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Martial arts tournament kicks off at Riverside Military Academy
Competitors of all ages looking to earn national champion titles
A martial artist breaks a wooden board with a kick during a previous Atlantic Pacific Tang Soo Do Foundation national championship. A range of belt competitions will be conducted Friday night and Saturday at Riverside Military Academy.

Atlantic Pacific Tang Soo Do contest

What: Martial arts tournament

When: 6:30-9 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Curtis Hall Gym, Riverside Military Academy, Gainesville

Cost: $5 a day, children younger than 6 free

More info:

This weekend, hundreds of martial arts competitors ranging in ages and belt colors will converge on Riverside Military Academy’s Curtis Hall Gym to push their limits in the Atlantic Pacific Tang Soo Do Foundation’s national championships.

The competition begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday with the black belt competition, and Saturday morning kicks off with opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m.

Demonstrations from the karate masters and schools will follow Saturday morning. Then the black belt grand champions will be announced, and competition in all other divisions will begin.

The cost for spectators is $5 per day, and children younger than 6 may enter for free.

Competitors will come from as far north as Maine and as far west as Texas after being nominated by their schools for the national event, which was at Gwinnett County Fairgrounds for the past three years.

“Most of our schools locally are in North Georgia,” said John St. James, president and grandmaster of the foundation. “The newest branch is in Braselton, Karate World of North Georgia and their chief instructor Senior Master Debbie Jett assisted me in finding Riverside Military Academy.”

Each age division will be awarded for finishing first, second, third and co-third. In the black belt divisions, an overall men’s and women’s grand champion from the senior-ranking second- and third-degree black belts will be declared.

Belt divisions range from white belt to candidate for black belt with every color between. Age divisions range from “pee-wee” 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds to the seniors ages 60 and older.

“The black belt breaking divisions are always a crowd-pleaser because we break boards, and some of the masters will be breaking cinder blocks,” St. James said. “People will also enjoy the opening ceremonies with the masters because they will be using traditional weaponry like swords, a staff, arnis short sticks, nunchucks and knives.”

Most competitors will compete in sparring, which is controlled and technically non-contact, although some punches and kicks don’t miss by much, St. James explained. For the smaller competitors, however, flag-sparring is the way to go to ensure safety.

“In the pee-wee division, we attach flags to their belts, and they have to try to get them off the other person,” St. James said. “It’s really entertaining to see the little kids running around the ring trying to get the flags. Every pee-wee competitor wins gold.”

Vendors will also have booths with karate equipment or supplies along with other exhibitors for spectators to visit. Many schools will offer introductory or back-to-school specials for anyone interested in trying the sport.

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