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Tyson Kellerman and Chelsy Erickson
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Dec 28, 2010
US Kempo Team Wins big at
World Kempo Championships in Portugal!
US Team Wins 3rd Place Overall Team Cup!
April 2-6, 2008
Robert Zingg, 52, of Harper’s Ferry, WV, with fellow West Virginians Tyson Kellerman, 21, of Martinsburg and Eric Rozich, 16, of Charles Town, along with Brian Duffy, 55, of Austin, TX, Greg Duke, 37, of Ft. Worth, TX and Ray Gilbert, 38, of Joplin, MO, made up the entire United States Kempo Team which participated in the World Kempo Championship Tournament (WKC) in Faro, Portugal.
Kempo is a martial art similar to modern Karate in many ways, though much older. It is also akin to the grappling arts of Ju-jutsu, Judo and Wrestling. The techniques of Kempo cross the boundaries of the striking and grappling arts in a natural blend of styles and techniques.
Zingg, Kellerman, and Rozich practice the Toraken-ryu style of Kempo from Japan and the Tozan-ryu Kempo style from Okinawa. Duffy, Gilbert and Duke practice the Ed Parker American Kenpo System. [Various schools use either the ‘n’ or ‘m’ spelling of the word “Kempo” according to their traditions]. Mr. Duffy has a martial arts school in Austin, TX and Gilbert and Duke are his students. Mr. Gilbert owns a martial arts studio in Joplin, Mo., while Mr. Duke is a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Ft. Worth, TX. Kellerman and Rozich are students of Mr. Zingg, Kellerman having trained with Mr. Zingg since he was 6 years old. Mr. Kellerman attends Shepherd University and Mr. Rozich attends Jefferson High School. Duffy and Gilbert are veterans of the 2007 World Championships, while Mr. Kellerman was a member of the 2003 US Kempo Team along with Mr. Zingg.
The tiny US Team went head-to-head with some of the best and largest Kempo Teams in the world, and achieved the 3rd Place Overall Team Cup. The US Team consists of members from across the United States from many different Kempo schools and organizations. All styles of Kempo are welcome to tryout and join the team.
This year the US Team won a total of 8 Gold, 6 Silver, and 12 Bronze Medals in Individual and Team events. In the 3 prior World Championships the US Team won 15 Gold, 12 Silver, and 20 Bronze Medals. With this year’s effort, it brings the US Teams totals to 23 Gold, 18 Silver, and 32 Bronze Medals.
Many of the other teams competing in the tournament were considerably larger than the United States Team. The Romanian Team, which won first place overall, consisted of 60 team members. The second place team, Portugal, consisted of 45 members. The United States Team consisted of only six members and achieved third place overall, quite an accomplishment.
The World Championship tournament is divided into two sections; “Traditional Divisions” and “Full-contact Sport Fighting”.
Traditional Divisions include the Forms and Weapon Forms categories, which are choreographed solo or team fight sequences reminiscent of the floor exercises in gymnastics. Many of these Traditional Forms are hundreds of years old and are practiced in martial arts schools throughout the world. Empty Hand Self-Defense, Weapon Self-Defense, and Full-Contact Weapon Fighting, make up the rest of the Traditional categories.
The Sport Fighting Division is divided into 5 separate fighting styles, each with their particular rules and styles of combat;
1) Semi-Contact Kempo, a light, touch-point system, emphasizing speed and accuracy,
2) K-1 Kempo, stand-up only, full-contact kickboxing where no grappling is allowed,
3) Full-Contact Kempo – full-contact kickboxing with grappling, using boxing gloves,
4) Knockdown Kempo – bare knuckle full-contact kickboxing with grappling, similar to the popular MMA (mixed martial arts) contests being held throughout the US.
5) Submission Kempo - a grappling only style of fighting where the fighter wins by choking, or applying locks and holds on his opponent in order to force him to submit.
