Victorious Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw National Team Dominates 2002 IMAC World Championships.
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On Friday June 28th 2002, the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw National Team joined forces for the International Martial Arts Council (IMAC) 2002 World Championships in Las Vegas. The competition was open to martial artists from all disciplines and was staged at the Riviera hotel and casino. Eight team members arrived from across the country to compete under the direction of National Coach Sifu Dana G. Daniels in a multitude of fighting and forms venues, taking home seven trophies and eleven world rankings.
The action began in the center ring with continuous sparring. The fighting had been notoriously heavy in the under-belt divisions and was in full contact mode by the time the black belts divisions were called. This was home turf for the Bak Shaolin fighters, who specialize in Chinese continuous and San-Shou full contact. Lightweights were up first with Shasta Smith, Nate Sonnenberg and Noam Reininger beating their first round opponents in three brutal matches. The victories continued with Reininger taking out his second opponent with flurries of Choi Lay Fut swinging punches and moving on to the fight for gold following a Smith bye. Smith and Sonnenberg matched up against each other for third and fourth place with Sonnenberg taking third. In the final fight, Reininger just barely lost out on points after winning the first of two 1-minute rounds. The victories earned the team the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, world rankings.
Jesse Harter was up next in the middleweight division. After beating the first fighter with his classic "N.H.L" fighting style he rendered his next opponent unable to continue with a roundhouse punch that split open the opposing fighter's eyebrow. The mayhem continued when Jesse executed a beautiful Kung Fu leg sweep that dropped his third opponent to the ground during his attempt at a side kick. Although the sweep was cleanly executed, it earned Jesse a technical disqualification. In his final fight, Harter was on his way to victory but was disqualified for excessive contact. He attained the 4th place world ranking.
In the heavyweight ring, Owen O'Keefe fought in true Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw style. As in any tournament, there was bias in judging but the IMAC championships took bias to an extreme when a center judge purposely kicked Owen in the sternum as he was breaking up a fight. Owen's sturdy Shaolin training protected him from the blow and he continued to deal heavy hits to his opponents. He beat his first after an aggressive bout and was just beat out on points in the second match. After seeing Owen's fighting style, his next opponent refused to step into the ring and secured O'Keefe's third world wide rank.
Jessie Smith in a rough and tumble women's continuous ring fought to a second place world rank.
As the victories in the continuous sparring rings were progressing, the Bak Shaolin fighters were simultaneously competing in the team point-sparring divisions. They displayed their resilience by stepping from one ring to the next with hardly a break. Team Eagle Claw, made up of members Reininger, Harter, and O'Keefe had a strong showing. Reininger fought hard right before jumping back into the continuous ring for the gold match. Harter roughed up his opponent and was disqualified for excessive contact. O'Keefe fought well taking it to the other heavyweight. The team completed by winning fourth in the world in team point sparring.
Saturday morning, the competition got off to an auspicious start with a professional photo shoot with "Inside Kung Fu" Editor in Chief Dave Cater. Opposing teams were surprised to see the "brutal" kung fu fighters flying through the air and posing in their best traditional satin Jing Mo uniforms. This was a great pre-cursor to the victories of the day.
In the Chinese forms division, the team impressed the judges with their powerful and swift execution of traditional Shaolin Eagle Claw routines. Nate Sonnenberg executed a spectacular Lo Han Kuen, beating out a former member of the Beijing Wushu Team and world champion for first place worldwide. Sam Haskin placed third, Owen O'Keefe fourth, Noam Reininger 7th and Shasta Smith 8th. Next was point fighting.
After the Eagle Claw domination of the continuous fighting venue, the tournament promoters expected the team to extend their rough fighting into the point rings. They went as far as instituting a groin kick rule to counter the heavy Bak Shaolin techniques, but to their surprise, the Eagle Claw competitors switched gears and fought with swift lightness, demonstrating their multi faceted talents. Nate Sonnenberg started out in the middleweight ring and had one of the best point fights of his career, barely losing on points. Sam Haskin followed up with strong kicks and punches in the heavyweight ring, and Smith and Reininger executed clean techniques in the lighter weight rings. Owen O'Keefe, fighting in the heavyweight division, was targeted with groin and leg kicks, but shrugged them off and continued punishing his opponent.
As the lightweight fighting rings were closing down, attention was drawn to the heavy-middleweight division, where Jesse Harter was off to a great start. He astounded the audience by changing from a "brutal" full contact boxer into a speedy and agile point-fighter. Using excellent ring movement and accurate techniques, he took out his first opponent, barely lost out to the second opponent and won his third fight with a two point spinning roundhouse. He placed third worldwide behind world champion Raymond Daniels.
The National Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu Team once again demonstrated their awesome drive and skill and thanks to the unyielding excellence passed on by Grandmaster Fu Leung and National Coach Sifu. Dana G. Daniels returned home victorious. The IMAC organization was taken aback by the awesome display of power and dominance in the continuous fighting and was again surprised when the whole team changed gears and beat out the competition with elegantly executed traditional Chinese forms and agile point fighting.
The team would like to thank Grandmaster Fu Leung and National Coach Sifu Dana G. Daniels for the teaching, coaching and endless dedication that lead to victory.