Starting a new sport karate tournament is hard – starting a new tournament with few circuit or league affiliations is even harder, yet the Mayan Challenge managed to do both with success as it debuted in 2014. The event was held in lovely Palm Beach, Florida the weekend of October 24-25, 2014. The Palm Beach Convention Center was the venue and competitors from around Florida and south of the border were in full force.

The flavor in West Palm Beach for the event – international! The 2014 Mayan Challenge attracted competitors from all over Mexico, Central and South America. Teams from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the USA were all present for the Friday night Superfights and Team fights.

All the Friday fighting divisions were hard hitting and full of action. In the 30 & over Superfights, Venezuela’s Yoskar Gamez came out the winner after defeating USA’s Kodaq Wray and then Juan Ramon Fernandez of Puerto Rico.

In the 18 & over men’s Superfights, Venezuela’s Jose Ibarra caused some ruckus with a kick to his Mexican opponent on the ground which got him disqualified. The fights ended with teammates Leo Valdivia facing 16-year-old Micah Williams. Valdivia bowed out to Williams to give the youngster his first adult Superfight win.

Guatemala took home a win in the Executive team sparring division. Velocity’s Leo Valdivia, Juan Ramon Fernandez and Jeromy Roque would face a tough line-up of Manuel Bermudez, Jose Ibarra and Yoskar Gamez for the finals in men’s team sparring on Saturday.

Mixed doubles was great to watch. Mexico’s Lima Lama brought over 25 competitors and lined-up 7 mixed doubles teams. However, it was the duo from Honduras – Joselinne Galo and Oscar Guevara – who would battle through the teams from Mexico and Venezuela to take the crown.

On Saturday, the event saw a good turn out of under belt and black belt competitors alike. The continuous divisions started the day and were rather brutal and hard hitting as the competitors took the rules to the extreme. The Lima Lama competitors from Mexico were loving it as they had lots of competitors in the mix.

In the junior black belt forms and weapons divisions, Haley Glass, Jacob Pinto and Relly Valentine all won as expected. It was good to see local competitor Dominic “Red” Fernandez take a win in weapons as well. The junior superfights brought Micah Williams back onto the mat. This time, however, he was defeated by Nicholas Negron of Miami for the teen division. In the smaller kids Super Fights, Angel Rufio of Florida Sports Martial Arts came out the winner.

Adult fighting was well received and Juan Ramon Fernandez made up for his executive super fight loss the night before by winning the 30 and over fighting grands on Saturday. 16 year old Manuel Bermudez of Venezeula was the lightweight men’s divisional winner. His teammate Yoskar Gamez won the heavyweight division. Ibrahim Morales of Miami stunned Orlando’s Ramon de la Cruz with the win in the men’s middleweight division. In the end, the final two competitors were Bermudez and Gamez with Gamez bowing out to his younger teammate to give another young fighter a title at the event.

Men’s team sparring was a great match up with the team from USA definitely wanting to topple their Venezuelan challengers. However, Venezuela did not back down and the fight came down to the wire with Venezuela getting the win and the title.

The finals on Saturday night were more of a show with demonstrations from some of the top competitors and an international team sparring match. In the junior international challenge, Micah Williams redeemed himself by defeating Manuel Bermudez for the title. There were also demonstrations from Jacob Pinto, Jenny Espina, Stefannie Figueroa, Jae and Sage Sweeny, Haley Glass, Dominic Fernandez, grand masters from Mexico and Honduras and many more.

The adult international team challenge featured appearances by Justin Ortiz and Damian Rodriguez alongside Americans Kodaq Wray, Leo Valdivia and Elena Persio. The challengers were from a variety of countries. In the end, it came down to Leo Valdivia against his Guatemalan challenger and Valdivia was able to not only hold the lead but score points. It was USA with the victory!

The first year for the Mayan Challenge can only be deemed a success with a great turn-out and plenty of variety in competition.