The US Team won 3rd Place Team Honors in the Traditional Events, behind Bulgaria who took 2nd and Romania who won the top spot at 1st place. The US Team finished 5th in the Sport Fighting Team Awards behind Portugal and Algeria, tied for 4th, France in 3rd, Romania in 2nd and Russia in 1st place.
When the Combined Scores of the Traditional and Sport Fighting Divisions were added together for the Overall Team Awards, Romania won 1st place, Portugal, 2nd and the United States, 3rd.
The WKC originally was held every two years, however, due to Kempo’s increased popularity, starting this year the WKC will be held every year.
Mr. Zingg, the United States Team Leader, said “It was very gratifying to have the US Team do so well, as we [the US Kempo Team] had tremendous hardships to overcome in order to put a team together. Some of the other nation’s teams are partially funded by their respective governments, through their Ministry of Sport, for example. Unfortunately for the US Kempo Team, our team members have to pay their own travel expenses to the World Championships at the present time, as sponsorships are difficult to come by. This is one of the reasons why the US Team is so much smaller than many of our European counterparts. Hopefully, with our team’s strong showing here in Faro, we will be able to field a larger and even stronger team at next year’s tournament in Nice [France].”
Mr. Zingg also said that team members who had planned to attend, but could not for various reasons, hailed from all over the Continental United States as well as Hawaii. If all had gone as planned no fewer than 25 members, from more than 12 states would have competed. Potential members coming from as far away as Hawaii, California, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Maryland, New York, West Virginia and Virginia, had planned on attending.
Mr. Zingg, who won 3 Bronze Medals this year, was not even scheduled to participate. He had planned to retire from the competition to allow other up and coming team members to participate more fully, and had planned to concentrate on coaching, but due to members dropping out he stepped up and filled in their places. He is a veteran of the previous 3 events and has won a total of 8 Gold, 2 Silver and 4 Bronze medals in the World Championships. The other team members this year also stepped up and registered for extra events to increase the US Teams presence in the Championships.
Besides Mr. Zingg’s 1 Individual and 2 Team Bronze medals, Mr. Duffy won 4 Silver and 1 Bronze Individual medals, as well as 1 Gold and 2 Bronze Team medals. Mr. Gilbert won 5 Gold and 1 Bronze Individual medals, and 1 Gold and 1 Team Bronze medals. Mr. Duke won 2 Gold and 3 Bronze Individual medals and 1 Gold and 2 Bronze Team medals. Mr. Kellerman won 2 Individual Silver medals and 1 Team Bronze medal, and Mr. Rozich won 3 Individual Bronze medals. This was Mr. Rozich’s first ever martial arts tournament, he says he was a bit nervous about it, “Having the World Championships be the first martial arts tournament I have ever competed in was a bit un-nerving, but I figured if nothing else, I would learn a great deal. Boy, did I learn, I was up against some really tough, experienced fighters and I am all fired up to come back next year. I can’t wait to get back home and start training”.
This is the US Team’s 4th trip to the World Championships and in each of the previous events the US has had small teams, ranging in size from 4 to 11 members. Some European teams like Romania and Hungary typically have as many as 75 –100 members. France, Russia, The Netherlands, Slovakia, and Portugal usually have teams in the 25 – 40 range. Other countries are similar. The US Team is currently solely supported by its members, their family and friends.
Mr. Zingg said that the level of competition has been increasing greatly in each subsequent World Championship. The teams of Russia, Romania, Hungary, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Slovakia are very powerful and have many of the best Kempo fighters in the world. The US has many equally qualified Kempo fighters but due to the lack of sponsorships it is difficult to get potential members on the team.
The next World Kempo Championship Tournament is being held at the end of April 2009, in Nice, France. Despite their small size this year, Mr. Zingg is confident the USA can put together a team of over 50 members for the next World Championship, “After all,” he says, “when Americans put their minds to something, it happens.”
For more information about the US Kempo Team please visit www.uskempoteam.org