2012 opened with the AKA Grand Nationals in Chicago, Illinois to start the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) season. The talk of the event was Micah Karns who moved into the adult divisions this year. After dominating in the 14-17 divisions for the latter part of 2011, Karns opened up the new year with a grand champion win in men’s forms at this January 14-15, 2012 event. Noticably absent from the event were Paul Mitchell greats Marc Canonizado and Matt Emig – as neither made the trip to the cold of Illinois. Karns is expected to meet up with one or both of them the weekend of February 24-26, 2012 at the Compete Nationals. SportMartialArts.com will be on hand to cover the challenge in full!
Jarrett Leiker is expected to be a strong contender in adult forms and weapons in 2012 as well. Leiker was 2011’s Warrior Cup winner and walked away with 5 first places this year. Leiker won the traditional challenge for the second time in a row, but he wasn’t able to defeat Karns for the Warrior Cup challenge. An obviously agitated Leiker accepted the defeat but is likely to make 2012 a year of hot competition in the men’s forms and weapons divisions.
It has been awhile since Mike Welch of Wisconsin has taken the stage since he moved into the 30 and over divisions. Welch made it to the adult Warrior Cup weapons finals only to drop in the first section of his form; however, his great Wisconsin work ethic shined on as he finished a very impressive form. It is unusual to see Welch anywhere but at midwest events so we may not see him again until the Diamond Nationals in October.
For the kids, Dallas Liu certainly rose to the occasion in the weapons department. Liu threw more tricks in his bo form than usual and won the thirteen and under weapons division. Liu almost went all the way, but it was Jackson Rudolph who beat him for the Warrior Cup. Rudolph has moved up to the 14-17 year old divisions this year and is expected to fare quite well. Becca Ross headed back to Florida with a Warrior Cup for her fast and creative bo form in the women’s division. Ross hit harder than ever and stuck a clean voodoo child to top off the form. Her greatest rival, Caitlin Dechelle, was not at the event and the two are expected to go another year trying to best each other.
In fighting, Ross Levine was the men’s overall sparring and Warrior Cup winner and Morgan Plowden of Michigan kept Full Circle from a fighting sweep by defeating Nicole Pelland of Full Circle to win the women’s sparring grand championship. Chelsey Nash, arguably the top woman fighter in 2011, refused to attend the event in a gender equity protest due to no Warrior Cup being awarded to the women’s fighting grand champion.
Team Victory (made up of Richard Plowden, Jr, Justin Jones and Troy Binns) surprised the dominate Team Full Circle Gold (Ross Levine, Jason Grenier and Hamed Firouzi) with a one point victory in men’s team sparring during the daytime eliminations making Team Victory the current team to beat in 2012! Expect to see some major battles at the upcoming 2012 Compete Nationals with expectations of Team Paul Mitchell, possibly Team All Stars and a number of outstanding local California teams joining the fray.