The Day they made history in Santo Domingo
The First international team tournament for pros had everything – even tragedy.
Photos by Moises Andrickson and Juan Alfonseco
EIGHT THOUSAND EMOTIONAL Dominican karate fans sprang to their feet — many screaming with tears running down their faces and shaking their clenched fists wildly in the air. An American observer suddenly shouted in panic, “I’m getting out of here before they tear the stadium down. There’s gonna be a riot in here — let’s get out now!”. A veteran observer of Latin American karate who was sitting at the officials’ table begged everyone not to panic as he explained, “The Dominicans are always this emotional, so don’t be afraid.” “But,” said the frightened American, “this is just an exhibition match going on now; what will happen when the Mexican and Dominican teams come out to fight?” The frantic occasion was actually the first time in history that international, professional karate teams had met in full-contact competition. Jose Reyes’ Dominican Republic karate team played host January 25, 1975 to the national team of Mexico led by former three-time U.S. karate champion David Moon. Held in Santo Domingo’s Palacio de los Deportes, the event featured five-man teams, with each fighter competing against one opponent of similar weight for four one-minute rounds. Each round won by decision earned a team one point. Five points were awarded for a knockout with the hands, 10 points for a knockout with the feet. Two points were awarded to the team winning the breaking competition, two points to the team winning the team kata, which was performed to music.
Before the team competition began, the Dominicans exhibited their prowess with weapons and other martial skills. Two youngsters gave a self-defense demonstration against the bo, incorporating gymnastic and jumping techniques that would have impressed the Russian gymnastic team. Several impressive weapons exhibitions were given by black belt Vitelio Echevarria, who was followed by peewee team competition for kids between ages nine and 12. The Dominican peewee teams consisted of five boys per team. The rules were full contact. Safe-T-Punch was worn, but Safe-T-Kick was not. The youngsters didn’t seem even remotely disturbed by the screaming crowd and when they began fighting, they certainly displayed a total lack of fear. Although each child received several full-contact punches and kicks to the head and face, none of them cried or showed fear. Even when they lost, they seemed unmoved and took every decision without displaying emotion of any kind. Their overall technique appeared much better than that of the average American peewee competitor. The Dominicans should really dominate the lower weight divisions when these kids begin competing in adult competition. Prior to the main competition, three “friendly” exhibition matches were held between the Domicans and the Mexicans. Though they were not part of the actual competiion, these matches were knock-down, drag-out affairs. The Dominicans won all three. Raphael Wilamo defeated Alberto Cano, Leonidas Lopez defeated Jose Luis Sanchez, and Mario Wilamo bested Fernando Tovar. The most impressive fighter in the exhibitions was world-rated superlightweight Leonidas Lopez, who failed to make the Dominican team, according to coach Reyes, because he had not trained regularly the preceding two months.