S. Henry Cho's 36thAnnual
All American Open

by Benjamin Paris

On March 25th, Grandmaster S. Henry Cho presented the 36th annual All American Tae Kwon Do / Karate / Kung-Fu Tournament. Since its beginning, the tournament has been a fixture in the martial arts world, and this year's edition did much to continue this legacy. Here's a quick tour of the outstanding performances of the day:

The sparring Grand Championship was won by Rick Feizbakhsh, a student of Master James Roberts and winner of the middleweight division. In the final, Mr. Feizbakhsh prevailed over Richard Saunders, the winner of the heavyweight division and another student of James Roberts. Mr. Feizbakhsh, himself a former Sparring Grand Championship finalist, used an aggressive lead leg and deceptive defensive movements to prevail 2 to 0 in a friendly but spirited bout.

Mr. Feizbakhsh advance to the final by defeating Jin Suh, the winner of the lightweight division. Mr. Suh won his division with lightning kicks and excellent timing, but Mr. Feizbakhsh took an early advantage with a charging 1-2 punch combination that landed squarely in Mr. Suh's chest. With the advantage, Mr. Suh was forced to press, but Mr. Feizbakhsh took advantage of a moment's hesitation to land an axe kick that sealed the victory.

Mr. Saunders also fought a compelling semifinal bout. Late in his battle with Omar Holmes, the winner of the light-heavyweight division, Mr. Saunders was down by a point. But he evened the score with a back leg roundhouse kick, and then took the victory with a sidestepping reverse punch counter.

The Forms competition provided more drama and excellent performances. Rick Feizbakhsh, again the winner of the Men's Tae Kwon Do forms division, successfully defended the Grand Championship he won last year. His rendition of the traditional form Kushanku again swayed the judges. It combined power, speed, concentration, and artistic expression so effectively that all five judges awarded him top scores, making the scorekeeping a mere formality. With Grand Championships in the Form and Sparring competitions, Mr. Feizbakhsh also won two television sets, although one might wonder when he will watch them, since it seems that he spends all day practicing his technique.

Placing second in the Grand Championship Round was Huyen Dao, the winner of the Women's Tae Kwon Do division and a former Forms Grand Championship winner. Ms. Dao, a student of Master Amos Johnson, made the judge's decision as difficult as possible with her own performance of Kushanku . The other finalists were Jerry Diaz, a student of Master Kai Leung and winner of the Men's Karate division; Daniella Fournier, a student of Master John Critzos and winner of the Women's Karate division; and Kevin Allen Court, a student of He Wei Qi and the winner of the Kung Fu division. Other Black Belt Forms winners included Earl Woodbury (Senior), Jonas Nunez (Weapons as well as Free Style) and Chad Mullinix (1st and 2nd Dan Tae Kwon Do).

The Adult Black Belt Breaking Division was won by Alexander Hartmann, who came from Germany just for the All American Open. Mr. Hartmann, who also finished second in heavyweight fighting, won with a combination of flying kicks that included a flying spinning axe kick. Other Breaking division winners were Nicholas Gonzalez, who came all the way from Puerto Rico to win the Pee Wee division, and Leonardo Gomez, who came all the way from Venezuela to win the Juniors division.

The list of the All American Open's outstanding performances would not be complete without mentioning the day's demonstrations. Master Bruce Chung showed the crowd what aerobic kickboxing is all about with a varied and challenging workout. Master C. S. Kim was next, performing an ancient Korean form followed by an impressive display of one-step techniques. Another highlight of the opening ceremony was a team fighting competition between the Army and Navy martial arts teams. After five extremely competitive matches, the Navy team emerged victorious by the slimmest of margins.

During the opening ceremony, Master Cho held a moment of silence to honor the pioneers in martial arts that passed away since the last All American Open. Grandmaster Cho also announced this year's inductees to the All American Hall of Fame. Each has a strong history of supporting the All American, ensuring that the tournament is fair, smoothly run, and safe.

In 1964, when the All American Open began, its early supporters included American martial arts legends such as Ki Whang Kim, Ed Parker, Richard Chun, Jhoon Rhee, Don Nagle, and Bruce Lee. The list of past champions of the All-American reads like a "Who's Who" of American martial arts Chuck Norris, Michael Warren, and Herbert Perez all won the Sparring Grand Championship. This year, 36 years after the tournament began, the All American Open continued this proud tradition, and this year's performances demonstrate that the tournament has a promising future as well.

Grandmaster S. Henry Cho, Black Belt magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1971, has been a major figure in East Coast Martial arts for over three decades. He was the first Tae Kwon Do teacher in the New York area, and he has continued to promote the martial arts in a variety of ways. In 1964, he toured American and Canadian cities, demonstrating Tae Kwon Do for the Wonderful World of Sports. Grandmaster Cho has also appeared on many national programs such as the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson and "Good Morning America." Today, he continues to teach at the headquarters location of S. Henry Cho's Karate Institute.

Copyright ©2004 S. Henry Cho
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