For over four decades the Texas Amateur Organization of Karate has reigned as the longest and most prestigious sport martial arts organization in the US Southwest. There is an old saying in the martial arts that says “you’re only as good as your next victory.” That being said we all know the time and energy it takes to be a champion. Having a great organization who cares about its members and competitors is important. Many times over the years I have competed against the greatest champions of our time. An overwhelming number of those great champions were from the Texas AOK.
The People who have ran the Texas AOK for the last half century are dedicated to the best experience possible at the events and the state championships are the highlight of their effort. This year’s December 15th and 16th championships were put together by some of the greatest martial artists, grand masters and champions in Texas. The beautiful La Torretta Lake Resort at the Walden on Lake Conroe just north of The Woodlands Texas was the venue for this year’s AOK States. All the promoters and their staff filled the high rise hotel to the brim. The attendance at this year’s State Championships were massive with almost 700 competitors and as many spectators. They filled both the main and auxiliary ball rooms.
Friday night’s activities were divisions for specialty competition that included black belt adult specialty, kata and weapons with this year’s best champions vying for the titles and to receive the coveted Golden Greek awards. All the winners were given a collage of amazing awards that included special embroidered jackets, custom struck medallions and a beautiful case with the Texas flag.
Saturday was jam packed with so many people that the place was bulging with an army of kids and adults warming up and hustling to their rings. Luckily the La Torretta people had plenty of hot coffee and morning food. This was such an awesome morning with Christmas only a week away it gave a festive atmosphere that overshadowed the mood in the gallery area. I can only say it was special for many including myself. Saturday had the entire junior, adult and senior under black belt competitors battling for the 2017 state titles. Adult black belt sparring finalized the Saturday’s festivities with some big black belt fights captivating the spectators attention. Many memorable fights in the adult black belt divisions concluded with the final 2 fighters going the stage in the Saturday nighttime finals and banquet.
The awards banquet and the nighttime finals were held in the main ballroom. After a short prayer and Charles Shed singing the national anthem, a few words from AOK president, Barry Benton were given about the AOK. The activities then got under way. A Kata by Kelson Kidd (the future of the AOK) that was proceeded by thanks for the women and hardworking officials who kept the State Championships running on time and efficiently. The Golden Greek winners were recognized. Executive black belt Greek winners were Larry Fields and Karen Schroeder. Black belt adult winners were Charlston Green and Jenifer Olviarez with the Junior black belt winners being Samual Strong and Avery Tomaric. Jerson Kannady then ran an awesome Soft Style kata.
Black belt Executive men, senior executive men and women’s sparring were up next on the schedule. Alan Osher defeated Gary Bills in the black belt senior executive men’s sparring division. Quanna Macklin won over Kelly Schultz in Black belt women’s light weight sparring. Jennifer Olivarez and Tia Buras went at it in the black belt women’s fly weight with Tia narrowly beating Jennifer. Kelly Schults won the women’s light weight sparring division. Karen Schroeder was victorious over Regina Singelton in the women’s executive light weight sparring. Corrie Walker defeated Sallie Pannenbaker for the women’s executive fly weight state championships.
A break in the fighting was followed by a cool championship self-defense routine. Johnnie Murphy of texas-sport-karate.com magazine and Gary Lee of the Living Legends Museum and Kata Wars got up with Fred Simon in a special recognition for a lifetime of dedication to Texas Karate. Johnnie Murphy of Texas Sport Karate online Magazine gave Fred Simon a new formidable and beautiful walking cane, one that also had a full size sword hidden inside, just in case he needed to do some yard work cutting hedges and such… Lol. Fred then proceeded to serenade the banquet hall by singing a classic jazz musical piece accenting his old school jazz vocal prowess. This was followed up by a great black women’s Kata performed by state champion Kristin Difrancesco. Last up during the half time activities were more competition awards.
Larry Fields and the amazing Walter Bryant were in a real battle with Larry pulling out the stops in an attempt to overcome Walter but Walter’s lightning back fist and mobility pulled ahead. After a battle royal Walter became the men’s heavy weight executive state champion. Derick Wilson took out Troy Smith with his signature blitz style and won the senior men’s light weight state championship. Diamond Landry overcame Anthony Cornell in the black belt middle weight division. Anthony Allen used his usual methodical fighting skills in his victory over Chris Cassel.
Charlston Green was on a roll this weekend with another victory to add to his list of victories with his hard fought victory over Tyce Talbott in the men’s light weight division. Then men’s middle weight division ended in a surprising upset as David Chambers was overcome by Jiran Walker in one of the most exciting and memorable fights of the night. A fight that went back and forth with everything from jump spin kicks to lightning fast blitzes. In the end Jiran narrowly overcame David. The awesome Jersan Kannady was able to overcome Mark Holt in the men’s black belt heavy weight sparring with another action packed fight. Both men were showing world class sparring skills as the audience was energized with this captivating fight that ended with Jersan winning by 1 point in a 5 to 4 final.
World champion breaker Larry Fields pulled off and insane breaking routine as he broke everything from baseball bats to multiple boards and stacks of on fire bricks while rocking the audience to old school classic rock. Last was the instructor of the year award. This year’s 2017 State championships was one of the highest attended and best run in many years. The Producers and staff made every effort to accommodate everyone and the awards were exceptional. This was an amazing event that will go down as one of the AOK organizations best state championships yet.