Master Linda Denley is without question one of the top women’s competitors of all time. She has proven herself in a time when martial arts competition was at its infancy in this country. A set of rules were not in place and national circuits utilized a varying set of standards for competition. Most tournaments did not always require safety gear and the concept of weight categories for black belt sparring competition was not always the case. Linda took on all female fighters and remained on top for many years.
32 years ago Linda started up the Space City Open Karate Championships. The Texas AOK was one the primary organized karate circuits recognized in the southwest. Many of the countries best competitors ranked Texas at the top in what was later to be known as sport karate. Linda Denley has produced many of the best fighters in the USA. Her tournament always draws people from all over Texas and the country.
This years April 24th Space City Open had over 400 competitors in attendance. It was held at Humble high school. 2010 has been a great year for Texas AOK events and they have been large. So far they have fared well while many other regions of the country have seen a reduction in their attendance. Texas has recently had several state and national circuits see competitors migrate to the Texas Amateur Karate Organization (AOK). This is due to the consistency of its tournaments in providing excellent competition and superior officiating.
Linda Denley (tournament producer)
Celebrities like Eric O’Neal was on hand auditioning kids for the new upcoming movie called Legend of Lion Man. Five junior competitors would be picked from the Houston area and several cities around the country, for a spot in the movie. George and Chris Minshew were at the tournament after a long absence from sport karate. Rumor has it that we might see another Karate Olympiks in the near future. Zulfi Ahmed, grand master of one of the biggest groups of schools in Houston and around the country, was also present to support his students competing at the event.
At 9AM competition began with black belt and under black belt weapons and forms. Over 160 divisions provided plenty of action for all ages and ranks. Some of these Texas competitors have evolved into the countries best in weapons, kata and sparring. With such a large talent pool to draw on and three circuit regions, competition is easily at the level of any current national or world organization. This is due to diverse numbers emanating from so many styles and big cities involved. Texas is easily the size of many large countries and at least eight of its largest metropolis either approach or are over one million people and in the case of Dallas and Houston over three million.
In the adult black belt weapons eight competitors went head to head with their best weapons kata. Johnnie Murphy pulled ahead with a powerful sword form. David Johnson coming back from a hip injury was second. Corey Grimm and Andy Brett were third. Martha Garcia ended up first in the adult 18 plus women’s kata. In traditional kata Alfredo Bustamonte was once again on top as he continued his string of victories in traditional kata, men’s open kata and adult soft forms. Also in adult traditional kata Corey Grimm was second with Kayla Kaplan and Andy Brett in third.
Adult executive specialty was another showdown between some of the best 35 plus competitors in the AOK. Johnnie Murphy was once again first place. Courtney Allen took home the adult black belt self defense championship. Sheryl Quick topped Karen Schroeder in the women’s executive kata. Daniel Perez won the 35 plus men’s kata. David Johnsons son Zack Johnson headed up Team K2 and was awesome winning the Team Kata competition. Andy Brett, Kayla Kaplan and Joseph Pruiett vied for the 18 plus adult specialty championship with Joseph Pruiett and his flying nunchuk ending up the judges choice for first place. In the junior divisions Ciara Garcia nudged out David Tate after a second run and pulled ahead in a big division. Sebastian Pedroza was the 11 and under black belt specialty champion.
Melody Clay winner of girls 14 to 17 black belt sparring
Enrique Diaz was first in a large 14 - 15 years old black belt kata division. Other male/female divisional junior black belt 1st place kata champions were, Isaac Diaz 12 - 13 years old, Duron Prudencio 16 - 17 years old and Sebastion Pedroza 10 - 11 years old. This was also the order in which they were ran. Large under black belt kata divisions also filled the competition floor with loud parents rooting for their children.
Junior sparring trailed all the kata divisions. Many junior under black belt sparring divisions ran simultaneously with all the junior black belt sparring. 10 - 11 black belt boys ended with Blair Benton winning. 10 - 11 junior black belt girls point sparring champion was Sophia Garza. Ciara Garcia took home the 12 - 13 black belt girls point sparring championship, following in her moms footsteps. Other junior black belt point sparring champions were Emilio Sosa 12 - 13 boys and Melody Clay 14 - 17 girls.
Adult point sparring ran last at this event. Ashley Wood took out Elizabeth Zelaga to win the women’s black belt 18 plus women’s light weight division. Six competitors were vying for the women’s 32 plus black belt sparring division. Cathrine Bardwell nudged out Shryl Quick for the championship. Martha Garcia was the women’s fly weight point sparring champion.
Men’s black belt point sparring was up last in the tournament. In a final fight with D.E Chambers, Tracy Snowden emerged the 35 plus heavy weight black belt point sparring champion. Mike Hill overcame Joseph Addams in the final fight for the senior executive 45 plus point sparring championship. Garrett Lee had his hands full with up and coming rookie Joe Richardson in a close contest. Garrett was able to pull ahead for his victory in the men’s middle weight division. The men’s light weight point sparring division was up last in the event. Andy Brett verses Eddie Clemons with Andy pulling ahead after a great final fight. This concluded another great day of martial arts competition.