Ready for it? This is a long one.
This past weekend was the U.S. Open. It’s an event that many martial artists, including me, prepare for all year. Last year it went…ok. It wasn’t great – it wasn’t bad. It was just an experience that gave me material to write a few a few blog posts about (check them out here and here), but it also taught me a whole lot. However, on top of that, there have been a lot of changes since that last year.
First, I have been training with Sensei Sharkey for the last 6 months or so and, other than pesky torn hamstrings getting in the way, I’ve been able to work pretty hard while I’m there and learn a ton.
Before I go too much further, I should provide a quick breakdown on what NASKA is and how the competition works.
NASKA is the North American Sport Karate Association. It’s one of the biggest circuits in the U.S. (that I’m aware of) and it attracts some top notch competition. Some of the very best martial artists in the world compete on the circuit and it’s always an honor and a privilege to work alongside them.
There is some heated debate about the extremes that the competition will go to in regards to what qualifies as martial arts, and where is the line drawn between that and acrobatics. Or, what constitutes a “traditional” form? These are hot button topics and not ones I’m interested in explaining now. If you’re super curious/ burning with the rage of a thousand suns at something I said, shoot me an email or something.
Each tournament is ranked 1-A to 6-A and the number of points awarded for a win depends on the placing attained (1st-8th) and the ranking of the event. As you accumulate points throughout the year at different events, they add up and there is an overall ranking at the end of the year for 1st -10th place.
Alright, that’s done. So here’s why we need to care.
I started competing on the circuit last year, and I was able to break the top 10 for Korean form and I barely squeaked by with another division. It was great for the first time out, but not quite where I wanted to be (top 5).
This year started out a little rough. My first event was the AKA Warrior Cup in Chicago and while I’d been working hard and training quite a bit with Sensei Sharkey and on my own, I didn’t do as well as I had hoped it would. As in, I didn’t place. There were a variety of reasons for this, and I talked about it here. But it made me go back to the drawing board and try to figure out what the hell was going on.
Along with everything else going on, I also traveled and competed at local tourneys, tinkering and playing with timing, speed, and a dozen other things. Then, it was time for AmeriKick in Philadelphia. There I performed better – much better. And now, after the U.S. Open, things are feeling good and I believe I’m even improving in a few areas.
The U.S. Open is where the absolute best come to showcase what they’ve got, and by placing in the top 8 (5th in weapons, 8th in Japanese), it reaffirms that the work is good, and I need to just stay the course, and keep on pushing as hard as I can. There’s also a whole mental game I’m just starting to appreciate. More on that later. (Assuming I figure it out. Otherwise, I just lied to the internet. Whatever shall I do?!)
A major piece of the weekend was one of my students coming to this event. She had never been to the U.S. Open and has been slowly, and steadily, working on her skills and improving at every competition for the last few years. This was her largest event, and she handled it with grace and her trademark sense of aplomb. It was a fantastic thing to be a part of, and I couldn’t be prouder to call her my student. Plus, her family came and we all had a lot of fun together!
Another piece was Sport Martial Arts. This is one of their biggest events of the year, and they work with ESPN at the same time. So, we all pretended to be high rollers for the weekend.
That was kind of crazy and awesome. And, of course. If I looked the other way I had this view.
So I live-streamed, took photos with a multitude of devices and took notes on the event for the article I’ll be writing soon. Once I figure out what I’m gonna call it. I also had more responsibility and more fun with the crew than I had in previous events. It’s all starting to click a bit, and it’s a great feeling to be a part of something that is starting to pick up steam and momentum.
This was just a little bit of the weekend. It was essentially a recap of 5 minutes of competing and a bird’s eye view of my job. There was so much more, and so many more people I ran into than I can possibly fit into this post. It would take me another 1000 words full of names and achievements. Sort of like Game of Thrones (…George McKicky Pants, First of His Name! Winner of the Goblet of Spin Kicks). It would be long and not that interesting to anyone. So I’ll ponder and throw it in another post with more of the general shenanigans that happened behind the scenes.
Until next time!