The first recorded tweet of #wkcworlds2014 is from Wendell Schumm (@WDSchumm) “Headed to Ireland to pick a fight! #wkcworlds14 #kickboxing”. He didn’t know how right he was. The WKC Worlds was held in lovely Dublin, Ireland from October 5 – 10, 2014. For those of you with a limited attention span, spoiler alert: This tournament rocked! The tournament begin with the opening ceremonies that featured a parade of nations. Eight nations sent martial artists that pre-qualified for this event. In attendance were: Team Germany, Team Scotland, Team Ireland, Team Northern Ireland, Team England, Team Mexico and of course, Team Canada. The martial artists from each nation proudly carried the flag of their represented country into the ballroom. This was a site to see until Team Canada arrived. This country sent an invasion force of martial artists to compete and they had the largest team in the tournament. Each martial artist that wore the maple leaf had gold on his or her mind and if any other competitor had a hope of winning gold they would have to go through Canada.
Day One: Open forms and Weapons. It was a brisk sunny Irish morning when the competitors lined up at 9am local time to compete for the right to advance to the gold medal round. This was another good thing about this tournament, it ran on time. At 9:01 am promptly my ears were assaulted from 5 rings of kia’s that were all accented by local dialects. Mike Bernado and his army of WKC referees were off and running with clockwork precision. Open forms and weapons took the top 4 from each division to the Gold Medal round on Wednesday. The first day of competition ended early (remember clockwork efficiency) and after a long night of gathering the results and posting them to twitter there was a common theme: Canada. Lead by veteran Andrew Cabilan (who was tip toeing in his Jordans – really, this happened) the maple leaf nation tried its best to sweep all forms divisions. There were a few Americans such as Susan Wackett, Anthony Merricks and Teresa Barroso from Team Mexico who did their best to buck this trend and place in the top four. At the end of the day, we knew that this was not your average tournament.
Day Two: Adult light contact and kids point. The air was a bit colder as I finished my complimentary breakfast and headed to the event. That coldness in the air would be replaced with raw electricity in the air as fighting began. One of the first things that I noticed as I went from ring to ring was the pure amount of emotion in the air. There were plenty of junior fighters competing today and many of the matches came down to the final point. It was fantastic to see a coach lift his tiny warrior in the air after he or she scored the overtime winning point just as it was heartbreaking to see the coach consoling the other fighter who had lost. Tears flowed freely from coach to fighters on wins and losses as the emotion made its way out.
Day Three: Adult point and kids light contact. On this day most of the tournament knew that the road to gold went through Canada. However, Canada knew this as well. International superstars like Robbie Lavoie and Tom Roberts made their way to the gold medal rounds as well as well known American fighters Anthony Merricks and Nate Thorn earning the right to compete for gold. While most of the top spots in fighting were occupied by Team USA or Team Canada, I have to mention a few things about our European competitors. Not to be outdone they fought with complete passion and were 100% backed up by their fellow teammates and countrymen. It was not uncommon to hear LONG ruckus chants of EN-GA-LAND! or NORTHERN IRELAND! break out during the match. There is something to be said when you hear the country of your birth being yelled to thunderous levels behind you. It does boost your spirit and truly has to be experienced to be understood. The fighters from Germany, Scotland, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Mexico all fought with fury and some clawed their way past the Canadian blockade to the medal rounds.
Day Four: Team Sparring and Forms and Weapons Gold medal rounds. Ninety teams registered for team fights. Let that sink in just for a moment. That includes junior teams, men’s, veteran men’s, women’s etc. That team number was impressive and then the fireworks started. One of the most important tasks to complete prior to competition is knowing the rules. In international WKC, rear leg sweeps and follow ups are allowed. I’m guessing that seeing the number of fighters that were de-cleated by a crafty English fighter in the Men’s veterans team fight, some may have overlooked this rule. The North American love/hate relationship with the front hand jab was also tested. At the end of the day, Jordan wearing Andrew Cabilan had captured many gold medals beside fellow team member Alexander Baril and Tressa Young. Team England also impressed with gold in men’s and women’s veteran team sparring. Oh, and the final men’s team sparring match came down to Team USA and Team Canada again.
Day Five: Fighting gold medal rounds and overalls. There were many highlights and great moments from the final day of competition. I witnessed great comebacks to win gold by a 12 year old Irish fighter stealing the gold medal from his English counterpart with .05 seconds on the clock. I saw just about every nation that represented take home gold in one division or another. This I expected, what I didn’t expect was the absolute electrifying thrill that would be the nighttime finals. The finals were filled with amazing performances by all who participated but it was the fighting in my opinion that stood out. Morgan Plowden steamrolled to her 3rd gold in as many years for overall women’s fighting. Most people were not close enough to see the tears of joy and to hear Mr. Plowden tell his daughter that he was proud of her. The crowd was too busy clapping for Morgan. Men’s overall was won by Canadian Cody Diesboug in a thrilling overtime match.
In a dramatic come from behind win Team England women’s team sparring surged from behind to win the gold over the American Women. The last event of the evening was men’s team sparring. As I mentioned before, it came down to Team USA and Team Canada again. Both teams were stacked by a who’s who of male fighters from North America. Another important note about the rules. Team Sparring is scored on matches won. Both teams have 5 fighters on board but if one team wins 3 matches, fighters four and five will not fight as it will be 3 – 0. In the event of a tie as there could be a draw with both fighters having the same amount of points at the end of a round the total points will be counted.
With that being said we all have competed first representing our karate school. Some of us have represented a regional or national team. Things change when you represent your country. There is a difference when fighting for national pride. Men’s teams began with an exciting first match that ended in a draw. The second match was won by Team CAN with the 3rd going to Team USA. Canada won the 4th match taking the lead 2 -1 one with match five starting. Anthony Merricks took an early lead that was equalized with just 50 seconds left.
During an injury timeout, Avery Plowden took the opportunity to get the US supporters on their feet. The crowd erupted with chants of USA! USA! USA! Not to be outdone, Robbie Lavoie rallied the Canadian faithful. At it’s height, both crowds were equally matched with noise while cheering for their country. Clearly motivated, both warriors stepped back to the line reenergized for the final 50 seconds. Team USA needed to win this match to force a total point tabulation. At the last second Merricks threw a lighting fast reverse punch but only got one confirmation from one judge and the score was tied 5 -5. This meant that with two draws, Canada had the majority at 2 -1 one and took the gold.
While this was one of the most exciting point matches I have seen in a while Team USA has nothing to be ashamed of. All fighters stepped their game up for that match and it was the fans that won.
The 2015 WKC Worlds will be held in November of next year in Orlando, Florida. I would encourage everyone to contact the WKC about qualifying for the right to represent your country at the next WKC worlds event. It really has to be experienced to be understood. Stay tuned for information on WKC Qualifiers for the 2015 WKC World Championships on SportMartialArts.com.