Tyler Ables, Justin Brantley, and Alex Singleton represented the Kokomo Fire Dragons and the state of Indiana at the USAMA Grand Internationals.                    Photo Provided
Tyler Ables, Justin Brantley, and Alex Singleton represented the Kokomo Fire Dragons and the state of Indiana at the USAMA Grand Internationals. Photo Provided

Three students from the Kokomo Fire Dragons were selected to participate as part of Team Indiana in the U.S. Association of Martial Artists Grand Internationals held in Albuquerque, N.M. recently.

Tyler Ables, Justin Brantley, and Alex Singleton joined other martial artists under the direction of Kurt Spivey and Steve St. Pierre in the contest.

“Tyler was picked by the coach, Kurt Spivey. I had the privilege to choose two more of my students to go. I went off of their will to compete, their will to push themselves, and class participation. They weren’t the best of the best but I knew they would go out there and do well, and they did,” said Kokomo Fire Dragons owner Steven Ables. 

The competition was a different sanction, and different rules from what the team was used to competing under. Steven said there were some difficulty with the rules on contact which led to some disqualifications, but overall the team did very well.

“It was really different. They throw a lot of high kicks and flutter kicks and they don’t hit as hard. We hit hard and throw more punches than they do,” said Singleton.

“The most noticeable difference were the contact rules.  In Kokomo and the surrounding area, karate is more of a contact sport.  In New Mexico the rules about making contact and where you were allowed to make contact were different. It was a little tricky when you are used to doing things one way to remember to do it differently there,” added Brantley.

The trio from Kokomo were able to adjust and bring home some hardware from the trip. A total of seven trophies were awarded to them over the weekend. Singleton earned third place in Kata. Brantley took second place in take down sparring, and third in chanbara and kumite. Tyler earned second place in chanbara and first in Kata and take down sparring.

Brantley said he enjoyed the take down sparring event as it was a combination of his two favorite.

In addition to the experience gained by the athletes at competition, they were able spend time with legends in the martial arts and learn from them.
“I think the neatest thing was who they got to meet and have dinner with. When I was a kid, with the black belts, you had to be accepted before they would even acknowledge you standing there. We’re a little freer to talk to the younger students to share our knowledge with and pass it on now. The people I looked up to as a kid, my own son and other two students got to go out there and bring it back,” Steven said. 

Tyler added, “There were a lot of older black belts out there. Normally back home, I wouldn’t be able to spend a weekend with them and learn from them like I did out there.”

The students from Kokomo Fire Dragons were able to bond with other martial artists from the state while on the trip. Brantley said it was a great bonding experience for him.

“Traveling with Team Indiana was so much fun,” he said. “I roomed with Tyler, who I’ve known for a few years now, but didn’t know that well on a personal level. I learned he’s really funny. Alex and I joked around a lot like brother and sister. Overall it was fun getting to know other people from Indiana that were traveling with the team. I see them at local competitions but this gave us an opportunity to see each other outside of competition, and I made a lot of new friends.”

Tyler echoed Brantley’s sentiment, saying they got to know each other a lot better and spend time together as a team from Indiana, but it was more like family. He said it was a good opportunity for the younger students who haven’t had an opportunity like this before.

Tyler was part of Team Indiana in 2016 who traveled to Texas to compete. All together, he said about five of whom went to New Mexico were part of the team that went to Texas.

Overall, Team Indiana knew the competition would be tough, but they were able to settle in and be successful in a different environment.

“When I went out there to New Mexico and fought the best of the best, I had to go to a whole new level to fight at the level they were at,” said Tyler. “