Connell Loveless’ North American International Karate Championships in Larthrup, MI was bogged down with challenges before it even began. Unfortunately, because of the hurricanes in the south, much of Team Revolution was unable to make it to the NAIKC this year. However, despite these, and numerous other setbacks that appeared throughout the weekend. Connell Loveless’ energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to sport karate and its competitors was infectious, and permeated the event with a spirit of grit and goodwill.
The North American Sport Karate Internationals spanned two days, September 15th and 16th at the University High School Academy, a venue only minutes away from the luxurious accommodations at the Westin Hotel. Friday night showcased the eliminations for contemporary weapons, team fights, and team forms. The atmosphere in the gym was electric with the start of a new event and the energy and competition was stellar. Team fight eliminations were fierce and showcased phenomenal skills and control from all competitors. Team Plowden had the most impressive lead of the night, defeating Team Revolution by over 30 points.
Saturday Eliminations started off with a major hiccough. Through no fault of Mr. Loveless, the venue was locked when competitors started showing up and finally, after an hour and a half of waiting and numerous phone calls, the building was opened. For many promoters, this could have been disastrous, But Mr. Loveless and Team Revolution rolled into the gym and within 15 minutes the rings were set up, registration went live and competition began.
Once underway, Saturday eliminations were fierce. Despite the smaller than expected turnout, there were several notable teams and competitors demonstrating their skills and representing their arts to the very best of their abilities. A notable achievement of the day belongs to Mr. Joey Castro of Team KTOC. Throughout the event he competed in 10 different divisions with 10 different kata, winning them all. When asked about his achievements, he cited every event being an opportunity to practice his execution of technique.
Nighttime finals showcased spectacular competition and sportsmanship that further reinforced Mr. Loveless’ message of building relationships and ties within the martial arts community. Team Plowden and KTOC started off the night with their battle for the team fight Grandchampion. After several exciting rounds, Team Plowden took the win. From there the night picked up speed and competitors took to the floor with power, grace, and style. Vanessa Tang won the 17 and Under underbelt grand championship with a beautiful soft-style pattern. And Ryan Ashley took the 18 and up under belt grand championship.
Next was 18 and up Womens’ Team Fights. It was Team Revolution vs. WTKD/TPK. At the end of three rounds, Team Revolution walked away with the win. Jr. Black Belt Competitors took the floor, and after several spectacular forms, Team Viper’s Bessie Chase won. Faith Vera of Team KTOC won Adult Black Belt Women’s Sparring, beating Emma Levy of Team Revolution. The competition in Black Belt Creative grands was destroyed by Kaelyn Kowalski of Team Revolution with a spectacular bo form.
Up next was the Traditional and Creative Grands. Joey Castro took the Adult Black Belt Traditional. In a surprise upset, Jackson Rudolph was beaten by Connor Simmon in the Adult Black Belt Creative Grands; both competitors brought their A-game, but Simmon was able to walk away with the win. In the final event of the night, Avery Plowden won the Adult Men’s Sparring Grands with a clean and controlled round against Dwight Bargainer.
Throughout the weekend Mr. Loveless was cheerful, positive, and gave this event his all. All weekend people stepped up and brought a new level of competition to their forms or fighting. It was a challenge. At several points, Mr. Loveless took to the microphone and spoke of family, teamwork, and commitment to a cause. In several heartfelt and blatantly honest speeches, he thanked everyone who came and supported the NAIKC. It was a poignant moment for all. In keeping with the spirit that Mr. Loveless demonstrated all weekend, competitors, volunteers, judges, family, and friends all pushed through the difficulties to make this year’s North American International Karate Championships an event to be remembered.