The root of martial arts is traditional techniques and self-defense. Practitioners complain that competitive martial arts erode the tradition of the style. With acrobatics and extreme martial arts that include tricks and gymnastics at sport martial arts events, traditionalists believe they don’t stand a chance. The 2018 US Capitol Classics & China Open, held August 3-4, 2018, threw all those theories to the wayside as traditional competitors dominated on the stage.

The 2018 US Capitol Classics was a classy event with lots of celebrity martial artists.

The Capitol Classics promoters Dennis and Andrena Brown bring class to the sport as they dress to a T, attract sport martial arts celebrities and do it all with elegance. This year, the greats of yesteryear such as Charlie Lee, Linda Denley, Hakim Alston, Carmichael Simon and Helen and John Chung were in attendance. Held in National Harbor, Maryland which is only a few miles from Arlington, Virginia, the Capitol Classics attracts those who trained under the man that many would consider the father of sport karate, Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee. With Grandmaster Rhee’s passing only three months prior on April 30, 2018, the Capitol Classics finals opened with a celebration of his life as Jhoon Rhee students performed the classic musical form, Exodus, hosted by Francis Pineda.

Synchronized forms opened the finals but then it went all traditional.

The finals competitor performances started with an acapella synchronized form rendition by two exciting young competitors, Danny Etkin and Aidan Considine of Team Paul Mitchell. They had already won during the daytime eliminations and got the crowd excited with their opening performance. However, after the extreme routine of Etkin and Considine, the tenor of the event turned far more disciplined as the traditional performers all but walked away with title after title. See Danny and Aidan’s video on Facebook:

Youth traditional competitors dominated in the finals.

The Capitol Classics Finals show started with the youth forms and weapons competition. New York is the home of young Caio DaSilva. DaSilva is actually a great extreme martial arts competitor but he has found his home with traditional forms. He faced the formidable Aidan Kennedy, probably one of the best extreme performers ever in his age group. However, this evening it was all DaSilva as he went home with the 13 and under boys title. Megan Butterfield has graced the stage only a few times in 2018 and the 13-year-old showed nerves of steel as she won the 13 and under girls forms title defeating the musical routine of Averi Presley. After the first two divisions, it was 2-0 for traditional routines.

Mason Stowell won everything for the 14-17 boys in forms and he was allowed to perform a demo in the finals. He chose to perform his traditional routine for the judges. (3-0 for traditional at this point.) For the 14-17 girls, Olivia Rando has definitely got the moves if you like tricks and kicks. Yet this evening, Mary Amato of Illinois caught the judges’ eyes and her traditional form was the winner.

In weapons, Alex Miller has only been on stage once in 2018 and it was at the US Capitol Classics. He faced the spins of Mason Bumba in 13 and under boys weapons. 9-year-old Miller went all the way winning the overall title with his traditional bo. For the girls, Averi Presley was back but it was Kaley Kakac’s traditional bo that was the judge’s selection. If you are keeping track, this made it 6-0 for traditional.

Connor Chasteen of Team Infinity is getting recognition for his skills in extreme weapons competition and was on stage. His challenger was Jake Presley and a traditional bo and, you guessed it, Presley was the winner for 14-17-year-old boys weapons. Noell Jellison faced Trinity Davis for the 14-17 girls weapons competition. Davis went first and early in her routine she dropped her bo. Instead of continuing her performance, she bowed out and Jellison took the stage. Jellison looked like she had it with no problem but near the end of her routine, she also dropped her bo. However, Jellison picked up her dropped weapon and completed her routine. As a result, Jellison was awarded the 14-17 girls weapons title. So we won’t count this one in the traditional wins tally since it was a fluke. Lesson learned, however, always complete your performance because you never know. At this stage it was 7-0 for traditional.

The sparring competition at the 2018 US Capitol Classics had great match-ups and a surprise ending in men’s team sparring.

It wasn’t all forms and weapons at the 2018 Capitol Classics. The fighting divisions were amazing as well. Team Impex made an appearance and fought their way to the finals to face Team Straight Up for the men’s sparring championships. Straight Up had already won the women’s team sparring title on Friday evening and was looking for bragging rights in teams. On the other hand, Team Impex’s dynamic sibling duo Morgan and Richard Plowden were both on deck to fight for the women’s overall point sparring title and men’s heavyweight title. Straight Up also had one more card to play with Bailey Murphy looking for another lightweight overall win.

Murphy faced off against Blake Spence of Top Ten USA and it was Murphy all the way showing that he is the lightweight to beat in 2018. Morgan Plowden is just returning from a significant amount of time off after a devastating knee injury from 2017. She’s back, down a weight class and still as dominating as ever. She faced RaeLynn Perkins in a great match with a lot of aggression. Plowden ended the match with a kick that had the crowd roaring. Richard Plowden fought Brayan Rodriguez of Team Proper for the men’s heavyweight title. It was Plowden with the win and Impex was dead even with Straight Up – each had two sparring titles for the event.

