The first installment of Jessie Wray's Virtual Forms Tour, a sister promotion to his Virtual Fight Tour, did not disappoint.
On Saturday night, sport karate history was made with a brand-new style of forms and weapons competition. Three Creative-Musical-Extreme (CMX ) divisions featured three competitors each for the junior boys', women's, and men's categories. The competitors performed one open forms routine and one weapons performance, which was scored by a panel of all-star judges using creativity, execution, and difficulty as the primary scoring criteria. There was also a traditional event in which two strong competitors faced off in a head-to-head showdown. Each competitor selected two forms prior to competition and a third form was selected randomly by Uventex software. All of these unique rules made for an action-packed evening of forms and weapons competition.
First up was the junior boys' division featuring Dawson Holt, Esteban Tremblay, and Ben Jones, who all represented Team Competitive Edge. The clash of teammates started off with a tight race as all three contenders hit strong open forms routines. Tremblay's performance began with a difficult full double-leg twist that helped him inch ahead going into the second round. Jones suffered a drop near the end of his bo performance that necessitated a two-point deduction that essentially took him out of the running. With the competition narrowed down to Holt and Tremblay, both athletes landed incredible routines but ultimately the difficulty of Tremblay's bo form with a triple spin catch and other advanced variations earned him the victory.
The traditional battle took place next as Shotokan stylist Ali Sofuoglu tested his skills against Mason Stowell, a member of Team Top Ten USA and Goju Ryu stylist. Sofuoglu started the competition with a shorter kata typical of the Shotokan style, and a very powerful performance from Stowell made it seem that he may have a chance to dethrone the #3 ranked competitor in the World Karate Federation. However, Sofuoglu heated up in the second round with a fast, herculean rendition of Unsu. This swung the momentum in his favor as the competitors advanced to the third and final round. Neither athlete wavered in terms of intensity or endurance, and the hard-fought battle resulted in a win for Sofuoglu.
The co-main event saw Team Infinity's Noell Jellison and Team AKA's Solange Olivier challenge the odds-on favorite Sammy Smith of Team Paul Mitchell. Smith, the #1 ranked contender in the Official Black Belt Magazine World Sport Karate Rankings in both women's weapons and CMX forms, performed an old school-inspired open forms routine in the first round that gave her the lead on the judges' scorecards. Jellison and Olivier both hit solid routines, but the creativity and power present in Smith's routine seemed to set her apart. Jellison and Olivier each stepped up the difficulty for the weapons round with a variety of bo and nunchaku releases, respectively. Smith answered the call with a nunchaku routine of her own that continued the old school theme by using the song "We Are The World" for choreography, reminiscent of the great Matt Emig. The speed and skill demonstrated in Smith's nunchaku routine secured her victory as she obtained the highest total score of the night by any CMX competitor.
Finally, the main event of the evening saw Shaquan Parson of Team Next Level, Rashad Eugene of Team DKS, and Connor Chasteen of Team Infinity slug it out for the men's title. Chasteen took the match on just five days notice, as previously-booked Allen Davies had to cancel due to his career as a Paramedic and working hours necessitated by COVID-19. Despite the short notice, Chasteen came out hot in the first round with an open form that demonstrated a wide variety of martial arts skills, from advanced tricking with a double full, to traditional karate kicking techniques, and even a blitz commonly seen in point fighting. Eugene's opening round did not disappoint either, as he lived up to his "Black Mamba" nickname with a lighting fast routine. Parson also began the competition in impressive fashion as his high flying tricks and strong techniques gave him a slight lead going into the weapons round. The lead was so slight, in fact, that the competitors in first and third place were only separated by two tenths of a point.
Parson kicked off the second round with a strong kama routine that put him in good position to maintain his lead. However, Chasteen blew the judges and commentators away with his kama routine. An onslaught of complex kama releases and clean cutting combinations earned the highest individual score of any competitor in the event, vaulting himself into first place. Eugene, known for his ability to use many different weapons, ultimately chose to do a bo form in an attempt to catch up to Chasteen. Despite great intensity, some under-extended strikes and stances would prevent Eugene from getting the scores he needed to close the gap. This meant that Chasteen would take an impressive win and claim the title in the Virtual Forms Tour's first-ever main event.
For more news and updates about the Virtual Forms Tour and other exciting sport karate promotions, stay tuned to BlackBeltMag.com.