2021 Battle of Atlanta Karate

One of the world's premier sport karate tournaments is just five weeks away, as the events at the Battle of Atlanta will begin Thursday, June 17th with the Professional Martial Arts Conference (PROMAC) Championships and Award Ceremonies. The Battle is PROMAC's marquee event and a number of competitors vying for national PROMAC titles will likely bolster the expected large turnout for the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) portion of the event taking place on Friday and Saturday.

Despite the Battle of Atlanta promoters still hosting their event in 2020, the tournament was not NASKA-sanctioned as a result of a hiatus related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the 2021 Battle of Atlanta will be the first in-person event for the most talent-packed sport karate league in the western hemisphere since the last Compete Nationals in February of 2020. The NASKA comeback, combined with impressive crowds at PROMAC events such as the Destin Open, Memphis Open, and North Georgia Open in the past year, could be the makings of a very successful event at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel this June. This is great news for sport karate fans and competitors alike.

What will the competition look like? The unprecedented time off for many competitors and sponsored teams makes it difficult to predict which faces to expect, but it makes for plenty of exciting storylines.

Forms and Weapons

In forms and weapons, many top competitors opted out of participating in online events during the heat of the pandemic for a myriad of reasons. It is uncertain which of these defending champions and veteran contenders will be in action, but we know that the competition and skills on display will be top-notch. Some speculation can be based on competitors who have been active on PROMAC, appeared on the Virtual Forms Tour, or have been public about their training like Sammy Smith, Danny Etkin, Rashad Eugene, Gabrielle Dunn, and more. However, there is a whole roster of young talent who turned eighteen in 2020 and early 2021 who are ready to test their skills against the adults.

In the men's division, junior weapons dual-threat Jake Presley of Team Paul Mitchell is likely to make his adult debut on NASKA in the Creative/Musical/Extreme (CMX) and traditional divisions. Connor Chasteen of Team Infinity has also risen to prominence in the weapons division during the pandemic, winning several PROMAC grand championships with his kama routine and taking home another victory in the main event of Virtual Forms Tour I.

Connor Chasteen Karate


Connor Chasteen accepts his grand championship guitar from promoter and PROMAC Vice President Joey Perry at The Memphis Open earlier this year. Photo courtesy of SportMartialArts.com

Junior forms juggernaut Mason Stowell of Top Ten Team USA is also old enough now to compete against the men with his high-flying extreme forms and powerful traditional routines, but his pursuit of the Tokyo Olympics as a Team USA kata athlete could interfere with his competition schedule at NASKA events in the immediate future. On the women's side, Team Infinity's Haley "Bulletproof" Glass will introduce herself to the adult division as an instant threat to win both forms and weapons overall grands.

Point Fighting

With regard to point fighting, it is a bit easier to predict which mainstay competitors will be in action based on participation in major pay-per-view sport karate promotions such as Pro Point and the Virtual Fight Tour. Point fighting's iron man, who seems to fight in tournaments nearly every weekend, Kevin Walker of Team All Stars is expected to display his skills at The Battle. It is also a safe bet that Team Straight Up coach Joe Greenhalgh will be sending his tough squad featuring superstar Bailey Murphy, the talented and gritty Brandon Ballou, and other solid contenders like Romani Alicea. Several members of Team Dojo Elite – Power have also been active during the pandemic such as Devon Hopper, Zain Pedraza, and Pro Point 4 Winner Ryan "RPG" George.

Ryan George Karate

Ryan George poses with his check for winning Pro Point 4, streamed by several major platforms including Black Belt Magazine.

Other fighters that have not been as active as those mentioned above could be back in action as well. Super-sibling duo Avery and Morgan Plowden of Team Impex have voiced motivation to be back on the mats and would be favorites to win the men's heavyweight and women's fighting grands respectively if they were to attend. The heavyweight bracket in particular could get very interesting, as undeniable force Kameren Dawson recovers from a back injury suffered at the North Georgia Open and other heavyweights have been staying sharp like Team Next Level's Anthony Merricks, Team Proper's Brayan Rodriguez, and many more.

What about the up-and-comers? There is a ton of talent that is expected to be moving up in the near future. Team Next Level's dynamic duo of Tyson Wray and Darren Payne have the potential to do some damage, Team Paul Mitchell's newest acquisition Alex Mancillas is hungry to make an impact for sport karate's most decorated team, and Top Ten Team USA's Jason Letona has potential to be a threat in the adult division when he joins his older brother Enrique. There are of course more fighters than that who will be new faces in the adult division, but that group has been active and there is a reasonable public consensus that they are coming to the adult divisions soon.

Tyson Wray Darren Payne

Tyson Wray gets his hand raised alongside teammate Darren Payne after they defeated Team All Stars' duo of Paolo Rafael Serafico and James Roberts IV at Virtual Fight Tour VII.

The 2021 Battle of Atlanta is almost guaranteed to be a historic event. The Friday Night Fights night show on June 18th will put several fighting divisions on display including the next Pro Point event with several incredible matchups. The Battle Zone night show on the 19th will continue the storied legacy of the Battle of Atlanta finals. Competitors should expect to begin NASKA competition early Friday morning with specialty divisions like Team Demonstration and Team Synchronized Forms, with their individual divisions to follow in sessions after that. Additionally on Friday morning, The Battle will be running special BATTLEMANIA sparring divisions that include continuous, double-elimination, mixed doubles, and tag-team.

Not able to attend this year? No worries, Black Belt Magazine will be in attendance and will bring you all the important news and updates from the event. Stay tuned to Black Belt on social media and our website for more information.

Before the event, catch up on the current Black Belt Magazine World Sport Karate Rankings by clicking HERE.

Introducing Martial Arts School Listings on Black Belt Mag!
Sign Up Now To Be One Of The First School Listed In Our Database.
Don't miss a single issue of the worlds largest magazine of martial arts.
Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon
d2e111jq13me73.cloudfront.net / Enter the Dragon/ Warner Bros.
Bruce Lee really did have the Midas touch when it came to training. Most people think Bruce was advanced and complicated, but he was the master of simplicity. He was not worried about doing the jump-up flip spin-around back kick. Not sure if there is one. But by the time you land, Bruce would just throw a simple kick or punch to knock you down as you landed to the ground. However, that is the point. Simplicity is often overlooked because of the coolness and the latest and greatest workout when simplicity produces the most significant effect. Super complicated does not mean superior. This is actually reverse in fact. We see super complex exercises that don’t need to be. Truthfully, if an exercise or method is not straightforward in its approach, then it probably is not good.
Keep Reading Show less
Karate training
Shutterstock / Kzenon

I have a confession to make: I’m a romantic for cheesy martial art movies.

One of my favorite things to watch in kung fu cinema is a teacher tortu–er, training a novice student. Of course, it is easy to see how we fit in the script. Regardless of our level, it is important to have a mentor who can help guide us properly in our training.

A big part of our growth as people and martial artists is finding the correct ways to be challenged and to promote our depth of understanding. While that duty often is seen as only befalling on the person you study under, there are various things we can consciously do to mix up our training to glean better benefits.

Check out these methods and you’ll soon be able to add new levels of realism to your training and find any hidden holes in your techniques!

Keep Reading Show less

Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

Keep Reading Show less