Diamond Nationals Karate
Photo Courtesy: Dawson Holt via Instagram

The 2021 Diamond Nationals took place on October 8th and 9th, the first time the prestigious event has been hosted since 2019. World class competitors gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota to test their skills in forms, weapons, point sparring, and more.

In the early 2010's, Ken Warner (otherwise known as ZenInc on YouTube) always shared his "Top Five" on Facebook after major sport karate events. Reflecting on these posts has inspired me to write a top five article of my own for the Diamond Nationals, and I plan to continue writing these articles after each tournament I attend. Special thanks to Ken Warner for his contributions to documenting sport karate history. Without further ado, here is Jackson's Five for the Diamond Nationals.

5. Seniors in the Spotlight

Becca Ross-Leiker

Photo Courtesy: Becca Leiker via Facebook

Senior competitors have been fighting for more recognition in recent years and all of that hard work is finally paying off. The Diamond Nationals introduced the Diamond Ring title for the 30+ age division back in 2010, with Eric Tremblay of Canada becoming the inaugural forms and weapons winner. The 2021 finals for this division featured the bo form of Top Ten Team USA's Becca Ross-Leiker, who has one of the most decorated résumés of any female competitor in history, against the traditional kata of Team KTOC's Samuel Diaz III. Ross-Leiker would win the contest by unanimous decision, becoming the first competitor to win a Diamond Ring in the junior, adult, and senior divisions. Diaz represented the senior competitors well too, not only by making it to the senior Diamond Ring final, but also winning the men's bladed traditional weapons division against the younger athletes with his powerful kama routine.

4. Junior Point Fighting on Stage

Mason Bumba

Photo Courtesy: Mason Bumba via Instagram

Much like the senior competitors, the junior point fighters have been lobbying for more recognition in recent years as well. These combined efforts are why Black Belt Magazine now features both senior divisions and junior point fighting in their official sport karate rankings. It was a breath of fresh air to see both the male and female 14-15 age groups have their grand championships featured on stage. The boys' match saw Mason Bumba of Top Ten Team USA use his speedy movement to evade the attacks of Team Next Level's Jeremiah Alvarez and earn a 3-1 victory. Lady warriors Alexi Jimenez of Team Legend and Callie Garrett of Team Dojo Elite also had a showdown, in which Jimenez was able to get the win by a score of 5-2. Featuring these young athletes on stage more often will give spectators and coaches alike an opportunity to see the talent that is headed to the adult division in the coming years on display.

3. The Future of Men's Weapons

Dawson Holt

Photo Courtesy: Dawson Holt via Instagram

Speaking of talent coming to the adult division, the future of the men's weapons category is in good hands. The talent in the 14-17 boys' division is incredibly deep thanks to the likes of Mason Bumba, Esteban Tremblay, Phillip Brumme, Riley Tracy, and company, but here I will focus on the two that made it to the finals at The Diamonds: Ben Jones and Dawson Holt of Team Competitive Edge. Ben "The Truth" Jones is one of the most innovative bo competitors on the circuit today. Opening his form with a spinning release catch that lands immediately in striking position, and ending with his own signature take on one of my tricks (my finger spin fashioned into what he calls The Ben Spin), his routine has excitement from start to finish. Jones suffered a drop at the end of his performance on stage, which allowed his teammate Dawson "Mr. Clean" Holt to have an uncontested victory. Holt, in my opinion, is the cleanest single sword competitor we have seen since 4x Diamond Ring winner Kalman Csoka. Whether it is traditional or creative/musical/extreme, you can be confident that Dawson Holt will put on a clinic of solid stances and clean cuts. This duo and their peers will dominate the men's weapons division for years to come.

2. Men's Weapons

Alex Mancillas

Photo Courtesy: Alex Mancillas via Instagram

The discussion of up-and-comers moving towards the adult division makes the perfect segue for the current men's weapons division, which made for a thriller that Saturday night. Donis Coronel sent his whip chain flying off stage to take himself out of the running, and Alex Riggs dropped a kama in the midst of an excellent routine to be disqualified as well. However, the rest of the division did not disappoint. The kama forms of Team Paul Mitchell's Alex Mancillas and Team Infinity's Connor Chasteen would partake in an epic war with the double bo routine of Rashad Eugene. Mancillas kicked the division off with a high-flying form reminiscent of Tyler Weaver, and he added a wide variety of releases using both kama at the same time. Chasteen would follow with an expert-level form of his own, jam-packed with difficult releases and manipulations. Eugene closed out the division with his signature charisma, even yelling "LET'S GO" towards the back of the stage before his routine began. He landed his double bo form, but had to chase down a couple of his releases that could have been the difference in this incredibly close division. When the dust settled, Alex Mancillas would help Team Paul Mitchell go five-for-five on Diamond Rings for the evening and win by one one-hundredth of a point.

1. Megafights

Avery Plowden Bailey Murphy

Photo Courtesy: Century Martial Arts (left) & Point Fighter Live (right)

Despite all the incredible action mentioned prior, there were two undeniable "mega-fights" that sport karate fans got to enjoy at Diamonds. The first was Team Impex's Morgan Plowden versus Team Dojo Elite's hometown hero Ki'Tana Everett, a rematch of the open weight final from the day before which Everett won by a score of 6-3. These women are unquestionably the top two female fighters in the United States and their matchup in the finals was sure to be a clash of titans. Both combatants had their moments in the first round and the Minnesota crowd heavily supported Everett, but in the second round the crowd would be silenced as Plowden pulled away and let out a victory yell as time expired with her in the lead 9-4.

The other megafight was the highly-anticipated matchup between current lightweight king Bailey Murphy of Team Straight Up and heavyweight leviathan Richard Avery Plowden of Team Impex in the special Last Man Standing division courtesy of Jessie Wray's Virtual Fight Tour. This was another rematch from open weight, where Murphy pulled out a 7-5 victory. It was evident that Plowden wanted revenge in the finals as he threw his patented reverse punch with power early and often. It was a thrilling back-and-forth fight as every time Plowden would land and score, Murphy would recover and score with his incredible movement and speed. The three-minute match would go to sudden-death overtime where the fighters clashed time and time again, and the win easily could have gone to either side depending on the judges' calls. In the end, Murphy Mania continued as "B-Reel" scored the final point to end what will go down as the fight of the year in all likelihood. Rest assured, I have a feeling this is not the last time we will see Bailey Murphy and Avery Plowden duke it out.

That will do it for the first installment of Jackson's Five. Join the conversation on social media and let us know what your favorite moments from the Diamond Nationals were, making sure to tag Black Belt Magazine and myself. Stay tuned to BlackBeltMag.com for more news and updates from the world of sport karate.
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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.