“It’s been a year.”
That was the phrase that was heard over and over at this year’s Battle of Atlanta. Among the first of the big NASKA events to start rolling forward, post-covid. The Battle of Atlanta was a big jump for a lot of people to get back into the ring, as well as the in-person competition atmosphere. With the tagline “Discover greatness.” The Battle of Atlanta pulled competitors from all over the country and world to the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia with hope, trepidation, and more than a little excitement.
Jackson Rudolf over at Black Belt Magazine has a heck of a write-up on the Battle of Atlanta with some exhaustively listed results from all four days of competition with the ProMac events and the NASKA events that followed. Check that out HERE.
Sport Martial Arts has been pushing competition, community, and the ideals of in-person competition via our virtual tour for the last year. This has been our collective struggle. To finally be back at a big event and to actually SEE the competitors that have been in tiny boxes on our computer monitors was such a joy. NASKA events have always had a hint of celebration about them, but the Battle for Atlanta was a joyful event in ways that I don’t know I’ve experienced before. Everywhere you looked there were people reconnecting, celebrating, and taking pleasure in being able to enjoy sharing a space with so many like-minded individuals. Perhaps, this was the opportunity for all of us to truly appreciate that which we’d always missed.
There was a collective shock as the entire youth division seemed to have grown a foot, and had all new hairstyles. New divisions and new skills were being explored across the board, and at every available opportunity, competitors and families were reconnecting and sharing their experiences of the last year.
I usually write these reviews as an invisible entity recording whatever happened for the event. This one was a little special for me. Walking around with a camera and taking photos I was stopped countless times to chat, to use that camera, and occasionally to give directions. I had competitors from the SMA virtual tour shyly come up to me and introduce themselves, though I already knew their names and what kind of pets they had (thanks pet challenge!). And I had people I have been competing with and photographing for years gleefully jump into the frame to catch up and spend a few minutes sharing their story.
That was the thing, everyone had a story to tell. There were competitors who were new to the NASKA world but had started competing over the quarantine and were now absolutely crushing it on the floor and stage with some of the biggest names out there. Our goal for the SMA Virtual Tour was to keep the competitive spirit alive and to give competitors an outlet with which to push themselves. However, we also wanted to create a platform to keep their skills sharp and foster connections with other martial artists. Seeing competitors from our virtual tour on stage during the nighttime finals was a wonderful proof of concept and gave all of us at SMA a special sense of joy.
A year ago, we were all unsure as to the future of sport karate and martial arts as a whole. Schools were closing, events were cancelling, and we were all stuck in our homes. The Virtual Tour was initially just an idea for us to bring the community together and DO something. Get our minds off of the “what ifs” of the entire situation. But fast forward a handful of months, and things are moving at a pace that no one dared speak of last March. It’s exciting, it’s rewarding, and we’re thrilled to continue to provide the best coverage and commentary we can either in-person or through our virtual tour.
We’ll say it one more time. It’s been a heck of a year.
- Corey Holzman