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.

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First off let me start with what an honor it is to be able to share my opinions and experiences for such a prestigious magazine such as Black Belt.

I wanted to take a minute to officially introduce myself to those of you that are the readers. My name is David Clifton and I have been involved in martial arts for over 35 years. I have owned and operated American Sport Karate Centers in Kansas City for 25 years now and we have competed on many of the sport karate circuits both nationally and internationally for many of those years.

The main goal of these articles (Clifton's Corner) will be to try to relay my opinion and experiences not only from a sport karate official's side of things but also from a school owner, coach, and promoter's side. I expect these articles to invoke discussion among martial artists that helps raise the level of professionalism in our industry. As with any discussion, I am always open to differing opinions and don't expect everyone to agree with everything I say or have an opinion on. My opinions, both right and wrong, are based on my experiences in the industry over many decades. I hope that you the reader find the articles thought provoking and help bring us all closer together as martial artists in the industry. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if you have suggestions for future topics you would like to see discussed at

Keep reading for David Clifton's first Black Belt article - It's Official.

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Jessie Wray brought back the Virtual Fight Tour for a seventh promotion, complete with a competitive lineup of point fighting matches.

Virtual Fight Tour VII was headlined by a team fight between the rising superstars of Team Next Level and Team All Stars, but that was far from the only excitement in the sport karate promotion hosted by Uventex TV. The card also had an heavily anticipated matchup between nationally-known fighters Chance Turner and Anthony Merricks in the Co-Main Event, and several other well-contested bouts throughout the card. There was also a pair of special performances by forms and weapons world champions Julia Plawker and Shaquan Parson, who both represent Team Next Level and put on a great show. Keep reading for complete results and analysis for every clash at Virtual Fight Tour VII!

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A Champion's Push for Equality and Opportunity & the Female Athletes Fund

Why do women competitors earn less grand champion money than men?

Maggie Messina often asked herself this question as she competed in the 80's and 90's, her division squished into the gym corner between the bleachers and bathroom. Women pay the same registration fee to compete and sacrifice the same amount of time and sweat during training. And yet, they don't garner the same respect as the male competitors who are honored to compete on the center stage, elevated above their female counterparts by cash winnings that offer twice as much reward for their hard work.

Messina went on to win several world championships across multiple sport karate circuits (including KRANE, WKC, ISKA, NASKA...) but put her competition life on hold when she opened Taecole Taekwondo in Albertson, New York. After establishing Taecole in her community, Messina returned to national and international sport karate competitions in 2014 as a competitor herself and to coach her own student athletes.

Society's attitude toward women has come a long way since the 90's, and Messina was shocked to see inequitable practices that were still held up in sport karate events. The most glaring issue being that female competitors often earn less than half of what male competitors earn as a grand champion. Every competitor participating in an event should be valued equally, and it is the responsibility of event coordinators to make them feel special and important no matter their differences. This just didn't seem to be happening yet.

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