covers the 2011 Diamond Nationals Karate Tournament

Hamed Firouzi wins his fourth Superfight title at the 2011 Diamond Nationals Karate Tournament

It was bigger, it was better, it was more glamorous than it has been in the past two years at the 2011 Diamond Nationals, held September 30-October 1, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Despite all the economic woes being experienced in our country, Friday night was packed and Saturday was wall-to-wall with competitors. And the event boasted one of the best finals of the year with fantastic performances and memorable fights. It was a great event for Hamed Firouzi, Raymond Daniels, Chelsey Nash and Kalman Csoka who all won for the fourth time in four years with Firouzi as the lightweight superfight winner, Daniels as the heavyweight superfight winner, Nash as the women’s point sparring winner and Csoka as the four-time adult weapons grand champion. The other story of the event was the dominance of Team Full Circle in fighting. Full Circle claimed wins in nearly everything, nearly shutting out top rivals Team All Stars and Team Paul Mitchell completely.

Friday night highlights included our own Jeff Langlois – hot off his grand championship win at the AKA American Open in San Diego, California – defeating Kalman Csoka and everyone else to win the men’s creative bladed weapons division. Other top performances from Friday night came from Matt Emig and Jarrett Leiker who’s musical traditional form won the men’s musical forms division and his new double bo performance won in men’s musical weapons.

For the women, Becca Ross won almost all her divisions with Caitlin Dechelle winning creative weapons and Audrie Donihoo winning women’s musical weapons. Brendan Rasinski and Will Cornell’s traditional performance defeated Team Paul Mitchell’s Austin Crain and Matt Emig in synchronized team forms.

Men’s team sparring boasted eight good teams. The initial draw pitted the unseeded Team All Stars agains the seeded Team Paul Mitchell. That match went right down to the wire with the team score at the buzzer as 14-14. Raymond Daniels launched himself off the line to score on Greg Betlach to advance Team All Stars to the next round. In the other bracket, Team Full Circle Gold easily made it past their first opponents from Team National Karate. Team Full Circle White was nearly defeated by another National Karate Team but managed to advance on the points scored by the anchor Cass Sigmon.

Team Straight Up was defeated by a surprise National Karate threesome of Jamie Cravens, Alex Dingmann and BJ Carnahan. The National Karate trio couldn’t get past Team All Stars and All Stars advanced to face Full Circle Gold in the final round. This was an exciting match and both teams were determined to win. In the end, Full Circle was able to maintain their lead after the first two rounds as Jason “the Sleeper” Grenier fended off all of Raymond Daniels’ attacks and scored enough to end the match with a 16-12 team score.

On Saturday, the traditional performances, the youth and adult run offs and the individual point sparring competition were run. Jarrett Leiker continued his winning ways with a first place in men’s Korean forms. Kyle Montagna has been quiet of late but was heard in men’s Japanese with a win over last year’s diamond ring winner Will Cornell. Austin Jorgensen was the soft style winner over Mickey Lee.

In adult fighting, there were a lot of fighters in the house and competition was fierce in the men’s and women’s divisions. In the women’s fighting, Colbey Northcutt lost in an early round as did Nicole Pelland. Chelsey Nash of Team Paul Mitchell blew through her competition and Melanie Ortiz of Team Full Circle made her own stand as the two will face each other in the finals.

Hamed Firouzi is not a huge competitor in size and he’s also quite humble but he wins and he was his divisional winner and the lightweight grand champion. He was stopped from getting to the finals by Full Circle teammate Ross Levine. Levine’s daytime eliminations were not complete until he faced off against the formidable Raymond Daniels for the heavyweight grand championships and to determine who would move on to the finals. Levine held his own and got the 6-4 win over Daniels to advance to face Jason Bourelly in the finals.


The finals opened with the most interesting rendition of the National Anthem ever heard at a NASKA world event with an acoustic duet. Afterwards, the lights dimmed and John Worley’s infamous deep and soothing voice opened the event by announcing “Welcome to the 34th Annual Diamond Nationals Karate Championships.” And then – it was ON!

Team Infinity of Wisconsin, led by instructor Mike Welch took the stage as the lights came up and with their winning Team Demo performance. Infinity looks stronger every year – will 2012 be the time when we see them touring the full circuit? Only time will tell.

The event’s finals competition opened with the women’s point sparring grand championship that had Melanie Ortiz of Full Circle fighting Chelsey Nash of Team Paul Mitchell. Early in the match, Nash nearly fell off the stage and, after stepping in some water, was slipping and sliding all over the place. After her feet dried off, she got back into her groove and was able to score enough to end the match 4-1 and take her 4th diamond ring and the sole Team Paul Mitchell fighting title for the event.

