Jackson's Five: The Compete Internationals

Sara Campbell
Photo Courtesy: SportMartialArts.com

The 2022 Compete International Martial Arts Championships have come to a close. The Jahanvash family promoted another excellent event and high-level sport karate talent from across the western hemisphere was on display. It was an honor to be there commentating the event, and as I always do after large tournaments it is time for another countdown of my top five favorite moments from the weekend. This is Jackson’s Five for the Compete Internationals.

5. Gabrielle Dunn vs Haley Glass

Gabrielle Dunn Haley Glass

Photo Courtesy: Haley and Gabrielle via Facebook

As Mallory Woods and I pointed out during the livestream, this is a difficult division for me to watch as my fiancée, Gabrielle Dunn, takes on my teammate, Haley Glass. Gabrielle dominated the traditional divisions winning traditional challenge, Japanese forms, and Korean forms, while Haley tore through the creative, musical, and extreme forms divisions. Watching these two masters of their craft go at it is special. It highlights the necessity for separation in the women’s traditional and CMX divisions, which is already done on the men’s side, as both of them should be recognized as champions. Haley nailed a solid routine complete with her signature power and speed to earn the win as Gabrielle put up a valiant performance with her ace kata Papuren, which has earned her a place in the finals numerous times. These two ladies, as well as the pending addition of a healthy Sammy Smith, make women’s forms one of the most exciting divisions on the NASKA world tour.

4. Comeback Cassandra

Cassandra De La Barrera

Photo Courtesy: Cassandra De La Barrera via Facebook

Team Legend’s Cassandra De La Barrera was faced with a tall task (literally) when she found herself in a 6-0 hole against defending Compete Internationals champion and renowned kicker Drew Beatty going into the second round. Beatty landed three kicks in the first round to take a commanding lead in the women’s overall fighting grand championship, and she seemed to be in total control. However, Barrera adjusted her strategy and spacing in the second half, landing a combination of kicks and punches on multiple clashes to come roaring back on an 8-0 run. New to the adult division, Barrera was overcome with emotion as time expired, completing the incredible comeback and winning the match 8-6.

3. Triple Doubles

Shane Billow Isabella Nicoli

Photo Courtesy: Shane and Isabella via Facebook

Most sports fans know what a triple double in basketball is, but sport karate saw two different kinds triple doubles this past weekend. Isabella Nicoli and Shane Billow each won three divisional grand championships (triple) en route to win two overall grand championships (double) in the nighttime finals. The accomplishment is a true sign of dominance and versatility, as these competitors had to be equally skilled in traditional and CMX weapons and forms to pull off such a feat. Nicoli won both of the 13 and under girls’ forms runoffs, as well as the CMX weapons runoff, then finished the job on stage with both overalls. Billow won both of the 14-17 boys’ forms runoffs, in addition to the traditional weapons runoffs before he finished the near-perfect weekend with two overalls. This is a rare achievement, and to see it happen twice at the same event is a one-of-a-kind moment.

2. The Iceman

Jack Felton

Photo Courtesy: Jack Felton via Facebook

Speaking of one-of-a-kind, there is truly no one like Jake Felton. The Black Belt Hall of Famer is widely regarded as one of the best lightweight point fighters ever, and the 36-year-old essentially breezed through the competition all weekend. I found myself standing by the ring to watch The Iceman take on a competitor that he substantially outclassed, just to appreciate the opportunity to watch a master at work. He was in control of every match he fought, winning the open weight title after his teammate and heavyweight overall winner Kevin Walker bowed out to him, then winning the team fighting division alongside Walker and Paolo Serafico, and finally defeating Serafico for the lighweight grand championship. He did all this with his trademark cool demeanor that earned him his nickname, and reminded everyone why he is one of the greatest to ever do it.

1. Sara Campbell

Sara Campbell

Photo Courtesy: Century Martial Arts

Winning your first overall grand championship is a big deal, but few have done it in as impressive fashion as Team AKA’s Sara Campbell. In a situation in which she could have been conservative and potentially still taken the win, she threw all of her most difficult tricks. She landed a 900 (two spins of the body before catching the bo behind the back) in her opening section, nailed a blind release in the middle of the routine, and closed it out with a risky release that she popped high into the air off her elbow, executed smoothly. You can count on two hands the number of female competitors who have ever landed a 900 in professional competition, let alone in the adult division for an overall grand championship. She backed up her tricks with solid striking and stances, leading her to a unanimous victory. As someone who coaches Sara and always valued the importance of putting on a show for the crowd when I was on stage, I could not be more proud of her. She brought the house down, and brought us the best moment at the 2022 Compete Internationals.

Stay tuned for updates to the Black Belt Magazine Rankings after the committee has time to review the results of this event, and look out for the next Jackson’s Five article coming after the Ocean State Grand Nationals in April!

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