Cowboy Up: An Event Full of Firsts

Cowboy Up Karate
Photo Courtesy: SportMartialArts.com

Cowboy Up Martial Arts Championships has been a rapidly-growing event over the last several years and earned the opportunity to make a debut on the North American Sport Karate Association World Tour this season thanks to the hard work of promotors Nick Smith, Woody Thompson, and the Haggard family. I was unfortunately not able to make it down to New Braunfels, Texas for the event, but it is always a big deal when a new tournament is introduced to the NASKA World Tour and I wanted to highlight some of the other amazing “firsts” that I heard about from last weekend. I apologize in advance if there are any omissions, as this is based on reports from my sources and what I was able to gather from the Saturday night finals stream by SportMartialArts.com.

I’ll begin with what may have been the most significant “first” of them all. Sofia Rodriguez Florez of Team Infinity either did something that has never been done before, or at the very least has not been accomplished in a long, long time. She won a total of SEVEN grand championships as an individual on the weekend, and eight if you count the team synchronized win alongside her brother Diego! The renowned traditionalist swept the forms and weapons divisions, winning the divisional grand championship or “runoff” for the 14-17 girls’ traditional forms, traditional weapons, CMX forms, and CMX weapons (CMX = creative/musical/extreme). These wins automatically granted her two overall grand championships for forms and weapons as she had already eliminated her competition. The seventh grand championship, and maybe the most impressive because of the versatility required to achieve this, was in the point fighting division! She was able to pull off the forms, weapons, and fighting trifecta that was heavily sought after in the early days of sport karate when those were the only three divisions. To do that across all your divisions in the modern era of specialization is a truly astounding accomplishment.

Remember how one of those big wins I listed for Sofia was in the synchronized division? Well, the competitors that she and her brother faced for the overall synchronized title were some first-timers on stage as a team! Judah Sagawa, no stranger to the stage with his phenomenal extreme forms and sword performances for Team Freestyle, took the stage with teammate Christian Quinlan as the winners of the weapons synchronized division with the bo. This was an excellent opportunity for Christian to display his skills in front of a NASKA night show crowd, as he has been improving a great deal as an individual competitor recently. Judah also had the opportunity to show off his range by performing with a bo when we normally see him on stage for the sword.

Team Freestyle didn’t stop there, as Coach Will Jackson has a deep roster full of dangerous competitors. Abigail Hunck made her first appearance on a NASKA world tour stage as the winner of the 13 and under girls’ CMX forms divisional grand championship. She would take on Riley Claire Carlisle of Team Competitive Edge, who won three divisional grands. “RC” used her traditional form to take the overall forms grand championship title, and she won both CMX and traditional weapons grand championships to automatically win that overall too! She didn’t just win her first career overall, she won two of them on the same night!

From the little ladies to the adult women, both the women’s forms and weapons overall grand champions were first-time winners. Kaelyn Kowalski, who made her presence known in the traditional forms division last year at the U.S. Open by qualifying for the Night of Champions, secured the overall grand championship in the Lone Star State for her first forms title. Her Team Revolution teammate Melina Pecci won her first career overall grand championship in women’s weapons with a strong sword form.

Keeping things in the adult division, let’s pivot to the men. New faces crowded the stage in these divisions. Samuel Brumme, sponsored by 10th Degree Weaponry, was on stage twice in his debut on the NASKA world stage, for both traditional and CMX weapons. Brennan Green of Team Revolution also catapulted himself to the night show in two events, both CMX forms and weapons. When the dust settled, two new winners would be crowned among the overall grands. One of them was Leo Gamboa of Team AKA who took home the CMX weapons overall grand championship. The other was Diego Rodriguez Florez, who must have been inspired by his sister’s heroic efforts and tried to collect as many grand championships as he could. He used his trademark traditional kata skills to win the CMX forms title, but that’s par for the course for him. What was new was his win in the traditional weapons overall grand championship, where his sword helped him slice his way to victory.

As we round up this rodeo of firsts at Cowboy Up, we can’t talk about a tournament in Texas without saying who threw down in the men’s fighting grand championships. Both of these champions were, to my knowledge, first-time winners on the NASKA world tour. Malik Green of South Carolina went home with the heavyweight crown. Tyce Talbott, in my opinion one of the most underrated fighters on the circuit, won the lightweight grand championship AND grabbed the Open Weight title while he was at it. Not only did Tyce add two new lines to his résumé, he also had the opportunity to face the heavyweight champ Malik Green in an exhibition fight during the finals and came out on top of that matchup. With Raymond Daniels by his side and the All Stars on his back, look out for Tyce Talbott to make waves at other NASKA events this season.

That’s all I’ve got for Cowboy Up, and I hope this is an event that I am able to make it out to in the coming years. Stay tuned to Black Belt Magazine and my personal social media outlets for all the latest news and updates from the world of sport karate. Next up, the Ocean State Grand Nationals!

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