Jon Valera was a pioneer of extreme martial arts and his competitive career would go down in history as one of the greatest of all time. He famously retired after winning both the forms and weapons overall grand championships at the prestigious Diamond Nationals in 1999, with a speech that tugged the heartstrings of everyone in the sport karate community.
Join Black Belt Magazine's 2019 Competitor of the Year to learn some tips and techniques that have helped her become one of the top kama competitors in the world. Keep reading to view the seminar for FREE!
- Jackson Rudolph & Mackensi Emory Live Seminar - Black Belt ... ›
- FightBack Live with Mackensi Emory - Black Belt Magazine ›
One of the top forms and weapons teams in sport karate deepens their roster with four new members.
Team Competitive Edge is the defending ISKA World Champion demonstration team that sits atop the Official Black Belt Magazine World Sport Karate Rankings. They are coached by world champions Jackson Rudolph, Reid Presley, and Cole Presley. The team added Ryan Clifford, Dax Howland, Anna Beth Hedgepeth, and Amy Williams in a press release Monday morning. Keep reading for the official statement from Team Competitive Edge.
"The Competitive Edge Competition Team has added four new members to the roster! The team and coaches are very excited about these talented new members and we are looking forward to seeing a return to in person events for the 2021 season."
Ryan has been training for 4 1/2 years and is moving up to the black belt division this year. His underbelt accomplishments include 2x NASKA National Champion, 2019 PROMAC 13 and Under Competitor of the Year, and 2x Underbelt Warrior Cup Champion. His older brother Brady, is a member of Competitive Edge and they have an established synchronized form. When he is not in his basement dojo training, Ryan enjoys playing piano, sketching, and outdoor activities.
Dax has been training for 7 years and will be a fresh face on the NASKA scene after having success on other circuits. Dax is a 6x World Champion and is developing quite a following on social media. When he is not showing off his multiple spin releases to his social media followers, Dax enjoys disc golf, hunting, fishing, and mentoring younger children.
Anna Beth Hedgepeth
Anna Beth has been training for 9 years and has been racking up wins on the PROMAC circuit and starting to get noticed on the NASKA circuit with many first place wins, earning spots on both NASKA World rankings and Black Belt Magazine's rankings. When Anna Beth takes a break from martial arts she enjoys hunting and going to the gym.
Amy is Competitive Edge's first senior member and has been training for 7 years. She holds a World Championship in Creative Weapons. Her daughter, Eden, has been a member of the team for two years and, in fact, all of her 6 children train in the martial arts. When Amy is not being a super-awesome ninja mom, she is an adoption advocate and enjoys cooking, gardening, and reading.
With the resurgence of The Karate Kid spin off of Cobra Kai, we are able to share not only the traditional values of Sport Karate competition but also how integral martial arts life skills have defined our societal culture for decades. We see the character development of past tournament champions who are high school has-beens that took separate paths in life however always kept the martial arts way close at heart. They do say, "It is better to be a has-been than a never-was". What we quickly learn through the series is that these has-beens had the opportunity to revive their competitive will through contributing and producing students to Black Belt.
During the 1990s, the competitive goal was the bragging rights of the 6-foot trophy. The 6-foot trophy quickly became the marketing driver to not only provide new enrollment but also maintain student retention. We chased 6-foot trophies like this generation chases rings and cups. Traveling city to city, each journey evolved our mindset and showcased our discipline simply through this 6-foot award.
As a child growing up in Sport Karate, we primarily trained with adults. The Lil' Dragons program was unheard of. We had to seek our Masters and ask for permission to be trained. We had multiple instructors who would eventually become our life coaches. The traditional PERFORMANCE training was intact, however the traditional philosophy for LONGEVITY was segmented based on style, creed, and experience. Many of the life skills we learned were based on futile traditions which at times did not translate well with the contemporary consumer. As youth, we did not react, we RESPONDED!
Jhoon Rhee Challenge 2015: Sport Karate Weapons, Forms, and Sparring Innovators with Ernie Reyes Jr.
Our identity as youth champions was based on what brand of tournament you competed at, who you competed against, and which promoters/judges were your allies. This in itself is controversial, however for the youth our focus was to build camaraderie through confidence, develop our new sport, and harness our future dreams. This was a marriage between tournament recognition and one's lifetime reward. At the time, many traditional schools frowned on the youth Sport Karate programs and certainly didn't recognize many of our youth Black Belts.
Loopkicks/XiaolinGruv 2005: Sport Karate Action Stunt, Freestyle Dance, and Tricking Performers
As we reflect, our youth Black Belts Matter. Our 1990s youth have contributed the most to date and have built the foundational platforms for the next generation to establish their future careers. Global influencers and corporate structures embrace the once Sport Karate Kid. Our Masters continue to guide us while grounding us with traditional values and fundamental basics they have instilled through patience.We have evolved from performers focused on our individual dreams to healers seeking longevity for our community. The Black Belt degrees no longer have to do with only physical curriculum and reproducing new Black Belts. It is about serving all through the martial arts way as beacons of Sport Karate historical and traditional values which may one day be extinct. This is why BLACK BELTS MATTER!!
Photo Credits: Genae Dixon and Nicholas Thompson
- The Sport Karate Kid - Black Belt Magazine ›
- The Sport Karate Kid: A Performer's Blueprint - Black Belt Magazine ›