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.

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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.

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Competitive Edge Karate
Photo Courtesy: Jackson Rudolph

Team Competitive Edge, coached by Jackson Rudolph, Reid Presley, and Cole Presley, has become one of the premier teams in the sport in recent years. The team consistently takes home individual overall grand championships and they are the reigning U.S. Open ISKA Team Demonstration World Champions. Moving into the 2022 tournament season, they have made a huge move to deepen their roster and add seven junior competitors to the team. The new additions range from proven champions bringing their talents to the squad, some skilled workhorses who have previously joined the team for the Team Demo division, and some promising young stars who will be making their debut in the black belt division this year. Keep reading to learn more about each of the new additions (ordered alphabetically).

Gavin Bodiford

Gavin Bodiford

Photo Courtesy: Kellie Austin Bodiford via Facebook

Bodiford is twelve years old and hails from Lebanon, Tennessee, a product of Premier Martial Arts Lebanon (formerly known as Success Martial Arts Center), where the Competitive Edge coaches have all earned black belts. He has five years of martial arts experience and was the 2020-2021 ProMAC Southern Region Champion in four divisions. He also finished the 2021 NASKA season in the top ten for creative, musical, and extreme forms and weapons. Bodiford is one of the competitors who has stepped up for Competitive Edge in the past, joining the demonstration team to help them secure the 2021 U.S. Open ISKA World Championship.

Riley Claire Carlisle

RC Carlisle

Photo Courtesy: Mallory Parker Carlisle

Carlisle (pictured with coach Sammy Smith) is a 10-year-old rising star from Starkville, Mississippi who has been training for four years. In the underbelt division, she has won grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and numerous regional events. She holds multiple divisional and grand championship titles from the ProMAC circuit, and has amassed over ninety divisional wins in recent years. She is moving into the black belt division in 2022 and looks to continue her winning ways.

Kodi Molina

Kodi Molina

Photo Courtesy: Priscilla Molina via Facebook

Molina is a 13-year-old world champion from San Antonio, Texas with 10 years of martial arts training under her belt. She has won many grand championship titles on the NASKA circuit, and has claimed world championships from NASKA, ISKA, ATA, and WKC. At the 2021 U.S. Open, she became the reigning ISKA world champion in 13 and under girls creative/musical/extreme weapons. She is a versatile competitor who can win with extreme bo or kama routines, performs beautiful traditional forms, and is a solid point fighter as well. She is an active member of her community and participates in a variety of leadership programs, making her a great role model for younger members of the team.

Michael Molina

Michael Molina

Photo Courtesy: Michael Molina via Instagram

"Super Bomb" is the 9-year-old brother of Kodi, who is a world champion in his own right. In his seven years of experience, he has already won a variety of titles across multiple leagues, including NASKA overall grand championships at the 2021 Battle of Atlanta and AmeriKick Internationals. Since he began training at the age of two, his regimen has included strength, speed, agility, and conditioning training at "Rojo Dojo", where a number of world champions and national contenders gather to train. He is known for his incredible performance ability, always putting on a show when he graces the stage.

Gavin Richmond

Gavin Richmond

Photo Courtesy: Bobby Benavides

Richmond is yet another world champion being added to the Competitive Edge roster. The 13-year-old from San Antonio has been training for five years and has accumulated several grand championship titles, including wins at prestigious events like the Diamond Nationals and U.S. Open. The young star is a well-rounded athlete, not only because he competes in a variety of divisions at sport karate tournaments, but he also finished in 7th place in the pentathlon at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics which included the high jump, long jump, 100m hurdles, 1500m run, and shot put, resulting in him being named an All-American. He is currently recovering from a knee injury, but his high-flying routines will be back on the mat soon.

Madalynn Wiersma

Madalynn Wiersma

Photo Courtesy: Gabrielle Dunn

Wiersma (pictured with coach Gabrielle Dunn) is another rising star moving up from the underbelt division who is expected to make waves in the black belt division. She first moved up into the black belt ring at the WKC world championships, where she won her first world title. The 9-year-old Georgia native was the 2021 Underbelt Competitor of the Year for ProMAC and she secured underbelt grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and U.S. Open this past year.

Elijah Williams

Williams is a 16 year old from Lebanon, Tennessee who trains at Premier Martial Arts Lebanon. His eight years of martial arts training has culminated in black belts in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. He is on an upward trend as a competitor as he has started breaking into the top four in his divisions, which are some of the most stacked on the NASKA circuit. Williams has been a great asset to Competitive Edge in the past, stepping up to fill in for team demonstration, such as in the world championship effort at the 2021 U.S. Open.

The Competitive Edge coaching staff told Black Belt that they are thrilled to take their roster to another level with these moves. They believe that these new players will create the perfect storm to win more overall grand championships now, strengthen the team demo, and build a great foundation for the future of the program.

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cdn.vox-cdn.com Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
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