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'Shock and awe' - karate style

Master Sgt. Jay "Byrd" Bryant, 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Superintendent, poses with his first place trophy from The Battle of the Bayou Martial Arts Karate Championships in Shreveport, La., Feb 3. Bryant placed first in the men's over-40 free sparring, black belt division. "I was definitely in shock and completely in awe," said a smiling Master Sgt. Jay "Byrd" Bryant, 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Superintendent. Bryant placed first in the men's over-40 free sparring, black belt division. "This was my first competition in 18 years and my first as a black belt," Sergeant Bryant said. "I've been in and out of martial arts for the past four or five years, but during my tour in Seoul, Korea last year, I decided to get serious with it and starting training really hard. Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical of doing well, but after stepping onto that floor and hearing my friends and teammates cheer me on, I was good to go." (Courtesy photo)

Master Sgt. Jay "Byrd" Bryant, 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Superintendent, poses with his first place trophy from The Battle of the Bayou Martial Arts Karate Championships in Shreveport, La., Feb 3. Bryant placed first in the men's over-40 free sparring, black belt division. "I was definitely in shock and completely in awe," said a smiling Master Sgt. Jay "Byrd" Bryant, 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Superintendent. Bryant placed first in the men's over-40 free sparring, black belt division. "This was my first competition in 18 years and my first as a black belt," Sergeant Bryant said. "I've been in and out of martial arts for the past four or five years, but during my tour in Seoul, Korea last year, I decided to get serious with it and starting training really hard. Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical of doing well, but after stepping onto that floor and hearing my friends and teammates cheer me on, I was good to go." (Courtesy photo)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- '"Shock and awe."

Those words were echoed by a member from the 314th Airlift Wing when he received his first place trophy among the top five winners in his belt category at The Battle of the Bayou Martial Arts Karate Championships in Shreveport, La., Feb 3.

"I was definitely in shock and completely in awe," said a smiling Master Sgt. Jay "Byrd" Bryant, 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Superintendent. Bryant placed first in the men's over-40 free sparring, black belt division.

"This was my first competition in 18 years and my first as a black belt. I've been in and out of martial arts for the past four or five years, but during my tour in Seoul, Korea last year, I decided to get serious with it and starting training really hard," said Sergeant Bryant.

"Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical of doing well, but after stepping onto that floor and hearing my friends and teammates cheer me on, I was good to go."

Sergeant Bryant, an Alexandria, La., native and 26-year Air Force veteran said that prior to entering the competition, he had only been training for about two months at his current school. But, he got some much needed advice about competing in the contest from his instructor, 8th degree Grandmaster Mike Brown of Mike Brown's Tae Kwon Do, Jacksonville, Ark. 

"Jay is a good fighter," said Grandmaster Brown. "When he first starting training here, I could tell he had great basic skills. He just needed me to help him recondition and hone those skills better." After watching him work for a month or so, I told him that he has the potential to be as good as he wants to be," said Brown. I also told him that when he competes in the tournament, to just relax, remember what I've taught him and that he would do fine - and he did."

Grand Master Brown added, "What Jay lacks in skill, he makes up in hard work and experience. I'm proud to have him train at my school."

More than 80 men, women and children traveled from surrounding areas such as Kansas, Arkansas and Texas to compete in the all-day tournament. Sergeant Bryant said he felt proud to represent the Air Force and Little Rock AFB.

"As far as I know, I was the only active duty, Air Force member competing. But then again, when you have multiple flying hands and feet coming at you from every direction at the same time, you don't stop to ask what the person's rank is," said Sergeant Bryant smiling.

In addition to Sergeant Bryant, four other members of Grandmaster Brown's school competed in the tournament and two of the four took top honors. Chase Heineman and Brett Matchett both swept first place and took home grand champion trophies in each event they competed in. Heinemann, a 17-year old third degree black belt and instructor at the school won first place in grappling, forms and sparring. He also won the grand champion trophy for forms. The other two competitors, Tiffany Smith, a 10 year-old first degree black belt finished second in sparring and third in forms. Bradlee Yarber, an 11 year-old green belt, won first place in forms. He finished second in weapons and grappling.

"Chase is in the top five and probably the top three of all the students I've ever taught," said Grandmaster Brown. "And I've taught thousands and thousands of students, but Chase is something special."

Nine year old Matchett, a high purple belt, won first place in his division in traditional form, sparring and weapons form. The first place in weapons allowed him to compete against the other first place winners from other age and rank divisions for the Grand Champion trophy.

"Brett has the potential to be another Chase," said Brown. "He has the potential to be world class. You have your local martial artists and you have those who can compete in state and regional competition, then the country and then world class. Brett has the ability to compete at a world class level." When you train like Chase and Brett do, then you're going to be a champion," Grandmaster Brown said. "Training is the key. To be a champion you have to train like a champion." 

Sergeant Bryant said that he is not looking to be a karate champion any time soon. He said that he simply enjoys martial arts, but is not "looking to relive his childhood."

"When I was 18-25 years old, I had visions of being a karate champion, but now I just enjoy being fit," he said. "I stay in shape by lifting weights three times a week at the base fitness center. I also eat healthy and get plenty of rest."

Sergeant Bryant added that in addition to martial arts, he is a competitive bodybuilder and competes in bodybuilding shows three or four times a year. He even has his own health and fitness web site, www.bodiesbybyrd.com

His next martial arts contest will be the Grand National Martial Arts Karate Championships at the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Center Ark., May 5.
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