S. Henry Cho's 41stAnnual
All American Open


By Benjamin Paris

 

On March 18, 2006, Grandmaster S. Henry Cho held the 2006 All American Open at Manhattan College in New York City. After the 40th All American Open in 2004, Grandmaster Cho held off holding the tournament in 2005 before returning this year with a new commitment to offering martial artists of all styles an opportunity to prove their skills and learn from each other. This year winners came from all over the United States as well as Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Aruba.

 

The Menís Sparring Grand Championship featured fighters with remarkably similar fighting styles. Usually, differences in size, training, and personal preference leads to contrasting approaches and tactics, but this year all four fighters in the final preferred an attacking style with advancing 2-punch combinations being the favored move of the day. Andrys Cristopher, a student of Master Delgado of the Bronx, NY, and winner of the Lightweight Division, won the Grand Championship with a 3-2 victory over Francisco Matute, a student of Francisco Vigoroux and winner of the Heavyweight Division. The final was as close as the score indicated, with both fighters aggressively seeking points the entire match. Mr. Cristopher scored many points today on charging reverse punches that often followed a lead hand jab or fake. However, in the Lightweight final he also finished his short match with a lightning fast charging side kick that knocked his opponent (a former Grand Championship finalist himself) across the ring. Mr. Cristopher and Mr. Matute advanced to the final with victories over Luis Rivas, the winner of the Light Heavyweight Division and also a student of Mr. Vigoroux, and Kerian Walker, a student of Earl Woodbury and the winner of the Middleweight Division.

 

The Grand Champion Forms competition was even closer than the Sparring final, if thatís possible. William Walter, a student of Dennis Buzis and winner of the Menís Tae Kwon Do division, edged both Olivia Sun and Master John Nigro by a score of 26.2 for Mr. Walter to 26.1 earned by both Ms. Sun and Master Nigro. Ms. Sun is a student of James Roberts, Jr, of Rockville, Maryland, and Mr. Nigro is a student C.S. Kim of Pittsburgh. Mr. Walter won with dazzling speed and flexibility as well as solid basics. Mr. Walterís roundhouse, side, and flying side kicks might have been the difference in this close contest. Ms. Sunís performance of a special innovative form that has been taught to only a few people was another highlight of the day. Her powerful and varied kicks combined with traditional stances to make her a formidable opponent. Master Nigroís performance of a traditional Tang Soo Do form was also graded just short of the winning score. His rock-solid stances and dynamic arm techniques took him just short of the championship.

 

The forms finalists included Cristal Duante, the 16-year old winner of the Kung Fu Division, who beat all the adults (and all the men) in her division to advance. But for one misstep in her form, this student of Chris Robinson of the Bronx might have been right there with the other top performances in the final. Other finalists included Joe Yurschak, a student of Jim Devoe and the winner of the Karate Menís Division, and two more students of James Roberts: Claire Wong, winner of the Senior Womenís Division, and Melissa Reyes, winner of the Karate Womenís Division. Also of note, Steven Rodriguez of Ponce, Puerto Rico took home the Best School trophy for his studentsí strong overall performance in forms, sparring, and breaking.

 

During the opening ceremony, Grandmaster Cho Honored Amos Johnson for Mr. Johnsonís outstanding teaching and many contributions to the All American Open. A teacher of many Grand Champions, Master Johnson always brings strong competitors with outstanding focus, technique, and etiquette. The crowd was also privileged to see Steven Rodriguez perform a demonstration of applied Tae Kwon Do.

 

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

 

According to Grandmaster Cho, many contenders have already begun intensive training for the 42nd All American Open title, which will take place in March of next year.











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