S. Henry Cho's 38thAnnual
All American Open

by Benjamin Paris

On March 23rd, Grandmaster S. Henry Cho presented the 38th annual All American Tae Kwon Do / Karate / Kung-Fu Tournament. With their outstanding performances, today's martial artists continued the All American Open's tradition of open and fair competition. Competitors came from across the United States and some from as far as Puerto Rico, Germany, and Venezuela.

Many agreed that the highlight of the day was the Men's Black Belt Sparring Competition. Although the All American always features top competitors from a variety of styles, the competition this year was especially strong. Omar Holmes, a student of Master George Crayton, Jr. and the winner of the Light Heavyweight Division, won the sparring Grand Championship with a victory over Steven Rodriguez, a student of Master S. Henry Cho, a former Grand Championship round competitor, and the winner of the Lightweight Division. In the final, Mr. Holmes scored early on with a perfectly controlled roundhouse kick to the head. Mr. Rodriguez tried to score with a series of spin kick attacks, but Mr. Holmes' command of distance always allowed him to stay just outside Mr. Rodriguez's range. Mr. Holmes launched a series of counters from that position, seeking his second point. He never got it, but it didn't matter, since when time elapsed he still held a 1-0 lead. Mr. Holmes' win, which came despite twisting an ankle in the final, served as an important lesson in the value of timing. Although Mr. Holmes is tall and quick, his primary asset today was timing. Again and again, he placed himself outside the range of his opponent's attacks only to counter with a perfectly timed (and perfectly controlled) punch or kick.

Mr. Holmes' path to the final was a difficult one; the Light Heavyweight division was packed with high quality fighters including former Grand Champion Rick Feizbahksh and Taimak. The division final between Taimak and Mr. Holmes was one of the more fascinating bouts of the day. Mr. Holmes countered the lightning attacks of Taimak with an early defensive spinning side kick, and added a reverse punch later to earn the victory. Mr. Holmes advanced to the final by defeating Casey Mezerewski, a student of Ed Mezerewski and the winner of the Middleweight Division. As was the case most of the day, Mr. Holmes won with reverse punch counters. Mr. Rodriguez advanced to the final with a win over Ben Lasman, the winner of the Heavyweight Division and a student of Master James Roberts of Maryland. Mr. Rodriguez won with a spinning side kick, a move that has served him well in his career fighting at the All American.

Other Black Belt Sparring winners included the legendary Ron Van Clief (Senior), Isabel Rivera (Senior Women), Sonia Zandi (Women's Heavyweight), Debbie Lohmaier (Women's Lightweight), Jonathan Urbino, Joseph Selvaggio, and Jeffrey Walpert (11-13 year old Heavy, Middle and Lightweight, respectively).

The forms competition provided another stage for dramatic and engaging performances. Rick Feizbahksh, a student of Master James Roberts, added another Grand Championship to his growing collection. Mr. Feizbahksh won the extremely competitive Korean forms division and prevailed in the Grand Championship round with his distinctive power, speed and (most importantly) spirit.

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; Traun Covington, a student of Master Hawk Frazier and the winner of the Men's Karate division; Olivia Sun, winner of the women's Karate Division and also a student of Master Roberts; and Jackie Singh, a student of Master Rafael and the winner of the Kung Fu division. Other Black Belt Forms winners included Joseph Agostino (Weapons), Jamie Alimorad (13 year olds) and Han Dao (14-16 year olds).

The Men's Black Belt Breaking Division was won by Nathaniel Grebb, a student of Master John Critzos. Debbie Lohmaier, a student of Master Jurgen Paterok, came all the way from Germany to win the Women's Division. Other Black Belt Breaking winners included Daniel Taddeo (14-16 years), Jeffrey Wolpert (11-13 years) and Elizabeth Selvaggio (9-10 years).

During the opening ceremony, Grandmaster Cho held a moment of silence to honor all those who lost their lives in the tragedy of September 11 th . After paying these respects, he turned to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to the All American Open and American martial arts. This year Grandmaster Cho also thanked those martial artists for promoting good sportsmanship, discipline, and honor and commitment to the nation especially in these difficult times with homeland security.

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. The 2002 performances forged another link to this proud tradition and pointed to a promising future. This year's tournament rules have been amended to rule out the head as a scoring target for Pee Wees and younger divisions, as the tournament has remained faithful to its key mission of providing a safe and fair place for martial artists to test their skills.

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 forty years. 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 lead S. Henry Cho affiliated schools all over the world.

Copyright ©2004 S. Henry Cho
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