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March 4, 2011 > Youth wins martial arts title

Youth wins martial arts title

Submitted By JoAnne Espinosa

This winter, just following the holiday season, the Pallen M2 Sports Martial Arts Team put away their gifts and left their holiday lights on at home to compete in what is recognized as the super bowl of sport martial arts known as the National Blackbelt League Super Grands XXI Tournament in Sacramento.

Nearly the entire Pallen M2 team (which is made up of M2 students from Castro Valley and Dublin) were first time competitors in the NBL. Consequently, they all entered as wild-card competitors, meaning the competitor has no seed or rating. As such, the team members were forced to go through a gauntlet of competitions to work their way into the first and second seed bracket which is a rare feat.

An 11-year-old Fremont girl named Rochelle Espinosa matched that feat. Rochelle won the wild card round, earning the right to compete against all the other nationally rated competitors in the preliminaries. In the Preliminaries, Rochelle placed in the top two spots. (Only the top two competitors advanced to compete the next day in the evening finals show.

In the Finals, Rochelle was the underdog because her opponent was the poster child for the league and was rated number one. With her instructor Grand Master Max Pallen Jr., Rochelle relaxed backstage as she waited for two hours to compete.

"Our strategy was to keep Rochelle isolated and away from everyone so that she wouldn't get too nervous," Pallen said. "As her performance time approached, we warmed her up and had her peak just at the right moment."

On stage, a nervous Rochelle performed a nearly flawless kata; the defending champion matched Rochelle's score for a tie, forcing the two to perform a tie-breaking kata. This time Rochelle found her mental place and performed the best kata she had ever executed. It proved too much for the defending champion, and the judges scored in favor of Rochelle, who became the new world champion for the 11-and-under Kenpo/Kajukenbo Forms division.

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