Up next, the men’s point sparring grand championship came to the stage with Ross Levine, hot off his defeat of Raymond Daniels earlier in the day, facing Jason Bourelly – on stage to avenge his Team All Stars. The match began slowly and then Bourelly began lifting his front leg to throw multiple speedy kicks. Levine is no dummy and had anticipated Bourelly’s attack. Levine waited for his opening and scored first. Bourelly answered and the two then scored competing points to tie the match at time and force an overtime. In the sudden victory overtime, Levine was able to score first to take the grand championship title and get another win for Team Full Circle.

After the excitement of the fighting, the event moved on to the youth forms grand championships. Sammy Smith, Amanda Chen and Dallas Liu were the competitors for the 13 and under competition. Smith opened the competition by nailing all of her tricks and perfectly synchronizing her webster with her music at the opening. Chen was solid in her traditional performance even with teammate Raymond Daniels’ running commentary on her awesomeness in the background. Liu had the crowd cheering enthusiastically as he flipped his little body all over the stage in a near perfect performance. Liu does the longest combos of all the youth competitors and it paid off tonight as Liu was declared the winner this evening much to the delight of the crowd.

Stephanie Figueroa, Dayna Huor, Cole Eckert and Micah Karns were the competitors for the 14-17 youth forms grand championships. Figueroa’s traditional performance had strong hands with deep stances. Her traditional performance was contrasted greatly by Micah Karns’ acrobatics which started with loud cheers from the crowd before he even did anything. Karns opened with his Jesus flip off of his forearms and executed all of his tricks perfectly. He then bowed to a former teammate, Dayna Huor, who began her form by showcasing her flexibility. She brought in strong and creative kick variations to give the judges something to consider in scoring. Cole Eckert also used music, but he ran his Japanese form. He was the most synchronized with his music and had a high level of energy. In the end, Micah Karns strong performance took the win with the judges in agreement.

Kalman Csoka kicked off the adult weapons grand championship for his last double sword covers the 2011 Diamond Nationals Karate Tournament

Kalman Csoka wins his fourth weapons grand championship at the 2011 Diamond Nationals Karate Tournament

performance on NASKA. Just to intensify the performance, he used a blindfold and still managed to hit all of his releases. It was arguably the best weapons form Csoka has done. Matt Emig stepped up next and threw a cheat 720 twist in the midst of an already difficult trick combination. He hit his releases and showcased a new nun-chuck trick behind his back for the final move of his routine. Former Emig teammate, Anthony Marotta, claimed that it was “one of the best forms he has ever done.” Jarrett Leiker stepped up next to run his traditional bo form. Leiker represented “all traditional martial artists around the world” as he stuck his form with high energy. Caitlin Dechelle got a great crowd response early with her webster at the beginning of her form. Dechelle hit her form hard and was definitely one of the favorites. Olivia Wicker set the pace slower with her traditional form. She had strong strikes and high energy. Becca Ross was the last to enter the stage. Ross threw the best routine seen from her all weekend. The voodoo child at the end secured her with all 9’s and one 8. Despite everyone stepping it up, no one could toppled Csoka this night as he took the win with mostly 10s and a standing ovation.

The Diamond Nationals Superfights were, well, brutal in an awesome kind of way. The final four competitors from the lightweight and heavyweight divisions faced off in semi-finals rounds. The eight fighters were: Jamie Cravens. Troy Sexton, Hamed Firouzi, Larry Tankson Jr, Raymond Daniels, Jason Bourelly, BJ Carnahan, and Elias Lemon.

For the lightweights, Jamie Cravens and Hamed Firouzi were the first to begin the division. Cravens tried to get in close, but Firouzzi kept responding with a fast blitz. In the end, it was Firouzi who would advance. Troy Sexton stepped up next with Jason Bourelly. Sexton scored first but Bourelly responded with a resounding hook kick to Sexton’s face for two points. Bourelly then hit Sexton with two sidekicks for four more points. With Bourelly’s win, the final fight for the lightweight Superfights title was set as Firouzi would face his rival Bourelly again (the two have been the final fighters the prior two years).

The first match for the heavyweight semi-finals was between Larry Tankson, Jr and Elias Lemon. Elias hit Tankson in the head with a sidekick early in the fight and it was like a madhouse as Tankson was determined to show Lemon, and the crowd, that he deserved the win. The two exchanged some heated words and intensified the match with center ref Terry Creamer needing to stop the fight on a few occasions to let the men cool down. Lemon was ahead by more than two points when Tankson scored a kick at the end to bring himself within one point and force an overtime since you must win by two points in Superfights. In overtime, the heat was still on as the men exchanged points back and forth. Just as one got the advantage, the other fighter would score. Finally, Tankson was able to pull ahead and score the needed points to win 6-4 and advance.

BJ Carnahan mimicked the opening routine of his opponent Raymond Daniels in the final match but it didn’t help Carnahan in the end. Daniels started the match with a goal of scoring and he reached his goal with a win in regulation time to move into the final match against Tankson. Considering the many wins of Full Circle throughout the event, everyone was anticipating Daniels’ fight against Tankson, who represents Team Full Circle, for the final match.

