ST. LOUIS : TOP 10 NATIONALS
Knudson Wins The Gold Cup, Chicago Dominates National Competition
Chicago’s Ken Knudson and Company proved that karate competition in the Midwest is definitely equal again to any area in the country. Knudson and his teammates, Steve Kijewski and Bill Josaitis, challenged and defeated top caliber fighters from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico as they captured titles in 2 of the 4 weight divisions plus the Grand Championhip and the coveted “Gold Cup” Award.
SOME 5,000 SPECTATORS jammed into an arena with a seating capacity of only 3,300 to witness the finals in Black Belt competition and demonstrations by masters in the Korean, Japanese, Okinawan, and Chinese systems. Most of the Karateka present were anxious to see who would come out on top in Black Belt competition. since all of North America seemed to be adequately represented. The Black Belt Division fielded so many top competitors that 12 black belts who had paid their entry fees – decided not to compete. Kansas City’s Jim Harrison was chosen as chief official for his ability to judge fairly, keep strict discipline, and not have his decisions swayed by big name competitors or politics. Rounding out the field of head officials were Al Gene Caraulia, Glenn Keeney, Phil Koeppel, George Menshew, Takayuki Mikami, Allen Steen, Fred Wren, Pat Wyatt, Tadashi Yamashita, and Bob Yarnall.
BLACK BELT FINALS
In the Lightweight finals, California’s Byong Yu bested St. Louis’ Walt Bone 2-1 in a match laden with impressive kicking and jump kicking combinations. The Middleweight finals pitted another Californian. John “The Giant Killer—Natividad against Chicago’s young Steve Kijewski. Both fighters battled to a 1-1 deadlock. In overtime, Kijewski lashed out with a fast roundhouse kick to the head to win the match. The Light-Heavyweight division finals featured Mexico City’s Travis Everitt against the powerful Jeff Smith of Washington, D.C. Smith was more cautious in this match than his usual self as he was not familiar with the style of Travis Everitt, who is probably Mexico’s most experienced active competitor. Smith, however, pulled it out in the closing seconds with a heel kick to the head. Final score, 1-0. In the Heavyweight Division Finals Roger Carpenter, an experienced champion from Wichita, Kansas, met Chicago’s Bill Josaitis. Josaitis is a newcomer to the national tournament scene but held the experienced Carpenter to an-other 1-1 tie. In overtime, after a series of hard clashes, Josaitis won the match with a Well-controlled back fist to the head.
GRAND CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALS
The first match of the Grand Championship eliminations featured Lightweight champ Byong Yu against Middle-weight champion Steve Kijewski. Both fighters seemed extremely cautious throughout the match as neither wished to blow their chances of winning the $750 “Gold Cup.” Neither player could score during regulation time. In overtime. Kijewski finally ended it with a backfist to Yu’s head. In the second Grand champion eliminations match D.C.’s Jeff Smith won a close one over Bill Josaitis, the Heavyweight champion, 1-0 with a well-focused head punch in the closing seconds. Enter Ken Knudson, the defending Champion. Knudson’s first match was against his own student, Steve Kijewski. Rather than forfeit the match, which is customary when student meets instructor, the two Chicagoans decided to battle it out. The match went Knudson’s way as he scored early with his famous “shinbone to shinbone” foot sweep followed by a reverse punch. Knudson kept applying his usual pressure and the score remained 1-0 as time ran out.
The St. Louis crowd was really in for a karate treat. The demos scheduled were to be from Japanese, Chinese, Okinawan, and Korean styles to give the public a good example of all of karate’s major systems. The Chinese demo was first featuring Al Dacascos of Denver and San Francisco’s Eric Lee. This was the first time St. Louisans got a good look at Kung-fu, a system that is rare in the Midwest. Their 20 minute demo brought the first real standing ovation seen at a Midwest tournament for awhile. The Kung-fu stylists demonstrated their elegant katas, a weapons kata, self-defense, and internal resistance powers. This was done by placing 4 steel pointed arrows at one of Dacascos’ student’s throat and shoving the arrows into the throat until they snapped in the middle.
Takayuki Mikami was next as the representative of Japanese karate. Mikami, the 3 time all Japan Champion in Kumite and Kata, performed an advanced kata. Then. to the delight of the crowd, gave a one-step sparring exhibition with St. Louis’ Fred Wren. Mikami was unbelievable as he executed a footsweep with his left leg followed by a lunge punch while stepping with his right leg that covered the entire ring (22 feet). Byong Yu was next, to demonstrate the Korean system. Credit must be given to Mr. Yu as he entered Kata competition at 9 o’clock in the morning, free sparring at 4 P.M., fought in the finals, and demonstrated at 10 P.M. He was still in the act at 10:30 assisting Mr. Yamashita. This is what you call a real 6th degree Black Belt. Washington D.C.’s Pat Worley assisted Mr. Yu in a kicking demonstration that was truly “out of sight.— Yu’s boy completely cleared Worley’s head while executing a jump side kick. He also did a jump roundhouse followed by a heel kick with the same leg. Both kicks were over Worley’s head. We could mention some of the other kicks he demonstrated, but no one would believe it. Byong’s demo was climaxed by his breaking 2 bricks with a hack fist, then 2 more with a chop as the bricks were suspended in the air. The final exhibition was in Okinawan Karate. The sensational Tadashi Yamashita was selected to demonstrate his famous ability with weapons. Yamashita, who always performs best in front of a large audience, really astonished the crowd. His 20 minute demo covered everything from blindfolded one-step sparring, to nunchaku, to a samurai sword exhibition. Yamashita placed an apple in Fred Wren’s mouth and tied 3 apples around his neck hanging down from his throat to his lower abdomen. With 4 lightning strokes of the nunchaku, all 4 apples suddenly disintegrated ( see photo). Yamashita’s demo was climaxed by placing one watermelon on Walt Bone’s chest as he was lying between 2 chairs, one watermelon in Byong Yu’s hands, blindfolding himself, then cutting one watermelon in 3 pieces and the other in two with his razor edged samurai sword.
GRAND CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
KEN KNUDSON (Chicago) vs. JEFF SMITH (Washington D.C.). The “Gold Cup” finalists featured two of America’s physically toughest fighters, Jeff Smith and Ken Knudson. Up until this match, most of the Black Belt finals and semi-finals were relatively “undynamic.” Most of the fighters had been extremely cautious and over-polite with each other. It seemed like everyone was trying harder to make friends and show sportsmanship than rack up points as they were all extremely capable of doing. The Smith-Knudson match changed the precedent. These two battlers slugged it out and clash upon vicious clash saw Knudson finally score a solid point with a reverse punch. Smith tied it up 1-1 with a punch of his own. Then, in the final seconds, Smith hit Knudson in the face with a roundhouse kick giving Knudson the point for excessive contact and eventually the match.