Karate tournaments are large and chaotic events. Organizing them involves getting hundreds of martial artists from all over the Nation, and World, in the same room working towards a common goal. A daunting task by any definition. The 2017 AKA Warrior Cup organizers managed it with grace and style all their own that promoted feelings of goodwill and family as well as excellent competition.


An impressive feat.


Spanning three days in the heart of downtown Chicago, the AKA Warrior cup was held at the Hyatt Regency Suites. It’s a beautiful hotel with some fabulous amenities and, despite the construction that was going on at the time, the friendly staff handled the massive amounts of people in a graceful and courteous manner.


After Thursday night’s banquet and awards ceremony, which had at least a hundred more attendee’s than last year, everyone was ready to get started with a new year of competition, many with NASKA Top Ten belts on!


Friday started off strong with all Team events and open sparring. Forms competition kicked off with Musical and Extreme divisions as well as Tricking and Traditional Challenge.


Saturday eliminations started at 9AM and progressed with an energy and drive that was truly wonderful to be a part of. This was the first NASKA event of the year and everyone was pushing hard to start the year off with the best competition they could!


Saturday Eliminations wrapped with the Underbelt Finals. It was the talk of the weekend as this was the first year the Warrior Cup Mini was available! After some fierce and spectacular competition, there were six winners of the coveted “Mini”. Sunne Yue won 13 & under forms. His Mini was presented by 2-time Warrior Cup Winner, and Sunne’s mother, Suzann Wancket-Yue. 13 & Under CMX Forms division taken by Samantha Samayoa of Sharkey’s Karate Studio and Evan Senty of Infinity Martial Arts won 13 & Under Weapons with a phenomenal bo form!


For the older teens, Nguyen Hua of Kempers Academy of Martial Arts won the 14-17 Forms and Kaitlyn Sasse of Marvin Clark Karate Academy took the 14-17 Weapons. Finally, Megan Thompson of Team G-Force won the last Mini for the 14-17 CMX division with a beautifully done soft style pattern.


Saturday Finals started with Team IMPEX sweeping both the Team Fights and Men’s and Women’s sparring. Ross Levine and Avery Plowden battled in an epic match that went into overtime and was taken by Ross Levine, making it his 8th Warrior Cup win! It was a great show of some of today’s top male fighters, in addition to a demonstration of teammates going all out against each other, and still being able to support and celebrate each other’s victories.


Morgan Plowden’s fight was an education in high-level competition and she walked away with the Warrior Cup for women’s sparring


Troy Binns was able to secure his Warrior Cup for the Overall Lightweight fighter.


Ariel Torres’ debut performance on the AKA Warrior Cup stage wowed the crowd with strong, clean, and crisp traditional Japanese kata, earning him his first ever Warrior Cup!


Jackson Rudolph exploded onto the stage and electrified the crowd with his extreme bo and walked away with the Warrior Cup. Danny Etkin and Jake Presley won Junior Forms and Weapons, respectively. Each of these competitors faced some of the very best and their divisions were incredible!


The AKA Warrior Cup has always stood for excellence and ingenuity. The Warrior Cup Minis were new this year. Next year there will be something else a little new and a little different, which could very well be the reason it has been voted the Sport Martial Arts Best of Year Tournament for three years running. Both Sensei Sharkey and Hunter Lyon worked to provide the best competition, service, and experience possible – and it showed to everyone who walked into the building or stepped on the mat.



Corey Holzman