- Posted January 30, 2014 by
Atlantic City, New Jersey
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
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Alan Goldberg’s Mega Weekend for Martial Artists & Movies - Part 5 of 5
View my photography portfolio at ByHandPix.com.
In many ways, I’ve been working on this report for the past three years. In 2011, while shooting my documentary Blvd. Warriors, I contacted Wing Chun Kung Fu Master and dojo owner Alan Goldberg, requesting permission to shoot video at his event, the Action Martial Arts Mega Weekend and Hall of Honors Awards Banquet. Master Goldberg, a WorldBlackBelt.com Founding Member, graciously agreed to allow us to shoot at his event. My wife and Shomari Green of Gain-Green Productionz, joined me on the trip to the Tropicana Casino Hotel & Resort with the intention of documenting as much of the Mega Weekend and Hall of Honors Banquet as possible. We were all amazed, not only by the amount of action film celebrities, martial artists and related businesses in attendance, but with how welcome everyone made us feel. It was a reminder of why I started on this journey and how unifying the martial arts can be, at its best.
For 2014, as I finally begin editing my documentary after nearly five years of work, I decided to head back to Atlantic City for this year’s Action Martial Arts Mega Weekend, in order to share information about this incredible showcase with the rest of the world.
There’s numerous reasons one would attend this event. Whether you’re a martial arts school owner looking for tips on increasing enrollment or exposure, a student looking for training from legendary instructors, or a movie fan looking to meet iconic action film stars, Mega Weekend offers something for everyone. The event hosts more than 24 training seminars from some of martial arts most well-respected instructors, along with business seminars and an expo filled with product vendor booths.
There were hundreds of stories during the weekend of people and companies looking to find their own paths of success. For example, James Jefferson, Robert Garrett, Sifu Cliff Kupper and Global Proving Ground premiered the comic Warrior Island: A Vision Quest, which features many of the iconic martial arts & MMA figures that were in attendance. Renzo Gracie hosted the Renzo Gracie Classic Tournament, featuring teams from around the U.S. Actor and film producer Mahaliel Bethea, a.k.a. Sensei Mo, and actress Onique Bourne came to promote their indie action comedy film Love & Kung Fu. Young martial artist & personal trainer Kevin Logan attended Mega Weekend for the very first time, looking to network and make contacts for his acting career. Humberto Gonzalez, who grew up on a steady diet of Saturday afternoon “Black Belt Theater,” came to promote himself and a unique 5-sectional staff he created, based on his infatuation with the Asian weaponry he saw in movies growing up. Florida-based Master Apolo & his Kali 4 Kids, came to promote the indigenous Filipino martial art of “Kali.” Hanshi Gregory Duncan gave one of the weekend’s many high-calibre training seminars, continuing the legacy of his father, the late Professor Ronald Duncan and The Way of the Winds martial arts self-defense system. Oso Tayari Casel, a legendary kung fu fighter, also returned to train a group of eager students. Grandmaster Lucius Brown, Master Luis M. Ortega Jr. and Master Darrell Johnson attended the event bringing the spirit of their Newark-based Goshi-Shun Karate & Tae Kwon Do’s founding instructor Grandmaster Wilson. Chief Grandmaster Rico Guy of U.S. Budo Kai-Kan, who I’ve personally seen give incredibly dynamic sword demonstrations, browsed the expo floor with one of his students. Grandmasters George Logan & Michael DePasquale and Soke Haisan Kaleak also made it to the event, bringing their unique styles of martial arts with them. La’Mard J. Wingster of Troopers Touch Films & Demetrius Angelo, founder of the Urban Action Showcase, worked the event with Teresa Nash, an actress and performer who has appeared in a number of their films. Spoken word artist Rochelle Miller, a.k.a. "La Chocolate Box," and Douglas Wilburn’s DPTV also made it to the proceedings, but I only heard their voices, because it was so crowded on the show floor. And Thomas Sconzo, who’s New York Fight Exchange creates a platform for MMA in the New York area, helped me get some great photos of “The Karate Kid’s” Martin Kove for this article.
I continue to be impressed with how accessible the celebrities are at Mega Weekend, and there were many in attendance. Just an example of the attending icons this year include: Professional football player - turned actor, writer, director & film producer Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, who studied martial arts with the late Grandmaster Aaron Banks; Martial artist & actor Taimak, who starred in the cult film classic The Last Dragon; Mixed martial artist & professional wrestler Don “The Beast” Severn, who saw the dawn of Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments; Australian martial artist, action film star & stuntman Richard Norton; 10th Degree Red Belt & founder of the Chinese Goju System Ron “The Black Dragon” Van Clief, one of the first Americans to fearlessly travel to Asia and become an action film star; Five time World Karate Champion Cynthia Rothrock, who signed a contract with Golden Harvest that led to a string of cult favorite martial arts films, most notably the kinetic “China O’Brien”; Don “The Dragon” Wilson, an 11-time World Kickboxing Champion, who was one of the best known & most successful kickboxers of his era, who also went on to star in a number of action movies; Award-winning action director, fight choreographer and stunt performer Art Camacho; Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, a pioneer of sport full-contact karate in the United States, who was named "Competitor of the Year" in 1978 by Black Belt Magazine; Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, who was the Professional Karate Association (PKA) Middleweight Champion kickboxer for nearly six years, who was known for his remarkable kicking technique (I remember watching his very last televised fight on ABC Wide World of Sports); Martin Kove, who has black belts in Kendo, Okinawa-te and Tiger Kenpo, but is better known as playing villains in the original Death Race 2000 & The Karate Kid; Former professional wrestler Hank Garrett, who appeared in one of my favorite movies of all time, “Three Days of the Condor”; and retired heavyweight fighter Demetrius "Oaktree" Edwards, one of Mike Tyson's former sparring partners.
These were just some of the many martial artists and celebrities that attended the event this year. When you add to that hundreds of notable competition fighters & instructors, plus thousands of fans, you have the largest event of its kind in the United States.
While checking Facebook I noticed there’s already talk of next year’s event being even larger and it looks like it will be, based on the growth this year.
One of the next expos that will center on martial arts will also be in Atlantic City. On March 29th, Sifu Cliff Kupper will present a martial arts/comic-con hybrid event called The Chinese Kung Fu & Karate Expo, which will include Grandmaster Chi Ling Chiu from the movie Kung Fu Hustle, author and martial artist Hanshi Stephen Kaufman, Ron “The Black Dragon” Van Clief, Professor Sayfullaah Al-Amriykiy, Sifu Mark Messare, Soke David J. D’Antonio, Sifu Robert Samuels, Sifu Karen Schlachter, Master Alan Glodberg, Sifu Kevin Hufford, Grandmaster John Crudup, Grandmaster Les Kiersnowski, Master Mike Andrus, Hanshi Rico Guy, Sifu James Cama, Sifu Jamal El and many more. They will host a series of seminars, trade shows and demonstrations at the Chelsea Hotel.
The month of May will bring The Martial Arts History Museum’s 2014 edition of Dragonfest in Los Angeles. Dragonfest guests will include Lorenzo Lamas, Cynthia Rothrock, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Art Camacho, Tak Kubota, Carrie Ogawa-Wong, Doug Wong, Allen Woodman, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Peter Cunningham, Simon Rhee, Fumio Demura, Shin Koyomada, Donnie Williams (who I interviewed for Blvd. Warriors), Gorilla Pictures, Paul Wee, Mel’s Props, Kano Kid and many more.