(Denver, CO) – The 2015 White Tiger Championships was held at Metro State University of Denver on March 21-22, 2015 by the Korean Academy of Taekwondo. The event featured over 300 athletes from 39 schools and programs. Students earned magnetic “DO” medals that connect with the “KWON” medals from the Twin Dragons Tournament (2013/2016) and the “TAE” medals from the Lone Wolf Classic (2014/2017).
The event started Saturday afternoon with forms. In the Men’s black belt division, top honors were won by Chris Endo (Victory TKD), while second place went to Joshua Sallee (ALL TKD) and bronzes were picked up by Kyle Landon (KAT – Lakai) and Han Lang (DU Taekwondo). In the Women’s black belt division Alyssa Allen (ALL TKD) took home gold with Gail Westmoreland (APEX TKD) taking silver. Bronzes were won by Monica Ryu (KAT – Aurora) and Emma Hatfield (UNC Taekwondo).
The breaking divisions were especially large and competitive. Generally in breaking competitors are either power breakers or technique breakers, but in the Men’s black belt division, both Master RJ “Taz” Tomas (KAT – Aurora) and Genewoo “Woo-Ninja” Sohn (Park’s TKD) showed an uncanny combination of the two. Tomas ended up in first after breaking several boards with a hammerfist while holding a raw egg (which he later opened and drank), breaking with a high flash kick, and powering through multiple boards with spearfingers. Sohn ended up second after breaking four large boards, 4 demo boards with high level spins, and 2 bricks. Bronzes were won by Jonathan Robinson (ALL TKD) and Laron Younger (KAT – LaKai) who finished an impressive routine with a breakdancing ‘robot’ break.
During breaking there were also a variety of team forms in the center ring, Totem Forms (Piggyback where one person does the stances and one the hand techniques), traditional pairs forms, and family forms. In a move sure to please fans of the dark side, ALL’s Team Sith edged out Team Jedi in the Musical Kids division.
Blaster Pad Sparring was as always, fun and intense. Master Katie Pottle remarked. “One of the most spectacular divisions was the girls 35-40 lbs blaster sparring division. I fully realize how ridiculous that last sentence sounds according to conventional martial arts wisdom. However, we also know that true “DO” can sometimes be found in unconventional places. The gold medalist, Daisy Walsh, lost her first match. She had to fight her way through the losers bracket, eventually needing EIGHT exhausting matches.” Daisy had just defeated a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer, which has surely given an immense reservoir of strength locked in a 37 lb body.
In the adult black belt Weapons division, Jonathan Robinson (ALL TKD) took first with some impressive bo staff skills, while Genewoo ‘Woo-Ninja” Sohn (Park’s TKD) received silver for his sword. This left last year’s champion and Indiana Jones look-alike Zak ‘The Professor’ Kirk (KAT – Metro) to settle for third with his double whip form.
Junk Weapons was again a hit, with a record 35 competitors. This year teams could pick either a dishrag, comb, or magazine, as well as whatever came out of the ‘grab bag.’ In the black belts division Brandon and Ryan Glaze (ALL TKD) took home gold with Christopher, Jonathan and Ian’s team (ALL TKD) taking silver. Ann and John Lynn (Left Foot Taekwondo) and Leroy Young (KAT – Lakai) and Darius ‘The Emperor’ Ray (KAT – Metro) ending up with the bronzes.
The demo team division was phenomenal, and prior to competition Congressman Mike Coffman came to address the crowd. Congressman Coffman has become a genuine friend to the martial arts community, attending several events in the last year and building real relationships with instructors and students. As a former Marine the congressman had no trouble shattering a board, which he signed and dedicated to Daisy. Master Barb Kunkel (ALL TKD), a US Olympian who was herself coming off a successful fight against cancer, gave Daisy a chocolate bunny and dedicated their team’s performance to everyone fighting the disease. All three demo teams turned in powerful, technically strong performances, yet ALL TKD’s routine was on another level. The mix of phenomenal choreography, exacting synchronization, and high level tricking looks nearly unbeatable. The team has previously taken silver and bronze at the World Hanmadang in Korea, and there is a general sense that this year they have their strongest chance for gold. United Martial Arts Centers took home the third place trophy while Family Martial Arts took home the 2nd place trophy. It was great to have the Family Martial Arts team back in competition – they had previously won the first demo team competition at Metro back in 2004. The demo teams were truly each other’s biggest fans, and there are few sports where opposing teams would cheer for each other so openly and wholeheartedly. This is just one of the things that makes martial arts so truly special.
