March 26, 2006 – Children as young as 4 years old fired off kicks, punches and jabs at the first Battle at the Beach International Open Martial Arts Tournament held Saturday at Good Hope School gym.
The littlest fighters looked adorable in their pint-sized gee's, protective headgear and gloves, but when the sparring began, it was a different story. Sweet faces turned into grizzly masks with determination stamped on their foreheads.
The scene was repeated throughout the day as youths up to age 16 showed off their martial arts prowess to the delights of their parents who packed the gym.
"Everything is going well," said Fermin Rodriquez, sensei and tournament organizer. "We have more then 100 persons competing."
Rows of trophies, to be awarded Sunday, were displayed on stage. Rodriquez said more then 300 trophies will be awarded in four divisions.
Tournament chairperson, Master Sensei Terrence Nelson, kept the competition running smoothly all day.
The event is sponsored by King Cobra Tae Kwon Do and Positive Works Inc. Organizers hope the event will be an annual one.
Rodriquez said the purpose of the tournament is to heighten awareness of martial arts in the territory and to connect with martial artists in the Caribbean and stateside.
Master Joseph Leonard from the Shotokan Karate School on St. Thomas came to the tournament with 25 students, parents and instructors. Leonard said his school, which is located in the Methodist and Lutheran churches, has competed on St. Croix before.
Jose Amador and a team of three other martial artists came from the United States National Tae Kwon Do Federation in Puerto Rico. They performed a Korean style demonstration with bamboo swords.
Martial artists from Alabama, North Carolina, Santo Domingo and Tortola, are also participating, Rodriquez said.
Local schools participating include St. Croix Martial Arts, Blue Knights Martial Arts Academy, King Cobra Tae Kwon Do, Guardian Tae Kwon Do, Harborview Tae Kwon Do, Jiyukido Martial Arts Federation, Ja Go Ju Jitsu and Purple Dragon.
Competition results are tracked by an electronic scoring system operated by Bill Zafiropoulos of Puerto Rico. The system allows for immediate scoring, and parents and coaches can keep up with the results, Zafiropoulos said.
Black belts will spar Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The grand prize is a 6-foot trophy and $1,000 for the first place man and woman.
Trophies will be awarded for forms, sparring, weapons and board breaking.
Closing ceremonies are from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. If you paid on Saturday, you can get in free Sunday.
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