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Martial arts champs of all ages compete in Riverside event

POSTED: July 27, 2014 12:16 a.m.

Youth division participants hold the floor Saturday noon for the 2014 Atlantic-Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation national championship tournament at Riverside Military Academy. About 300 martial artists from Maine to Texas attended the biannual tournament, APTSDF President John St. James said. Black belt competition was Friday night. Adult intermediate division competitions were to be held later Saturday afternoon. Results will be posted at, organizers said.

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The clanking of metals and cracks of splitting wood filled Riverside Military Academy’s Curtis Hall Gym on Saturday as Riverside played host to the 2014 National Championships martial arts event for the Atlantic Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation.

Hundreds of competitors vied for medals in sparring (hand-to-hand combat), breaking (breaking wood boards), form and weapons.

The two-day event followed three days of APTSDF Federation’s annual Masters’ Clinic for advanced training.

President and CEO of APTSDF, Grand Master John St. James, said he likes the Riverside location.

“Since we were already here, we figured it would be a good place to hold our championship,” he said.

Previous championships were held at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, St. James said.

Competitors came from as far north as Maine and as far west as Texas. Many competitors, however, were local.

Holden Joyner, 11, competed as a part of Eagle Leadership Martial Arts, based at the J.A. Walters Family YMCA in Gainesville and Oakwood YMCA in Oakwood. Holden is a red advanced belt, who competed in breaking and sparring competitions Saturday.

His mother, Krista Joyner said it was nice not having to travel as far for this competition.

“This is the first competition that we have been to in Gainesville. It is about the same size as most competition we have gone to,” she said.

Holden was surprised by all of the demonstrations by APTSDF Masters.

“My favorite part of martial arts is getting to see people from all over the nation and the world,” he said.

There were about 300 entrants in Saturday’s competition. Participants come from “all socioeconomic classes,” St. James said.

The Tang Soo Do style emphasizes “inner strength, perseverance and self-control,” St. James said. “Whether they win a trophy is not that important to us.”

Dia Baldwin, 14, traveled from Birmingham, Ala. with Birmingham Academy of Martial Arts. Dia won first place in the 13-16-year-old breaking competition. She has a brown belt and has been practicing martial arts for about a year and a half.

“Martial arts has given me self confidence that I didn’t have before,” Dia said. “Today’s competition was great because the judges are really nice, and with multiple rings for competition, the whole day has moved faster than other competitions that I have been to.”

Saturday’s competition was much more organized and showcased more talent than other competitions, according to Monique Baldwin, Dia’s mother.

“Dia did well in breaking because she gets to pick what types of moves she showcases. She is strong in her foot power, so she played to her strengths,” Baldwin said.

There are usually two competitions a year, according to Baldwin. National Championships are every other year.

Friday night, the “Cho Dan” (black belt) competition was held also at the Curtis Hall Gym. Karate World of North Georgia  from Suwanee took home multiple trophies and medals in this competition.

Also from Karate World of North Georgia, Stephen Bailey of Duluth competed in the 10-11 year-old sparring, breaking and form competitions. Stephen is a blue advanced belt, and is one step away from his black belt, according to his father, Scott Bailey.

“Sparring is my favorite competition,” Stephen said. “It is also cool to see all the breaking.”

APTSDF is for-profit; however the nonprofit APTSDF teaches “at-risk” children (and some poor adults) karate, according to St. James.


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