Local club members vie for state titles

Published 11:31 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By Jay Russell

Special to the Times

Members of Ross Taekwondo Academy’s martial arts team continued competition in the Alabama Karate Circuit open martial arts tournament season Saturday, Apr. 18 at the Rocket City Karate Rumble martial arts tournament in Huntsville, Ala.

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A team of nine Demopolis residents brought home twenty-one trophies from the forms, weapons, point sparring, grappling, and continuous sparring competitions that are hosted annually by half a dozen martial arts schools in North Alabama. Teams from clubs as far away as Tennessee and North Georgia travel to compete in the day-long events.

“This was, by far, our best performance of the year,” Team Captain Jay Russell said. “We now have five team members vying for state championships in nine divisions.”

Following this third tournament in the six-tournament season that stretches until September, Russell said Ross TKD students Elizabeth Etheridge, Krissany Purnell, and Tyler Bowers are all leading point holders in sparring divisions. Bowers also leads the state in the open-hand forms division for his age group, and Etheridge leads in forms as well as the continuous fighting division for 18 and up white to purple belt women.

“We’re always proud when our students win in the artistic divisions like forms, weapons, and XMA (extreme martial arts),” Russell said, “but we’re even prouder when they bring home wins in the fighting divisions. Testing your combative skills against experienced, resisting opponents is a key component to good martial arts training.”

Russell, who is the defending state champion in the men’s black belt continuous fighting division, added that his team recorded six first place victories in Huntsville in the sparring competitions.

He won first in continuous fighting at the Rocket City Karate Rumble, second in competitive sparring, and second in open-hand forms.

Ross TKD head instructor Ronda Russell won first place in the women’s 18 to 29 forms, first place in the women’s 18 to 29 weapons forms, and second place in the competitive sparring divisions. Ronda is also the defending state champion in forms and weapons.

Other members of the team who placed were: Elizabeth Etheridge, first place in beginner women’s forms, competitive sparring, and continuous fighting; Haley Etheridge, third place in black belt girls’ 12 and 13 sparring; Emily Purnell, first place in beginner girls’ 16 and 17 sparring and forms; Krissany Purnell, first place in beginner girls’ 10 and 11 sparring; Jackson Morrison, fourth place in intermediate boys’ 10 and 11 sparring; Brett Schroeder, first place in 9 and under beginner and intermediate extreme forms, second places in intermediate boys’ 7 sparring and fourth place in forms; and Tyler Bowers, first places in beginner boys’ 7 sparring and forms and second place in 9 and under beginner and intermediate extreme forms.

The Ross TKD Academy martial artists have been competing throughout the year in the AKC and have several members who hold first place positions in the state championship point standings for various point sparring, weapons forms, open hand forms, and kickboxing divisions. The AKC season consists of six tournaments running from February through October.

Russell said the team at Ross Tae Kwon Do Academy, 1613 Highway 43 South in Demopolis, will take a break from competition in May as there is no AKC tournament that month.

“Right now we’re going to momentarily switch our focus to grappling and MMA,” Russell said.

“We have several guest instructors coming in next month from Chicago and Woodbridge, Virginia. With the help of these experts, we’ll be hosting a day-long Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial arts seminar.”

Russell added that the team’s next scheduled AKC tournament would be June 20 in Jasper.