The 2019 Compete Internationals was back and better than ever this year, enjoying a colossal turnout most notably in the under black belt divisions. The open sport martial arts tournament was held on Friday, February 22 through Sunday, February 24, 2019, at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, California, and was rated a 6A World Event by the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA). Divisions were done early on Friday, allowing plenty of time for competitors to recharge and regroup before the finals, which took place on Saturday night. Compete Internationals prides itself on being one of the top-rated events of its kind in the United States today, and it’s also the biggest of its kind on the West Coast. Any martial arts participant at any skill level is welcome to participate – it’s open to all belt levels, all styles and all genders, and there are no pre-qualifications. The inimitable competition boasts over 1000 divisions (and counting), offering prizes and awards for winners in each division, as well as the grand champions.
A Colossal Kickoff
This year’s spectacular show kicked off with California’s own defending champion, Jack “The Iceman” Felton of Team All-Stars, winning the Men’s Open Weight competition on Friday night and the Overall Men’s Lightweight Sparring title during the Saturday finals. Renowned Canadian fighter Robbie Lavoie, himself a multi-time world champion, bowed out to Jack Felton as the result of a rib injury sustained at the World Karate Commission (WKC) Pan American Championships. With the Irish Open (the largest martial arts tournament in the world) still on the horizon, he wanted to give himself the chance to fully recuperate and be in his best form before competing again.
When it came to the Men’s Heavyweight division, Hector Solorio of Mexico used his well-honed talents in tech and precision to secure a victory over his champion opponent, Devon Hopper of Atlanta, earning his rightful place as the overall Heavyweight Sparring grand champion this year.
In Women’s Sparring, Ki’Tana Everett of Minnesota, a fierce 4th-degree black belt and winner of the coveted Gold Ring in the 2017 Diamond National Championship, faced off against her opponent, world champion fighter Drew Beatty of Utah. Ki’Tana teamed up with Drew to walk away as the winner of the Women’s Team Sparring title and then defeated Drew for the Women’s Overall Sparring title in an impressive showdown of strength and spirit.
Making a clean sweep of nearly all the men’s divisions in eliminations was Larchmont, New York’s Danny Etkin, but an unfortunate shoulder dislocation injury during the finals meant no overall title wins this year. Danny, who takes great pride in winning many International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) titles, began competing in the NAKSA at the age of seven. Surprisingly, he won his first world title in point sparring. With at least twelve appearances on ESPN under his belt, he travels all over the world to compete and give seminars, in countries ranging from The Cayman Islands to Hungary.
After Danny’s injury sent him to the sidelines, Ryker Weaver of Colorado turned the show around when he stepped in to seize his first Men’s CMX (Creative, Musical, and/or Extreme) Forms title. In the CMX Weapons division, Kentucky’s Jackson “Green Heat” Rudolph, a 3rd-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and 43-time sport karate world champion, secured the winning title. Jackson is widely known for his innovative bō staff weapon techniques. Along with performing in worldwide competitions, he has kept himself very busy creating instructional DVDs, giving umpteen hours of private lessons, and teaching over 60 seminars to generously share his artistry with the world.
Olympic Hopefuls Out In Force
Jessica Kwong of North Torrance, a top ranking World Karate Federation team member and six-time US Junior Olympics Team member, wowed the crowd with her showstopping Traditional routine. Putting her extraordinary forms skills into action, she deftly defeated the top CMX competitors and walked away the winner of the Women’s Forms title. This was Jessica Kwong first NASKA grands champion title. (Incidentally, she is set to possibly represent Team USA when Karate makes its debut appearance as an Olympic event in 2020 during the Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.)
Florida’s Ariel Torres, who came to the United States from Cuba as a child, took first in the Men’s Traditional Forms Grand Championships. With the encouragement from his hardworking family, Ariel followed his dreams and started competing in karate at the tender age of five, and has made the Junior National Team an impressive seven times since then. (Fun fact: his next-level hand-eye coordination means he is also secretly a dab hand at ping pong, impressively enough.) Like Jessica Kwong, Ariel Torres may also be headed for the 2020 Olympics to represent Team USA in the worldwide sporting events’ first ever karate competition.
The unrivaled master Shahin Jahanvash quickly took the crown as the winner in both of the Men’s Traditional Weapons divisions of the Men’s Traditional Weapons grand championship. Shahin practically grew up in the karate studio his parents owned, and started competing as a preschooler at age four. He first tested for his black belt at the age of seven and a half.
