Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Team Evergreen competed at their first tournament of the 2001 season on April 28. The team attended the Pacwest Tae Kwon Do Association Martial Arts Championships. The tournament was sanctioned by the International Martial Arts Council (IMAC) and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). This was the regional AAU National qualifying tournament for the AAU Nationals of Tae Kwon Do, and can lead to American national team tryouts, and the Olympics.

The tournament director was Master Ric Gordon, and much like the man himself, the tournament was professional, clean, and fair. This was the first tournament the team has been to in a long time where cheating was not a factor. In a refreshing change from the card shuffling and backstabbing that occurs in the National Blackbelt League (NBL), the Pacwest Championships were judged fairly and impartially.

Team Evergreen made an impressive showing in its first appearance at an AAU sanctioned event. While Tae Kwon Do competitors were struggling to qualify for the Nationals, Team Evergreen came in and won 17 medals with 7 competitors.

Team captain Jesse Harter shocked the crowd with his gold medal forms performance, which showed absolute crisp discipline and power. The blackbelt open forms field was left behind as Master Gordon gave Harter a perfect 10.0, while another judge gave a 9.9. Shasta Smith placed second in the division with his high-flying Gnok Fei form. John Eastlake rounded out the sweep of the division, tying for third with his powerful performance of Mui Fa.

In women’s blackbelt forms, Jessie Smith came up against 13 Tae Kwon Do competitors and beat them all, taking gold with her form Mui Fa. It is a rarely seen feat for a single, black uniformed kung fu competitor to defeat a large field of white uniformed Tae Kwon Do stylists in their own championships.

The beginners Ben Greene and Gin Harbold, in their second tournament ever, had similar results. They took gold and silver respectively in the beginner forms division. In a testament to their training, one judge commented that they so outmatched the opposition that they should be competing in the intermediate rings. Promotions are in store.

After a midday interlude for lunch, the tournament resumed with point and continuous sparring. Captain Jesse Harter dominated his continuous fight with clarity and skill but was DQ’d near the end of the match. Harter finished the day with silver in the point ring after a long match with teammate Shasta Smith. Jessie Smith outclassed the women’s continuous sparring ring, and after beating nearly all the competition, got DQ’d in the last round of the finals to finish with silver. John Eastlake had the best fight of his career in the continuous ring, controlling the tempo of his match and scoring repeatedly with flurries of hits. Eastlake was a sure win for the round but was DQ’d at the last possible second for face contact; he placed fifth. Owen O’Keefe had solid fights in both point and continuous. O’Keefe fought through the continuous field, drawing on his world championship experience and taking gold in the final round against teammate Gin Harbold. Shasta Smith went for the cycle in the tournament. After taking silver in forms, Smith finished third in the continuous sparring ring after a tough fight with a Tae Kwon Do fighter who gave Smith a hard time with his evasive fighting style. Smith then followed up by winning gold in the point ring, just edging out Jesse Harter. Gin Harbold made an excellent showing and fought his way to silver in both the point and the continuous rings.

After the tournament ended, traditional Tae Kwon Do master, Master Gordon, honored the team by inviting us to dinner. The team extends its thanks to Master Gordon both for his hospitality and even more so for the fair officiating at his tournament. Team Evergreen thanks non-competing club members and fans for coming out to cheer the team on. The team also thanks Grandmaster Fu Leung and National Coach Sifu Dana for their teaching and coaching that made the team’s success possible.

Catch the video action of the competition on Shasta’s Evergreen Sports Show. Also stay tuned for future competitions as Team Evergreen Kung Fu’s 2001 season gets going. Expect more from the up-and-coming junior team to be and next fall’s new captain Owen O’Keefe.