"Everything ran fine. It was one of the better ones," said Banks, 76, who knows a thing or two about tournaments considering this was the 361st he has hosted. "Everybody felt they were treated fairly, no cheating, no complaints whatsoever. Usually somebody says it wasn't fair."At the end of tournaments, Banks, who has been a teacher and promoter of martial arts for nearly five decades, always asks the crowd if they enjoyed the tournament.He said the crowd, about three-quarters full at an estimated 1,500 people, responded with a "big applause." And why shouldn't they have? What better way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon than by watching a karate tournament. About the rain, he added: "That hurt. We were expecting a full house."But those who did make it watched as men, women, children and senior citizens competed in several events including weaponry, kata-forms (fighting techniques), self defense and (cement) breaking.Fans gathered around five 15-by-15 rings in the center of the ballroom as different divisions competed simultaneously until the final bell rang, nearly six hours after things began.Depending on age and belt level, the participants were divided into different groups, and rounds of elimination followed.There were many tournament highlights, but according to Banks the most exciting came during, what else, the breaking event. A man who goes by the title "Sup" broke 10 concrete blocks using the hammer fist method, thus becoming the tournament's champion breaker."The audience went crazy," said Banks, who admitted to being surprised with the feat himself.Those on hand also included Paul Mormando, a 10th-degree black belt who specializes in tae kwon do and was named Mr. Karate USA by Banks.A newcomer to the tournament, Jonas Nunez Jr., a New Yorker originally from Puerto Rico, won the weaponry competition at the black belt level."He was terrific," Banks said.Other winners included 58-year-old and 10th-degree black belt Ernest Hyman (kata-forms), and 86-year-old Maurice Miller (senior division).Edison Wade, who came from Tennessee to compete, won the lightweight championship, thus earning the right to take on heavyweight champion Steven Lennon Jr., who promptly defeated Wade, 5-1, in one three-minute round to capture the Grand Champion title."Everybody had a great time," Banks reiterated. "Everybody wanted to know when the next one is."Luckily for them, Banks already has his 362nd tournament planned. The United Nations Open Karate Championships will be held in late October, at the same site as this tournament.Reach contributing writer Joseph Manniello by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2004 Community News Group
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