The U.S. Open has been a banner event of the NASKA circuit for years. It pulls competitors from all over the country for the chance to compete against the very best on Disney property with ESPN broadcasting the Saturday Night Finals (Night of Champions).
The U.S. Open was hosted this year at the Coronado Springs Resort, a great venue that provides ample services to all competitors and their families. It’s the setting every tournament wishes for, but isn’t always able to acquire. Throughout the very busy weekend with the thousands of competitors and their families filing through, the Coronado Springs Resort provided spectacular service marked with a sense of goodwill and humor that helped make the event a fun and friendly place.
But, there is one other aspect of the U.S. Open that makes it truly unique.
The U.S. Open attracts competitors from across the world: Guatemala, Jamaica, South Africa, Mexico, Canada, and many other countries. The participants were present and pushing hard for the opportunity to compete on stage in both the Night of Victory and the Night of Champions. The mix of cultures, viewpoints, worldviews, and language all blended together to make the U.S. Open a wonderful and eye-opening experience for all.
Friday and Saturday Eliminations progressed with a verve and energy that was thrilling. Being part of an event that hosted people from so many countries, all striving to show their absolute best, was an electrifying experience that you could feel as soon as you walked into the building.
Friday evening was the Night of Victory. The crowd was a friendly and encouraging group, supporting the colored belts in their pursuit of overall champion for their division. It was a wonderful experience, and the excitement of the occasion was visible in the smiles on every competitors’ face.
Saturday evening showcased the Night of Champions. The event was broadcast on ESPN with Mike Chat and Sport Martial Arts’ very own Mallory commentating during the event.
The evening started with the 13 and under competition. Avery Presely won the 13 and under CMX World Championship while Esteban Trembelay won the 13 and under weapons. Alaina Wollack kicked off the sparring matches on a high note with her win in the 16-17 girls point fighting and Jason Westley took home the ISKA Self Defense World Champion with an impressive performance of various techniques and takedowns.
The ESPN coverage started with the Competitive Edge Demo Team. They had some fantastic music and took the floor with an energy and passion that was worthy of the U.S. Open. From there, the Night of Champions moved quickly and smoothly. Each competitor pushed themselves to their limits demonstrating the best of kata and some phenomenal fighting.
There were several divisions at this year’s U.S. Open that aren’t always seen on stage during other events. There was an ITF Continuous Challenge with Camilla Canut of Argentina versus Sabrina Richards of Jamaica. Camilla Canut held onto a pretty definitive lead and took the World Title. There was also Chip Townsend’s World Championship Brick Break. While he was unable to break every brick on the stage, he was able to set a new World Record and demonstrate the awesome power required for such a feat.
There was a fierce competition between Joey Castro and Ariel Torres in Men’s Traditional Forms. Both men demonstrated beautiful traditional kata but Ariel Torres won the event.
Switching to sparring, there were some fast and fierce fights on stage. Kevin Walker won Men’s Lightweight Grands and Baily Murphy won the 15-17 Boy’s Open Weight Point Sparring.
Tamas Imre and Zsolt Moradi battled in Men’s Open Weight Fighting, and after 2 rounds Zsolt took the title.
Men’s 3 Man Point Sparring was between Team Paul Mitchell and Team Hayabusa. It was a close and tight fight, with tensions running high and the crowd roaring, but Team Hayabusa was able to walk away with the World Championship.
Allen Davies electrified the crowd in the 14-17 Boy’s Weapons with his high-flying nunchaku form. While Mackensi Emory took the Women’s CMX, Sammy Smith took Woman’s Weapons, and Jacob Pinto won Men’s CMX.
The night was full of fierce and awesome competition but there were two instances that made big waves in the arena, and also throughout Sport Karate. The two competitors for Demo Team were Team Infinity and Team Freestyle. Team Infinity has been Demo Team Royalty for years and Team Freestyle came ready to challenge them.
Both demos were phenomenal and showcased two different styles of demo. The division was a clinic in teamwork, synchronization, and creativity that resulted in Team Freestyle winning the World Championship.
The other big news was Cole Presley with his new spin on a double weapon form. Cole competed with two kama as well as a bo. When he stepped onto the stage holding a set of weapons no one had ever seen before, the crowd went wild. True to form, Cole then wowed everyone with a new and innovative spin on weapons competition. It was a spectacular moment, and one that shows the creativity, skill, and incredible support that Sport Karate world both requires and offers.
Despite the fact Cole Presley had a new and exciting form. Jackson Rudolph took to the stage with a determination and focus that was truly impressive. He was set the crowd on fire and was able to walk away with the World Championship.
This year’s U.S. Open was full of innovation, spectacular competition, and a sense of community and goodwill that superseded country, rank and style. Being in a room with thousands of martial artists who are all pushing and competing to their absolute best is a truly special experience that makes the U.S. Open a unique and important tournament in the NASKA Circuit.
See you next year.