The Men’s Team Sparring finals was a true game of strategy as coach Richard Plowden of Team Impex went head-to-head with coach Joseph Greenhalgh of Team Straight Up. After the initial coin toss, Team Impex had to send out the first fighter and Plowden chose the steadfast Willie Hicks. Greenhalgh matched him with Herbie Bagwell, Jr.

Hicks was the more experienced fighter and Bagwell’s senior by 13 years but Bagwell had Hicks when it came to size and reach. An initial exchange knocked Hicks right off the stage and he had a hard landing on his tailbone. After recovering from this encounter, Hicks stepped up his game but found himself frustrated with Bagwell’s long arms and timing. In the end, Hicks kept the fight close and did his job, ending with Straight Up ahead by a mere point as the score was 4-3. You can watch the fight right now on Facebook:

In the second round, Team Straight Up had to present their fighter first and Team Impex had to choose a match. Coach Joseph Greenhalgh of Straight Up went with Brandon Ballou. Ballou is young but has a lot of experience as he has been competing since he was a child. Being down by one point and knowing Straight Up’s remaining player was the amazing Bailey Murphy, coach Richard Plowden of Impex decided his best bet was to put in his top fighter Richard Avery Plowden with the goal of getting a solid lead going into the final round. However, Ballou was having none of it. He stayed steady and focused, knowing he had to keep the score as close as possible and he did his job well. The end result – a 3-3 tie and Straight Up ended still up by one after two rounds.

Down by 1 point, Chris Gorham of Impex had his work cut out for him as he faced young phenom Bailey Murphy for the final match in men’s teams in the night finals. Gorham opened strong but Murphy got focused and took over to keep his team in the lead and move ahead. It was a sweet team sparring win for Team Straight Up’s Joseph Greenhalgh and Straight Up ended up with 3-2 sparring title wins for the event over Impex.

Synchronized weapons and demo teams kept the crowd on the edge of its seat.

The crowd was also treated to the fun of the synchronized weapons champions, Jackson Rudolph and Jake Presley. They did some new tricks and interactions in their demo for the audience. It was true competition for the demo team division as Team Fearless faced Team Competitive Edge. Both teams are made up primarily of junior competitors and it is pretty amazing to see what these kids can do when they work together. A few mistakes by Team Fearless in their routine left the door open for Competitive Edge who jumped through and won the demo team title.

The adult forms and weapons competition had big names and big routines.

The adult forms and weapons competition was another showcase for traditional routines. Sen Gao represented for the China Open with two great performances in wushu open hand and broadsword. Joey Castro was solid in the men’s traditional forms grand championships defeating JP Panizza and Andrew Bacchus. Melissa Baillargeon of Canada went back up North with a huge smile on her face as she straight dominated the women’s divisions. Her traditional form took out Sammy Smith and Isabella Caracta for the women’s forms title. In weapons, she defeated Sammy Smith again along with Jewelianna Ramos with her bo.

The only non-traditional wins for the event came first in men’s CMX forms. CMX stands for creative, musical and extreme so, of course, no traditional could win. Danny Etkin was back after his ankle injury from earlier in the year to take on the challenge and rack up another win in men’s forms. In men’s weapons, it was Etkin again showing no mercy as he killed it with his nunchuku routine to defeat Cole Presley, Reid Presley, Carlos Gonzalez, John Kim and Zar Succarotte.


The 2018 US Capitol Classics opened with the classical Jhoon Rhee tribute and closed with the thrill of Danny Etkin. Everything in between was nothing short of amazing. The competitors proved that traditional can be just as exciting as the musical and extreme performances. And the event proved that sport karate has a long way to go before the musical and extreme performances make traditional obsolete.

Shout out to the under belt grand champions.

A special congratulations to all of the under black belt grand champion winners from the under belt finals that took place earlier in the evening:

13 & Under Beginner/Intermediate Weapons – Emily Rowland
13 & Under Beginner/Intermediate Forms – Daniel Angulo
13 & Under Advanced Traditional Forms – Gabriella Harper
13 & Under Advanced Traditional Weapons – Gabriella Harper
13 & Under Advanced CMX Forms – Aidan Guernsey
13 & Under Advanced CMX Weapons – Cole Vonlukawiecki
14-17 Beginner/Intermediate Forms – Jahlil High
14-17 Beginner/Intermediate Weapons – Adonis Vargas
14-17 Advanced Forms – Darren Payne
14-17 Advanced Weapons – Taylor Rathman
18 & Over Forms – Marco Mercedes
18 & Over Weapons – Marco Mercedes is the largest media outlet for open sport karate tournament news and information. Millions of people turn to’s online news, live streams, photos and social media to keep up-to-date on the dynamic sport of open martial arts competition. – We Love This Sport!