The Green River Recreation Center hosted one of the biggest Karate tournaments in the Rocky Mountain region last Saturday, the 27th annual Western Wyoming Karate Championships.
In addition to regular competition, the tournament is one of 12 qualifying meets for the Tiger Claw Elite Tournament for black belts.
The Tiger Claw National Elite Championship takes place in October near Orlando, Fla., as a part of Disney World’s Martial Art’s Festival.
Black belts from around the world travel to Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex for unparalleled competition.
The tournament is also a part of the Excel Karate League Triple Crown Conference and a 5-Star rated event. Other tournaments in the Triple Crown Conference, include the Salt City Internationals in Salt Lake City, the Rocky Mountain Challenge in Ogden and the EKL Nationals XIII in Layton, Utah.
More than 200 competitors filled the gymnasium to compete in their registered events.
Events ranging from weapons forms to sparring and ages ranging from preschoolers to adults permeated throughout the event.
About 20 Green River Karate students entered the tournament to compete with others from all around the Rocky Mountain Region, according to organizer Chris Dean.
Chris and her husband, Karate black belt and instructor at Pineda’s Kenpo Karate in Green River, have been organizing this tournament for many years.
About three years ago, executives from Tiger Claw International had been selecting tournaments across the nation to become qualifying meets for their Elite black belt competition in Orlando, Fla.
“A couple years ago, they called and asked me if I was interested. We were one of the first ones offered. So I went down there to see their martial arts festival and the tournament and we approved of what they were doing. So we decided to do it.” Jim said. “They have a good setup and a good program.”
Those wishing to become a part of this selective group at Disney World must place first or second at one of the qualifying tournaments around the United States.
According to Jim, the tournament also offers competitors from this area a chance to compete on a national, even worldwide scale.
“I remember when I went to compete, I was fighting guys from Ireland and Germany,” Jim said.
At this year’s Western Wyoming Karate Championships, Jim was excited to add two more black belt competitors to the Tiger Elite qualifying list–brother Gary Dean and Rachel Anson.
“One of the biggest standouts of the tournament were two of our people taking Grand Champion,” said Jim.
Gary Dean received in Grand Champion honors in fighting, while the competition was even tougher on Anson.
“Rachel had to take the best of four divisions,” said Jim.
Jim explained that for the ladies, since there are no weight separations and less competitors, the women must excel in four divisions to earn Grand Champion.
What makes the victory even sweeter is that Anson was coming off a two-year layoff from competition.
“She really worked hard,” said Jim.
As well as the two qualifiers, Jim is happy with the turnout of local kids and how hard they worked on and off the floor.
“I am pretty proud of them kid,” said Jim.
He also commented on the level of competition and also the level of camaraderie between competitors.
“Of course you compete hard and you want to win,” said Jim. “But most of the time, they are your friends, too.”
“And if the other guy is better than you, then you know to train harder and get better,” he added. “You never know until you compete.”
After all the showmanship, camaraderie, intense competition, flashy performances and unique displays of martial arts, Jim said his favorite part of the meet is seeing the children haul their trophies off the floor with big smiles and laughter.
“All the kids get a trophy, whether they placed 1st through fourth or just competed,” said Jim. “For all their hard work and effort.”