SideKick Karate hosts national martial arts event

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 27, 2023

SideKick Karate of Salisbury hosted a national martial arts event, the first annual American Karate Academies National Association (AKANA) Family Reunion and Seminars, on Aug. 3-5. AKANA-chartered martial art school owners from California, Oregon, Washington State, Colorado, Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina attended the reunion. The three-day event included 15 seminars with different styles of martial arts, a kata team competition between the East and West coasts, black belt exams, and awards dinner on Saturday night.

Ricky Smith and his wife Edie, owners of SideKick Karate, hosted the event. “The whole idea was to get the East Coast schools and the West Coast schools together,” said Ricky, the newly elected president of AKANA. “Salisbury was such a great place for the event,” said Edie. “Everyone loved the historical aspect of the city and enjoyed the local restaurants. We were very proud to host the event here. Our special guests were really impressed with their stay at Across the Pond Bed & Breakfast and everyone enjoyed the after event festivities across the street at the Bonaparte Castle.”

AKANA was started by Jerry Piddington in 1976 with schools in Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas. It has evolved into a national organization with the purpose of preserving and validating the lineage, history and rank of its members under a governing board. The board members present at the event were Jerry Piddington (chief adviser), Danny McCall (senior adviser), Ricky Smith (director), C.J. Mayo (assistant director), along with the style advisers Robert Bowles (white crane fist style/shuri-ryu), Joe Martin (tai chi/kungfu), and Troy Price (ju-jitsu/bujutsu). Two additional board members were voted in during the event: Randy Smith (sport karate adviser) and Joe McClellan (historian advisor).

Over 100 martial artists participated in the seminars with 165 guests attending the dinner awards banquet held at SideKick Karate. The 5-member East Coast Kata Team won the competition against the West Coast Team. “It was an extraordinary competition that displayed a high level of technique,” explained Randy Smith, Ricky’s twin brother. The winning team members were Shawn Bolick (captain), Ben Bolick, Kenny Chavarria, James Bristol, and Tom Bristol (alternate), all from SideKick Karate of Salisbury, and Tyra Lucas from Lucas Shotakan Academy in Bakersville.

“SideKick Karate was a gathering place for the pioneers of martial arts in America,” said Ricky Smith. “Robert Bowles of Fort Wayne, Indiana is the most senior living rank in America and Jerry Piddington of Ashland, Oregon, was the first to teach a recognized American style of karate in the United States. Robert Bowles, called O’Sensei, was the Senior Black Belt under Robert A. Trias, who is known as the father of American karate. He opened the first karate school in America in Phoenix, Arizona in 1946. That is as close to the root of American Karate as you can get,” continued Ricky. “The theme of our event was to honor the ones who have gone before us and pave the way for the next generation. Having O’Sensei Robert Bowles sign our promotion certificates along with the signature of our teacher, Jerry Piddington, made the promotions very special.”

One of the AKANA Hall of Fame Awards presented by Jerry Piddington, founder of AKANA, was given to Debbie Barnhardt Basinger, in memory of her late husband, Gary Basinger, who was Ricky and Randy’s first karate teacher. Debbie, owner of Barnhardt Jewelers in Salisbury, accepted the award saying, “What Gary did for karate in Salisbury planted the seed for all the students who are training at SideKick Karate today. If it were not for Gary, none of this would be happening,” added Ricky Smith.

Instructors who received their AKANA teaching credentials of sensei were Josiah Newton of Mt Ulla, Christine Ruff of Charlotte, Daniel Mantangira and Howard Douglas of Salisbury.

Students who received high ranking black belt promotions by AKANA were Randy Smith of SideKick Karate of Salisbury, ninth degree; Stokes Hairston of Lexington, ninth degree; Roger Dabney of Richmond Virginia, ninth degree; Norman Bivens of Lexington, seventh degree; Robert Taylor of Albemarle, seventh degree; Jeff Dixon of SideKick Karate of Concord, sixth degree; Justin Revak of Fuzion Martial Arts in Charlotte, sixth degree; Martin Elvidge of Concord, fifth degree; Madison Hobbs of Hobbs MMA in Concord, fourth degree; and Shawn Bolick of SideKick Karate of Salisbury, third degree black belt.