Kalman Csoka was the inducted into the Diamond Nationals Hall of Fame at the event. Csoka has been competing on NASKA for 20 years, even though he is only 25 years old! He became widely recognized in 2006 for winning the 18-29 mens musical weapons and creative weapons divisions. He pushed the envelope with sword releases and tricks, and he is responsible for many of the creative maneuvers seen in many sword forms today. From 2007 and on, he has been the leading force in the adult weapons division which motivated competitors around the world to try and rise to the occasion. He has done a remarkable job performing, teaching, and serving as a role model for youth and has trained some fantastic competitors. After his last stunning sword performance, he announced that he is retiring from sport karate competition to take his ambitions in a different direction: med school. From all of us at, we would like to say good luck Kalman, and thank you for so the years of fantastic performances.

Next up was the Team Paul Mitchell world synchronized forms. The first to take the stage was Team Infinity. Infinity wasn’t synchronized as they walked into the ring, but they found each other’s rhythms quickly and hit their form. The crowd favorite seemed to be Austin Crain and Matt Emig representing Team Paul Mitchell. The boys crushed their famous trick combo that runs in a circle. The uniqueness was displayed when they did different moves in synch. Brandon Rasinksi and William Cornell took the stage next to perform their Japanese form. Rasinski and Cornell had taken top scores during the daytime eliminations. They were in sync but not enough to beat Austin Crain and Matt Emig in this final faceoff.

Jackson Rudolph upsettingly dropped his bo in the 13 and under weapons competition in the first performance. Newcomer to the stage, Austin Cody saw it as a door open when he stepped up with his traditional sword form. He had clean strikes and he sold his moves well with pauses. Amanda Chen came in hungry for a traditional win with her bo. Chen was powerful, intense, and clean. Sammy Smith gave Chen a good run for her money with difficult tricks and a 360 release with her chuck, but it was quite enough. Chen took the win.

Shahin Jahan-vash performed a double sword form in the 14 to 17 competition to open that competition. Stephanie Figueroa came up next with a single sword traditional form that made her tremble with the intensity. Micayla Johnson was the crowd favorite with very difficult kama techniques. She risked a lot but received the reward. With a drop from Micah Karns in what was likely to be a spectacular bo performance, Johnson took the win.

Caitlin Dechelle and Becca Ross went head to head in the women’s forms competition with their extreme forms. Dechelle, to no one’s surprise, nailed all her difficult tricks and the form itself. Becca introduced shorts to the extreme division with a unique uniform ensemble. Ross had very clean hands and a great new song – she turned on the heat with a goal of winning the title. Olivia Wicker stepped up for her Japanese form. She hit hard and had intensity, but not enough to beat Caitlin Dechelle.

Austin Jorgenson surprised everyone with his drunken-styled form. He has the best song in the division and was synchronized all the way through it. Jorgenson stuck his strikes immediately after his difficult tricks and set the bar very high for Matt Emig, Kyle Montagna, and Jarrett Leiker. Montagna took the stage next with his Japanese form. He was very intense and maintained his power even at the end of his form. Jarrett Leiker hit all the beats in his musical traditional form. One word to describe Leiker’s progress this year is strength. He was hitting harder than he ever had and it gave Emig the incentive to come in and crush it. Emig came out hard with a corkscrew crowd awakener. He unfortunately stumbled after one of the longest trick combinations he has done in a form which took him out of the running. After the announced scores, there was a tie between Austin Jorgenson and Jarrett Leiker. With the tie breaker, it was an overjoyed Leiker who took the win.

The crowd was ready for the finals to end with some more intense fighting. There was an announcement that Larry Tankston was not able to continue in the Superfights due to a rib injury suffered in his bout against Elias Lemon earlier in the evening. But there are no bow-outs in Superfights. With Tankson unable to compete, Lemon was declared the new winner and he would face Raymond Daniels for the heavyweight title. The fight was intense as Lemon didn’t want to squander his second chance. Daniels was serious as well and picked his shots carefully. In the end Daniels won, 5 to 3, taking his fourth Superfights title and the only fighting title of the event for Team All Stars.

The final event of the evening was the highly anticipated lightweight Superfights championship. It was a repeat of 2010 with Hamed Firouzi, the defending champion, facing Jason Bourelly. Last year, the fight went into a lengthy overtime and this year was no different. When the buzzer rang, the fighters were tied and it went into overtime. Points were exchanged back and forth with one fighter getting an advantage and then quickly losing it as the other fighter stepped up. In the end, it was the Superfight rules that did Bourelly in as Firouzi went up by one point on a punch and a penalty against Bourelly for touching the floor. Needing to win by two points, Firouzi scoped out his target for his final point and went in with a reverse punch to Bourelly’s face when the center ref yelled “go” to score his final point and take his fourth Superfight win.

The crowd was pretty pumped after the last match and was all abuzz with the exciting show they just seen. A great ending to a really great Diamond Nationals where winning the diamond ring really is everything!