S. Henry Cho's 37thAnnual
All American Open

by Benjamin Paris

On March 24th, Grandmaster S. Henry Cho presented the 37th annual All American Tae Kwon Do / Karate / Kung-Fu Tournament. The All American Open has a long and proud history, from its beginnings in the early years in American martial arts, to its many years at Madison Square Garden, to its current home at Manhattan College. To this day, the All American Open's standard of first-rate competition and fair play continues to grow, and the 37th edition of the tournament added another chapter to this proud tradition. As usual, the tournament drew an international crowd of competitors, with winners coming from as far away as Argentina, Venezuela and Germany and from as close as the five boroughs of New York City.:

The sparring Grand Championship was won by Javier Colmenares of Venezuela, a student of Edward Becerra and the winner of the Lightweight Division. Mr. Colmenares defeated Brahima Kone, a student of Master Cho and the winner of the Heavyweight Division. The last battle was exciting and strategic, as Mr. Colmenares overcame a size disadvantage by edging closer to Mr. Kone and springing powerful punching attacks before Mr. Kone could counter. Other fighters were not willing to stay within range of Mr. Kone's powerful kicks, but Mr. Colmenares saw lunging punching attacks as his best chance of victory. Although Mr. Kone scored the first point, Mr. Colmenares scored the next two very quickly, punching before a counter could arrive.

Mr. Colmenares advanced to the final by defeating Tom Lynn, the winner of the Middleweight Division. Mr. Lynn also showed strong and quick kicking techniques, but Mr. Colmenares' careful use of distance and timing gave him the edge. Mr. Kone advanced to the final by defeating Rick Feizbakish, the winner of the Light Heavyweight Division and a former Grand Champion himself. In the semifinal bout, Mr. Feizbakish, a student of Master James Roberts, scored the first point on a 1-2 punch attack. However, after his opponent received warnings for running out of the ring, Mr. Kone evened the score and then pulled ahead with reverse punch counters.

Other Black Belt Sparring winners included Patty Williams (Women), Earl Woodbury (Seniors), Leonardo Gomez (14-16 year old boys), and Dara Bethea (14-16 year old girls).

The Forms competition provided again came down to a tiebreaker runoff between two expert performers. This time the finalists were Rick Feizbakish, again the winner of the Men's Tae Kwon Do forms division, and Master Joseph Bruno, a student of Master C.S. Kim and the winner of the Master's Division. After their initial performances left them completely deadlocked, Master Bruno's focus and precision gained him the championship despite Mr. Feizbakish's excellent performance.

The other Finalists in the Grand Championship Round were Huyen Dao, a student of Master Amos Johnson and the winner of the Women's Tae Kwon Do division; Jerry Diaz, a student of Master Kai Leung and the winner of the Men's Karate division; Lara Davis, winner of the women's Karate Division and also a student of Master Leung; and James Herring, a student of Rick Marino and the winner of the Kung Fu division. Other Black Belt Forms winners included Earl Woodbury (Weapons), Katie Wong (11-13 year olds), and Han Dao (14-16 year olds).

The Adult Black Belt Breaking Division was won by Manuel Adrogue, who came from Argentina just for the All American Open. Mr. Adrogue, who also finished second in the Master's Form Division, won with a combination of dynamic kicks. Other Breaking division winners were Debbie Lohmaier, who came all the way from Germany to win the Women's Division, Vishal Singh, who won the Juniors division, and Seul Lee, who won the Pee Wee Division. Both Singh and Lee are from Master Kwan Woo Lee's school in Queens, NY.

The list of the All American Open's outstanding performances would not be complete without mentioning the day's demonstrations. Master C. S. Kim performed an application of basic forms and demonstrated a rare and ancient Korean form. Master Kim Soo also entertained the crowd with a compelling forms demonstration. Also noticed was Master Tony Loupakis and his sons who put a thrilling group demonstration which led him to take the first place of the Free-Style Group Forms competition.

During the opening ceremony, Grandmaster Cho also announced this year's inductees to the All American Open Hall of Fame. This year Grandmaster Cho honored Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee for his pioneering efforts in American martial arts. Grandmaster Rhee humbly accepted the award, and then demonstrated that he has lost none of his spirit by doing 100 pushups in 60 seconds! Grandmaster Cho also honored Masters Bill Dewart of California, John R Sano of Seoul, Korea and Jon Chung Kim of Pennsylvania for their longtime support of the All American Open.

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, Peter Urban 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, 37 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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