Tiger Claw Elite: Grand Champions 2006
by Elly Duchamp
Champion. The word comes from the Latin word campus, a reference to the field of combat. A champion is a fighter or warrior who emerges victorious from the battlefield after defeating all opponents and obstacles. In 2006, Tiger Claw launched the Tiger Claw Elite Championships. It sprang from an unprecedented cooperative effort between Tiger Claw and Disney. American martial arts are inundated with different circuits and schools, each with its own rules, competitors and champions. The Tiger Claw Elite Championships (TCEC) aspires to create a level playing field where all these different athletes can compete against one another. Beginning at Disneyland? Resort in California, TCEC traversed the United States with ten qualifiers, concluding at Disney's Wide World of Sports? Complex in Florida. In that journey, TCEC crossed seven circuits: the Excel Karate League (EKL), the Gold Cup Circuit, the International Martial Arts Council (IMAC), Kids In Competition Karate (KICK/USA), the National Blackbelt League (NBL), the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) and the Sports Martial Arts Association (SMAA). From this expansive field of combat, the first TCEC champions emerged victorious.
So how do you cross circuits without blowing a fuse? Since every circuit has its own unique rule system, TCEC created a hybrid system that would not give any competitor an unfair advantage. This meant the addition of sixteen sparring divisions, thirty-six empty-hand form divisions and twenty-eight weapon divisions. That's a total of eighty divisions, enough for a mini-tournament. And that's just what it's like. TCEC qualifiers are like a tournament within a tournament. This can add a lot of chaos above and beyond what is normally encountered at any given tournament in America. Having to wait hours for a division and then being called to two rings simultaneously is an experience familiar to every champion. Given the volunteer-driven nature of American martial arts tournaments, a seasoned veteran of any circuit knows how to grin and bear it. Since TCEC creates divisions redundant to the tournament it is nested within, hardcore athletes can compete in the same event twice, once for the host tournament and again for the TCEC qualifier. True champions thrive on the chaos of combat. The TCEC competitors rose to meet the challenge with gusto, dashing from ring to ring, squeezing in as many events as possible. TCEC's first year certainly had its hiccups, but TCEC competitors faced each new challenge bravely and humbly as they boldly engaged this new concept in competition. Each TCEC champion bears their title with the satisfaction that they accomplished something completely unprecedented.
Some of the first TCEC Champions took a moment to reflect upon what their victory meant to them personally. We salute these athletes on their remarkable achievement, and we look forward to having more competitors add their names to the roster of TCEC champions in years to come.
MUSICAL YOUTH GRAND CHAMPION
Sammy Smith, Busto's Karate, Dix Hills, NY
Instructors: John Busto, Matt Emig, Daniel Sterling
I am very proud to be the first Tiger Claw Musical Grand Champion. The Tiger Claw Championship represents a new and exciting way of competing, as only the top two finishers from each tournament qualify. The Grand Championship really is the "best" competing against the "best" and a true test which results in ultimate satisfaction. As a nine-year-old black belt, I look forward to many more years of competing for the Grand Championship. I also enjoyed performing in the night-time show along with the other divisional champions. I hope that in the coming years, competitors will remember the first champions and will have been inspired by the high level of competition and the high standards we set.
FORMS JUNIOR GRAND CHAMPION
Monique Magallanes, O-Mei Kung Fu Academy, Milpitas, CA
Instructors: Sifu Yan-Fei and Sifu Hai Tao Zhao
Being the first Tiger Claw Elite Champion is a great honor for me. Tiger Claw provided an opportunity for us to test our skills against different styles in the martial arts. The incredible spirit and talent that Tiger Claw attracted for this tournament was amazing. By winning the Grand Championship and having my brother and sister win first place alongside of me is our way of saying "Thank You" to our parents, grandparents, and our many Sifus that have supported and believed in us.
Being an original Tiger Claw Elite Champion and making history has helped prove to me that I can accomplish anything.
WEAPON JUNIOR GRAND CHAMPION
Justin Lam, O-Mei Kung Fu Academy, Fremont, CA
Instructor: Sifu Sun Wenyuan
Being the first Tiger Claw Elite Champion means a lot to me. It feels so great to finally win. It felt like a dream comes true that I was recognized for my accomplishment. It was my first time winning. Throughout the years of competition, I lost a lot. Losing taught me to work harder, and I know I am getting closer to achieving my goal as I was moving up the rank. After every tournament, I would feel really down for accomplishing nothing, and that would drive me to train harder and harder. Finally all my hard work paid off. All thanks to my coach Master Sifu Wenyuan Sun. He kept on inspiring me with positive attitude. Most of all, believe in me that I have the potential. Without him, I don't think I would have gotten this far.
P.S. Also thanks to my parents for their support.
FORMS ADULT GRAND CHAMPION
WEAPON ADULT GRAND CHAMPION
Armando Anselmo, Champion Eyes Martial Arts Centers, Oceanside, CA
Instructor: Sensei Tadashi Yamashita
Having competed in numerous tournaments in both Mexico and throughout the United States, I have experienced various degrees of competition. Some of these tournaments were run very smoothly and efficiently, others not so. When I heard Tiger Claw was going to host this competition, I was excited. Tiger Claw has always run their business with professionalism and I knew the tournament would be same.
It was a great honor to be involved in such a quality production. Tiger Claw has set a new standard from which we all can benefit. The competitors represented the highest quality from around the world. I was very impressed and honored to meet such talented athletes. I train to always improve and strive to be the best. The challenge of competition is always of interest and Tiger Claw did not disappoint in attracting the world's finest. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to compete against such high caliber athletes and am greatly honored to be Tiger Claw's Elite Champion. Thank you Tiger Claw for hosting the world's best!
MUSICAL ADULT GRAND CHAMPION
Donald Kiolbassa, Extreme Kung Fu, Chicago, IL
Instructors: Tony Marquez, Tian Haihong
The Tiger Claw Elite Qualifiers and Championship was an amazing experience. Competing against some of the best martial artists in the country was truly a humbling experience. I feel that I "found" myself, because I pushed myself to my limits. The most memorable moment came after I won Grand Champion. I was presented my trophy on the Disney's Wide World of Sports website by none other than the great Master Dennis Brown. Dennis Brown is a legendary Wushu master, and also happens to be a master of Rope Dart. I was both honored and humbled to accept this trophy from him. I would like to tell him, "Thank You."
The 2006 TIGER CLAW ELITE CHAMPIONSHIPS QUALIFIERS
Disney's Martial Arts Festival Qualifier
Disneyland? Resort, Anaheim, CA ? January 6-7, 2006
Rocky Mountain National Challenge Open Championships
Ogden, Utah ? April 7-8, 2006
Santa Clara, CA ? May 5-6, 2006
Western Wyoming Championship
Green River, WY ? May 20, 2006
San Diego Grand International
San Diego, CA ? May 20-21, 2006
Long Beach Karate Internationals
Long Beach, CA ? July 28-30, 2006
US Capitol Classics
Washington, D.C. ? August 11-13, 2006
Ka Open/La Sheriff's Cup
Los Angeles, CA ? September 9, 2006
Kick/USA State Championship
Boca Raton, FL ? September 15-16, 200
Disney's Martial Arts Festival Qualifier
Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL ? October 26-29, 2006
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For more information on the Tiger Claw Elite Championships, see www.tigerclawelite.com