Multitalented athlete, third-degree black belt and NASKA world champion Mackensi Emory of Roseville, California, was unstoppable as always this year, expertly running circles around the competition in Women’s Weapons to take the grand champion title. Her favorite martial arts moves include double corks, boxcutters, c9 hypers, double fulls and snapuswipes. Mackensi is also a highly trained gymnast with a knack for playing the piano, tricking and dance.
More Than Just Karate Kids
When it came to displays of martial arts mastery, the Youth competition did not disappoint either this year, keeping audience members closer to the edge of their seats than ever with a slew of all-star performances right before their eyes in the arena.
Weapon-wielding martial arts prodigy Noah Fort of Hollister, California, once dubbed “Mini Bruce Lee”, speedily snared his first Overall NASKA win with a striking victory in the Boys’ 14-17 Overall Weapons Grand championship. With Noah, a passion for karate must just run in the family. He and his father, Nathan, have performed together in a famed father-son team as a martial arts duo in events all across the country, impressively synchronizing their action-packed demonstrations involving weapons, punches, kicks and flips.
Determined to carry forward her winning streak to another year was Kaley Kakac, the 2018 Compete Internationals overall winner for 13 and under Girls’ Forms and 13 and under Girls’ Weapons. She prevailed again in 2019 in the Girls’ Weapons division.
With Kaley, it must just run in the family as well. This year, her equally talented sister Courtney Kakac swept the board in Girls’ 13 and under Weapons grand championships. Courtney, whose specialities are Traditional Sword, Creative Sword, and CMX, claimed victory in both Traditional Weapons and the CMX Weapons grands.
Noell Jellison, an up-and-coming karate star slash movie star (she played a mutant in the 2017 movie Logan) continued to keep the stars in her eyes this year. Like Kaley Kakac, she was a returning champion from last year’s tournament in 2018. She came back and successfully smashed the competition once more in 2019 with her expertise in the Forms and Weapons divisions. Noell decided she wanted to take up karate lessons at the age of four, inspired by her longing to become a Power Ranger. Clearly, it’s worked out for her, and she hasn’t looked back since. (Nor should she!)
Salef Celiz, who also did his own stunts on the big screen alongside Noell Jellison in the movie Logan, as well as Divergent (2014), finished up front in the Boys’ 14-17 Overall grand championship. Originally from the Philippines, Salef now resides in Chicago and has a bright future as “master of movements” that extend well beyond his karate stunts, showing talent in breakdancing, track, and freshman wrestling, as well as traveling the world over (the Philippines and Canada) to compete in international martial arts events.
Chicago native Mason Bumba overcame the opposition in both 13 & under Weapons and the Form grand championships. He also took the prize as winner of the Fighting grand championship in his age group. Mason made a bit of a household name for himself thanks to his primetime appearance on Season 11 of America’s Got Talent, when he performed a masterfully executed martial arts act on the national stage. His routine, which involved acrobatics, flips and a bō staff, impressed celebrity judges Heidi Klum, Howie Mandell and the incorrigible Simon Cowell so much, that he was sent on to the Judge Cuts. Already 14x Martial Arts World Champion, Mason claims bullies don’t even bother hassling him because they’re all afraid of him.
Another Smashing Success
Demo teams, in particular, seemed to take center stage at this year’s tournament. San Diego-based Team Freestyle reigned supreme in the CMX Under Black Belt Divisions, making an appearance in Color Belt Demo Team, the Color Belt Team Sync Championship, as well as two out of the three under belt grand championships. The winning team of this year’s Color Belt Demo was Team Red Dragon of Pennsylvania, led by Master Pagano, with Team Competitive Edge pulling in a couple newcomers and still winning the Black Belt Demo Team title.
The NASKA Triple Crown champions were handed their awards on stage, and there was much celebration as another successful Compete Internationals event drew to a close.
If you want to learn even more about how it all went down this year, everything you need to know is all right here on our website, www.SportMartialArts.com. You can check out competition highlights, videos, photos, and more from this outstanding event that took place this past February at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, California. You can also feel free to like and follow our Facebook page for further updates and to learn more about future events. We hope you’ll join our SportMartialArts.com community.
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