The last event of Saturday night was the crowd-pleasing Trick Kick Battle, and again the level was raised significantly over previous years. In the teen’s division, John-John Tomas (KAT – Aurora) btwisted and cart-fulled his way to gold, with Josh Taniguchi (ALL TKD) and Mattthew Doyon (ALL TKD) taking silver and bronze respectively. In the adults division Master RJ ‘Taz’ Tomas (KAT – Aurora) showed amazing power and speed, back flipping from sitting to splits among other things. Kyle ‘Peaceful Thunder’ Landon (KAT – LaKai) was just 0.3 points behind, and used the adrenaline to be able to complete some new moves for the first time. Genewoo ‘Woo Ninja” Sohn (Park’s TKD) came in third followed by Chris Garcia (ALL TKD). The crowd went wild when 39 year old 290 lb Laron Younger (KAT – LaKai) landed a roundoff- backflip early in the competition.
Sunday morning saw the sport combat events. Splitting the tournament into two days was a welcome relief to many parents and students, especially the sparring competitors who didn’t have to wait around all day for their matches. As with Saturday’s events, the level of sparring was higher than in previous years. This year both red and black belts used the Daedo system, while blue and below used ringmaster. This provided a good balance of cost/experience for everyone.
In the Men’s Black Belt Lightweight division, Cole Broche (Elite Performance Taekwondo) turned in a dominant display of skill winning the gold over Jaire Fortt (KAT – Aurora). In the Middleweight division, Sir Salonis (KAT – Storm) similarly claimed gold over Alex Meier (Song’s Elite) who had to settle for silver. In the Ultra Welterweight division Daniel McCallum (Shin’s Academy) showed great skill in defeating Leroy Young (KAT – LaKai) and in the Ultra Heavyweight division Evan Wainwright (Song’s Elite) edged out Laron Younger (KAT – LaKai) for the gold.
Women’s black belt sparring had only one division, but it was a great one, unfortunately marred by injury. Eva Luevano (Luevano’s Taekwondo) looked great and seemed destined for gold after she took a 7-4 lead over Stephanie Linsley (Kim and Cam’s Taekwondo) with a lightning fast triple kick to the body in the second round of the semi-finals, but the technique was so powerful it aggravated a knee injury and she had to withdraw. Linsley went on to defeat Jenny Kim (KAT – CU Denver) in the finals, in a match where Kim scored 11 body shots but Linsley dominated in the head shots department. Ashley Amaro (Song’s Elite) earned the other bronze medal.
The grappling competition was once again fantastic. In the key lightweight division Fernando Rodriguez (KAT – Aurora) defeated Josh Ornelas (Compassion Road Academy) in the finals to earn gold. One of the best matches of the day was the semi-final between Rodriguez and Mason Czerpak (World Class Boxing and Martial Arts). Czerpak was fresh as he had won his first match by guillotine choke in just 11 seconds. Rodriguez’s guard was hard to pass, but Czerpak still had the edge after the first round by a score of 10-5. However, Rodriguez executed a beautiful and patient triangle choke in the second round for the victory. The other bronze was claimed by Billy Santisteven (Compassion Road Academy). The middlewieght division came down to Sir Salonis (KAT – Storm) and Brendan Croft (The Rock) for the third time in as many years. Salonis had taken the title in 2013 and Croft had taken it back in 2014. This time Salonis looked strong throughout, securing a back mount and back choke that Croft managed to fight out of. Salonis went for omaplata and when Croft defended by arching Salonis expertly switched to a triangle choke to finish the match. Bronzes went to Andrew Lopez (KAT – Metro) and Kyle ‘Peaceful Thunder’ Landon (KAT – LaKai). In the heavyweight division Santa Cruz Sotero (MayTec Fighting Systems) defeated Jerry Rivera (WCBMA) by arm bar. In the top women’s division Katie Hunter (KAT – LaKai) tapped out to Christina Trjillo (WCBMA) after an exciting couple of minutes.
The finals for the Colorado Elementary School League Championships was close again this year, with Crescent View Academy edging out Aurora Quest K8 21 to 20. However, the battle was anti-climactic given CVA’s nearly insurmountable lead from the fall championships. Global Village Academy finished the season in third with Merrill Middle School in 4th and Omar D Blair in 5th.
All in all it was a great event, one of the most organized, relaxing, and high level events ever in Colorado. Although only the adult black belt results are reported here, there were many epic battles among the teens, kids, and color belts as well. Legacies were claimed, tri-medals were completed, and self-doubts and fears were overcome by many.
This year several businesses offered to ‘unlock’ special discounts to anyone who won a medal. The discounts are good only until Sunday March 29th.
KAT would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to all the competitors, volunteers, and referees who made the event possible. Special thanks goes to Master Bob McKenna, who flew in from California and to our Tournament Committee Members, especially Chris and Lexi Brown (Awards), Dean Leverett (Sales Table) and Christina Seraile (Registration).
Please post pictures and videos (public) in the Official Facebook Event. See you all at the 2016 Twin Dragons Tournament!