Rashad Eugene

The 2021 AmeriKick Internationals, promoted by Bob Leiker and Mark Russo, was the third NASKA world tour event since the league returned from its COVID-19 hiatus. The event celebrated its 40th anniversary last weekend as the action went down in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Rashad "The Black Mamba" Eugene was the talk of the tournament, coming home with three overall grand championship titles in the men's forms and weapons divisions. Eugene has become a fan-favorite in recent years for his fun-loving demeanor around the ring and exceedingly creative performances in the weapons divisions, using everything from triple bo staff to a broomstick. His first title of the weekend came in the traditional weapons category. He carried that momentum into the Saturday night finals where he defeated Cody Leck and Donis Coronel to claim the creative/musical/extreme (CMX) forms title, and followed that up with a double bo performance to secure the trifecta with a win over Team Paul Mitchell's Alex Mancillas and Kung Fu bull whip specialist Aaron Keys. Eugene's weekend is of historical significance, as this marks the first time in recent memory that a competitor has won their first career NASKA overall grand championship while claiming three such titles at one event.


Enrique Letona

Photo Courtesy of Point Fighter Live

In an almost equally impressive performance, Enrique "El Rey" Letona of Top Ten Team USA dominated men's point fighting. He led his squad to their second consecutive team fighting title, solidifying the champion position in the Black Belt Magazine World Rankings that they claimed at the U.S. Open. Then Letona rolled through his individual divisions, winning both the open weight and lightweight grand championships. Darren "Dee Stacks" Payne of Team Next Level took home the heavyweight title and would face Letona in a special bonus round conducted by the Virtual Fight Tour. Jessie Wray brought back the old NASKA format in which the grand champions of each weight class fought for an overall title, but this time it was done with VFT rules and judges. After three rounds, Letona would continue his hot streak and take home the win.

As for the rest of the adult division, chapter two of the budding friendly rivalry between Team Paul Mitchell members Sammy Smith and Haley Glass was written last weekend. After a strong showing at U.S. Open, Glass was recruited to join sport karate's longest-sponsored team, but it was the savvy veteran Smith who was victorious and took home the women's weapons championship. In women's forms, a traditionalist took home the hardware as KTOC/AFS Adidas athlete Sasha Rodriguez impressed the judges with her kata. To round out the lady warriors, Jimena Janeiro (below) of Team Revolution claimed both the open weight and overall grand championships in sparring.

Jimena Janeiro

On the men's side, the only forms or weapons title not won by Rashad Eugene was the traditional forms championship. Mason Stowell powered his way to yet another victory by defeating Kenpo stylist Larry Gonzalez of Team DKS. In just three tournaments as an adult, Stowell has won a Battle of Atlanta Ultimate Championship, an ISKA U.S. Open title, and now the grand championship at AmeriKick.

Stowell continued his winning ways in the synchronized forms division alongside Top Ten Team USA teammate Rodrigo Madrid. Madrid was also successful in his individual competition, winning the 14-17 boys' forms grand championship. In the 14-17 girls' division, a traditionalist once again reigned supreme as Maddy Kennaway of Team KTOC continued her dominance of that division with her beautiful kata. Madison Magnotta of Team Straight Up and Matthew Shamet of Team AmeriKick kept it traditional on the weapons side of the 14-17 age group as their respective bo routines won the overall grand championships. Extreme routines like the bo form of Benjamin "The Truth" Jones of Team Competitive Edge and the high-flying open form of Team AmeriKick's Shane Billow earned the respect of the crowd despite the judges going the other way.

Rodrigo Madrid Mason Stowell

Rodrigo Madrid (left) and Mason Stowell (right)

To wrap up the events of Saturday night with the youth divisions, it is evident that the future of sport karate is in good hands with so many talented young stars. The ultimate showman Michael Molina of Team Macho took the stage against Dax Howland of Team Competitive Edge and his insanely difficult bo routine. Molina powered his way to a win with a traditional bo form, his second overall grand championship in three events after winning with his extreme bo routine at the Battle of Atlanta. In 13 and under boys' forms, Judah Sagawa of Team Freestyle continued to make a name for himself by taking home the title. As for the girls, Sienna Chu was able to pull off an upset of Isabella Nicoli with her traditional form, but Nicoli came back strong in the weapons division to claim a win of her own with her extreme nunchaku routine.

Michael Molina

Michael Molina poses with his trophy and points to his respected competitor, Dax Howland

These competitors and more have now shifted their sights to Minneapolis, where they will gather on October 8th and 9th for the prestigious Diamond Nationals. The legendary diamond ring will be on the line and the results will weigh heavily in the next update of the Black Belt Magazine World Sport Karate Rankings. Stay tuned to BlackBeltMag.com for news and updates from the world of sport karate.

I recall Floyd Burk who is also a regular writer and contributor to Black Belt Magazine once asked for my input on article he had in the works entitled 'The Aging Martial Artist'.

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Because judo is so physical, many of the moves I can no longer do because of prior injuries and trying to avoid future ones, (after 60 it takes much longer to recover). So my role have gravitated towards being involved in running the judo organizations, promoting large events, refereeing, developing future leaders, as well as providing wisdom that comes with age and experience.

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