I grew up in a highly competitive family.
My mother, Heather Greenwood, competed in the very first World Games and the Second World Games and not only won gold in her events in swimming but also beat a Worlds Record. If that isn’t enough I also have family members that have competed at the Olympics and professionally internationally.
Unfortunately, the genetic competitive drive in my family is almost impossible to shut off. Simple family events where always laced with an antagonistic contest of who can be the best at literally anything. Simple tasks such as eating dinner would quickly become a contest of who can eat the most. Simple discussions become arguments because no one can afford to be wrong and lose.
Family game night was banned with the fear that a simple card game could easily become a reenactment of an old western saloon bar brawl.
The short answer I give people when they ask if I compete in tournaments…
The competitiveness of my family destroyed me on competing.
When I went to watch my first tournament, The Long Beach International Martial Con, my intentions were to photograph the event and socialize with the participants and at absolutely no point compete.
The Dojo I train at primarily focuses on self-defense and Eskrima rather than point sparring and tournament katas. I was excited to attend due to the significance behind it. The Long Beach International Martial Con was originally the Long Beach International Karate Championships and was founded by Grand Master Ed Parker Sr.
For Martial Artists living under a rock, Ed Parker was the founder of the American Kenpo System. He created the Long Beach Internationals in 1964. Many famous Martial Artists such as Chuck Norris, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and “Superfoot” Bill Wallace have established their reputations as world class fighters at the Long Beach Internationals.
It became an annual event and in 1967 Bruce Lee was introduced for the first time to the Martial Arts community and demonstrated his one-inch punch and two finger push-ups
Bruce Lee demonstration at Long Beach Internationals.
It has been many years since the birth of the Long Beach Internationals and is now known as the Long Beach International Martial Con and run by Steve Cooper. Yet I still expected to see finely tuned techniques, katas and good sparring. The first day was black belts, and when I looked at the schedule and saw 12 and under black belts, I will admit I was skeptical.
In my Lineage we have an age requirement of 16 to be a black belt. I’ve always agreed with this because I have always felt being a black belt is more than just skill. There’s a maturity and intellectual aspect I have always associated with being a black belt.
Maturity and Intellectual are not the first adjectives that come to my mind when talking about 12 year olds…
Yet these young girls wanted to speak with me to give advice and encourage other Martial Artists.
I spoke first to Trinity Harnden, 11 years old and black belt, who had started training when she was 5 years old. She started first competing when she was 6 years old. She had won 3rd in the Self-Defense Techniques that day. Her advice to student’s thinking of competing was,
“They need to follow their heart. Breathe in and out (during competition) and you’ll be fine.”
Trinity Harnden executing her self defense technique.
Pretty mature and intellectual for an 11 year old.
Another 11 year old Black Belt I spoke with was Briannah McGee. She won 1st in Weapons in the 12 and under age group. She started training with the Bo Staff around age 5 or 6 and has been competing from a young age,
“You need to just pretend its practice and breathe.”
Winners of the American Kenpo Self Defense 12 & Under Black belt.
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Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...
I am currently a 1st Brown belt in American Kenpo and a Junior Instructor at Double Dragon Kenpo Karate under JR Diaz, I am part of the Parker/Planas Lineage and study Karbaroan Eskrima with JR Diaz, under Guro Ed Planas
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