Local martial artist wins world championship in Philippines
by Advance Newspapers Wednesday August 27, 2008, 3:15 PM
From a very early age, Mariah Moore knew what her destiny was. She wanted to do martial arts. She began asking to do karate at the age of 6. At just 8 years old, she was enrolled in Ro-Ken Karate, and by the tender age of 10, she had traveled to China to train with the coaches of Jet Li and Jackie Chan. By 12, she was a two-time world champion.
Now, at just 14 years old, Mariah has made her hometown proud as the defending world champion and official member of the prestigious U.S. National Stickfighting Team competing at the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation 10th World Championships in Cebu, Philippines. For now, internationally, this is the highest level of competition there is for the sport of Eskrima.
Eskrima is the pride of the Filipino culture. It is to the Filipinos what baseball is to Americans.
It's what hockey is to Canada. And Cebu is the central hub for one of the most globally-feared systems of stickfighting in the world today: Doce Pares, the legendary "Twelve Pairs" system of Filipino stick, knife and empty hand combat. The system is based on point-scoring, but knockouts and surrenders are just as common at the master levels.
In July, 25 countries from all over the world met to test their mettle against the best fighters the world has to offer. With more than 600 competitors from around the world, the United States brought the largest delegation with 110 athletes.
Moore has earned a very befitting nickname. She is the "Eskrimadora" from America. When her name was called to perform, there was a rush of people to the stage. Could the light-haired, fair-skinned girl with the unassuming smile and the eyes of a doe really house the heart of dragon?
"The pretty girl stereotype comes to screeching halt when they see me fight, and actually I think it's an advantage because they never see it coming," Mariah said.
In her first area of competition, Traditional Multiple Weapons, Moore performed "Sayow"(to Dance) with her Talibong (Double Swords on ropes). She made her presence known as the swords flew and returned to her hands effortlessly as if an extension of her being. The judges' decision was unanimous, with Moore taking the gold for team USA and her third world championship title.
Later that evening, Moore competed in the Full-Contact Single Stick Fighting event. Still suffering a touch of jet lag and sleep loss through most of the first day of competition, her timing was off. She hammered through her first rounds in single-stick fighting, pushing through the eliminations until it was down to Moore and her USA teammate from Colorado, Erin Michaelis. In a 2-1 split, teammate Michaelis edged Mariah out for the gold medal.
With a day off in between the single- and double-stick events, Moore and her coaches used their time to study and evaluate the competition. The strategy worked and the payoff was sweet, but victory would not come easy. In the final round of eliminations, three contenders remained; Two from America and one from Australia. In a draw of cards, the Australian won the "by" round, leaving the two Americans to face each other once again. This was the same pair that had battled for single-stick silver and gold.
"(Erin) made it a point to tell me that she had studied my fights from regionals and nationals, and that she had trained all year just to beat me. That irritated me. I don't train like that. There aren't many girls who do this and I am the only one in Michigan, so I train with men that are sometimes a foot taller and outweigh me by 70 or 80 pounds. I think it gives me an advantage because I'm not intimidated by size, and I train to win by technique, speed, and power," Mariah said.
With a grudge and a smile, the Michigan farm girl was ready. As the reigning world champion in this event, double-stick fighting is what she came here for. It is a different animal, requiring a whole new level of skill and consciousness than single-stick fighting. The sticks clashed in a fury and the Colorado fighter was taken back by the force and accuracy behind Moore's strikes.
In the finals, Moore burned through three continuous rounds of double-stick combat. Moore disarmed and even broke one of her sticks on the body of her Aussie opponent. At the final bell, there was no hesitation: Mariah Moore, at 14 years of age, was now a four-time world champion.
"I really wanted to make my hometown, my family, and my country proud. I trained so hard for this and to know that I fought the best fighters in my weight class that the world had to offer and I won makes all my hard work so worth it. I couldn't be happier," Mariah said.
As the reigning world championship team, Team USA dominated the 10th World Championships, taking 44 gold, 35 silver, and 30 bronze medals. The Philippines came in second with 35 gold, 18 silver, and 19 bronze. The United Kingdom finished in third place with 12 gold, 11 silvers, and 15 bronze medals, while Australia wound up in fourth with 10 golds, three silvers, and eight bronze medals. Canada rounded out the top five with four golds, nine silvers, and five bronze medals.