CRESTVIEW — An estimated 280 spectators attended the 2012 Northwest Florida Fall Martial Arts Championships at Davidson Middle School on Saturday. Competitors from across the panhandle competed in 74 divisions within six events including sparring, forms and self-defense.
“This tournament is good fellowship with students and instructors,” Bob Ferguson said. “The kids just keep coming back.” Ferguson and instructor Anthony Whitmer, from the YMCA Martial Arts Club in Navarre, assisted Thomas Gordon from event sponsor Gordon Martial Arts. Ferguson and Whitmer served as the three-hour event’s judges.
The competition allowed students to learn new fighting styles and disciplines of how the "other guys teach," Whitmer said.
Many competitors were from area martial arts schools. Fifteen students from CD Williamson’s martial arts school in Niceville were present. Williamson, who has been involved with martial arts for 37 years, was the event’s rules arbitrator. Although nearly 80 percent of his students are in the 17-and-younger age range, Williamson said that martial arts aren’t just for kids.
“Its for everybody … nobody gets to sit on the bench,” he said.
One parent said he has seen the training’s positive influence.
“It’s been great as far as his discipline, and his grades have also improved,” Bart Begley said about Brock, his 8-year-old son. This was the fourth competition that Brock competed in.
Some of the young students have picked up the techniques quickly. Baker resident Cariann Diaz, 13, said she only trained in martial arts for less than a year when she won second place in the 11- to 13-year-old sparring competition.
“I was actually really nervous at first,” said Diaz, who attends Morgan’s Martial Arts. However, through hard work and focus, she has picked up the skills and learned some life lessons along the way.
“It has definitely showed me how to better protect myself ... and make me more aware of my surroundings,” she said.