S. Henry Cho's 39thAnnual
All American Open

by Benjamin Paris

On March 22, 2003, Grandmaster S. Henry Cho held the 39 th annual All American Open at Manhattan College in New York City. Winners came from many different States of the Union as well as Germany, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil and Panama.

The Men's Sparring Grand Championship capped off an outstanding day of high-level competition. In one semi-final, Omar Holmes, a student of Master George Crayton, Jr. and the winner of the Middleweight Division, faced Carlos Sanchez, a student of Master Bruce Chung and the winner of the Lightweight Division. Mr. Holmes grabbed an early lead with a roundhouse kick and followed up with a reverse punch counter attack for a 2-0 lead. Before time ran out, though, Mr. Holmes finished the match with a perfectly-timed charging axe kick. Many thought it was the move of the day, partly because of its speed and the height from which it dropped, but also because it was perfectly controlled, scoring a clear point without running any risk of injury.

In the other semi-final, Rick Feizbakish, a student of Master James Roberts and the winner of the Heavyweight Division, faced Samuel Murrell, the winner of the Light-Heavyweight Division. Mr. Feizbakish opened the scoring with an extremely quick double roundhouse. Mr. Murrell blocked the first mid-target kick, but stayed in range long enough for the high roundhouse kick to connect. However, Mr. Murrell, who won his division with an impressive array of offensive and defensive kicks, evened the score with a charging axe kick just before time expired. In sudden death, Mr. Feizbakish advanced to the final with a roundhouse kick.

In the final, Mr. Holmes, the defending champion, kept Mr. Feizbakish, himself a former All American champion, at bay. All day Mr. Holmes used his reach and quickness to present opponents with a tough choice: If they stayed close, they were vulnerable to Mr. Holmes' attacks. If they stayed far away, they would be too far away to mount an effective attack. In the final, Mr. Holmes kept control of the distance before going ahead with a hook kick and hanging on for the victory. We all look forward to his defense next year as a two-time All American champion.

The Forms competition provided even more outstanding performances. Huyen Dao, a student of Master Amos Johnson, and the winner of the Women's Korean Division, prevailed by the smallest of margins over a field that included Master Derrick Williams, the winner of the Senior Forms Division and a living legend at the All American Open, Traun Covington, the winner of the Men's Karate Division, Han Dao, the sister of the winner and the champion of the Women's Karate Division, and two of the sparring finalists: Mr. Holmes, representing the Kung-Fu Division, and Mr. Sanchez, representing the Men's Korean Division. Ms. Dao precision, spirit, speed, and power gave her the victory.

One other highlight of special note was the performance of Nate Grabb, a student of Master John Critzos and the winner of the Breaking Division. Mr. Grabbs routine included a multiple-board unsupported 360-degree roundhouse kick break, as well as a multiple concrete block head break. Don't try this at home!

During the opening ceremony, Grandmaster Cho Honored Bernard Kerik, the former commissioner of the New York City Police Department and himself a strong black belt competitor. Upon receiving the All American Hall of Fame Award, Mr. Kerik, who served as Commissioner on 9/11/2001, inspired the crowd with his personal insights and reflections on the crises our nation faces. The crowd also was privileged to see a point demonstration by former All American Open Champion Master John Critzos. This year's 'Best School' award went to Master Amos Johnson's school in Maryland.

In 1964, when the All American Open began, its early supporters included American martial arts legends such as Ki Whang Kim, Ed Parker, Jhoon Rhee, Don Nagle, Peter Urban, Tadashi Nakamura, Toyotaro Miyasaki and Bruce Lee. The list of past champions of the All American Open reads like a "Who's Who" of American martial arts. Chuck Norris, Michael Warren, and Herbert Perez are among the Sparring Grand Championship winners.

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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