By Katie Thompson
For the first time in nearly seven years, Edwin Alejandro’s Virginia’s Best Challenge returned to the sport karate tournament circuit on January 28, 2012. Alejandro’s EWO Team worked hard this year to promote the return of one of Virginia’s premier karate events and the results were phenomenal. If you don’t believe me….just ask the Lynchburg City Fire Marshall who showed up because the parking lot had overflowed into the streets and the all important fire lanes around James River Day School. Once he got the streets cleared the Fire Marshall made his way into the packed gymnasium and promptly pronounced the crowd in excess of the maximum occupancy. Luckily for everyone in attendance, he worked with the organizers to make sure the event continued. A true testament to the professionalism and class of Alejandro and his crew, they packed the house for their return to competition!!
This year’s Virginia’s Best Challenge was sanctioned by SKIL, All Star Sport Karate Series, and Southeast Karate Alliance (SKA) and drew outstanding competitors from as far away as Mexico! In attendance were many past, present, and future World Champions. The day started strong with a wonderful obstacle course for the Little Dragons and also featured multiple first timers divisions to help introduce a whole new set of stars to the sport karate family.
After a day of intense martial arts competition, the Grand Championship rounds got under way to crown seven forms/weapons underbelt champions, three blackbelt forms/weapons champions, a blackbelt men’s sparring champion, a team sparring champion, and perhaps the most entertaining of all…the tricks contest to crown the best in both weapons and non-weapons tricks!
The future of sport karate in the southeast was on full display in the junior underbelt grand championship rounds as competitors left it all on the mat for the honor of taking home the coveted Samurai Trophy. With outstanding nunchuk forms from Jordaine Holley in the 10-under novice division and Jared Schrum in the 10-under advanced division, Corky Sikes’ Team Strikeforce took home two grand championships to go with a whole pile of divisional 1st place trophies. Claiming two more grand championships were a couple of Jeff Doss protegees in Hunter Mayo with a contemporary bo staff routine in the 11-17 intermediate championship and Aaron Bailey with a contemporary form in the 11-17 advanced championship. Claiming the 10-under intermediate championship was Chidera Dimkpa who trains under Larry Dillingham with a very strong traditional form, and the 11-17 novice championship went to Austin Prebula from Carrie Goldbeck’s Team Fury for his blazing kama display.
Representing his host school, Michael Johnson of Team EWO had a great day on the floor taking home not only five 1st place divisional wins, but also the adult underbelt grand championship.
Not to be outdone by his sister’s win in the underbelt grands, Yuzochi Dimkpa also representing Larry Dillingham earned the second Samurai Trophy for the Dimkpa family in the 11-under black grands with another strong traditional form. In the 12-17 blackbelt grand championship it was another traditional form that won out as Indiana Davis took home yet another trophy for his collection. In the adult blackbelt grands it was none other than Jeff “Sushi” Doss, fresh off of his 2011 NBL Traditional Grand Championship, taking home the title of Virginia’s Best forms grand champion for 2012 to the delight of the hometown crowd!
The finale of the men’s blackbelt sparring grand championship came down to a closely contested match between Charlie Davidson and Ewell Carter, but in the end the size and reach advantage proved to much to overcome as Charlie walked way with the title of Virginia’s Best Point Fighter for 2012. After a brief rest during the trick contests, Charlie returned to action, teaming up with Gina Thornton and Sean Elliot of Team MASMAL in the team sparring finale to take on a trio of AFKA representatives. In a dominating performance the team of Charlie, Gina, and Sean proved too much for the AFKA team to overcome and claimed the title of Virginia’s Best Team for 2012.
The highly anticipated tricks contest featured a bo staff duel between long time friends Audrey Fitzgerald and Chris Urcinola. The back and forth contest featured lots of action, but in the end Audrey walked away with the win and more importantly….bragging rights over Chris!! In the non-weapons portion of the tricks contest a couple of high flying blackbelts, Tim Wegert and Ewell Carter, lined up with a couple of EWO underbelts, Micheal Johnson and little 6 year old George Thompson. Despite their best efforts, the lesser experienced EWO duo just couldn’t match the experience of Tim and Ewell. In the end, the close contest went to Tim Wegert of AFKA.
The past few years have seen an increase in the level and quality of Sport Karate competition in the Old Dominion state and the 2012 edition of the Virginia’s Best Challenge will only add to this revival. Sport karate is once again alive and well in the state of Virginia, and the future is looking very bright indeed.