaching, and helping lead new people into a brand new world is what martial arts are all about, and the 2022 AKA Warrior Cup showcased that with a style and panache all its own. 


Jackson Rudolph has a heck of a write up of the high points of the Nightime Finals over at Black Belt Magazine – Check that out Here


And lastly, words can only do so much, jump into the action and check out the Live Stream of the AKA Warrior Cup Finals Here


At the end of the day, the AKA Warrior Cup delivered its customary excellence and grandeur that we have all come to love and expect. The professionalism and quality of this event is exactly what the sport karate world needs to continue to push forward into a better and brighter future.  


Corey Holzman