Sunapee Martial Artist a Rarity as International Champion

  • From left, Calla Baker, Kendra Hurd, both of Newport, N.H., Jackie Balch, of Sunapee, N.H., and Kat Wells, of Andover, N.H., watch Amelia Gallup, of Sunapee, N.H., punch during practice at Rising Sun Martial Arts in Newport on March 28, 2018. Gallup spent 15 to 20 hours a week training was recently named the champion of the United States Association of Martial Arts Grand Internationals tournament. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Carly Geraci

  • Instructor Brent Baker watches Amelia Gallup, of Sunapee, N.H., practice at Rising Sun Martial Arts in Newport, N.H., on March 28, 2018. Baker has been coaching Gallup since she was six-years-old. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Carly Geraci

  • Amelia Gallup, of Sunapee, N.H., takes a break during practice at Rising Sun Martial Arts in Newport, N.H., on March 28, 2018. Gallup was the first woman in 20 years to win the United States Association of Martial Arts Grand Internationals tournament. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Carly Geraci

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    Amelia Gallup, of Sunapee, N.H., throws Evan Miller, of Bradford, Vt., to the ground during practice at Rising Sun Martial Arts in Newport, N.H., on March 28, 2018. Miller helped Gallup train for the United States Association of Martial Arts Grand Internationals tournament. "He was my main man to beat up before my competition," Gallup said with a smile after practice. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Carly Geraci

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/28/2018 11:45:23 PM
Modified: 3/29/2018 12:08:05 PM

Newport — Amelia Gallup ventured to the recent United States Association of Martial Arts Grand Internationals tournament hoping simply to make a strong impression. Instead she left the Albuquerque, N.M., event having made history.

Gallup, 23, was the first woman in 20 years to win the tournament’s grand championship — the highest scorer among all age groups and both genders — in empty hands forms, a discipline she called the “dressage of karate” for its emphasis on etiquette and fluidity of motion. She captured the title on March 18, one day after winning her age group and placing third in weapons forms in the tournament’s opening round.

That got her into a field of black belt division winners the next day, and her performance in that second round was strong enough for her to be one of two selected for that evening’s one-on-one Grand Final. Up against a sizable hometown fighter named Callen Kittell, the 5-foot-1 Gallup executed her kata (forms) and kata bunkai (application of forms) swiftly and smoothly enough to be crowned champion.

The USAMA Grand Internationals tourney draws dedicated karate fighters from across the U.S. and Mexico and featured more than 200 total competitors, according to organization president Sue Hawkes.

“I’m actually 5-1½, 5-1¾, depending on the day,” said Gallup, a Sunapee High and Keene State College graduate. “(Kittell) was a big guy and had a whole group of other big guys with him. Watching him throw them around (during kata bunkai), I didn’t think I had much of a chance.

“When it was announced I was Grand champion, I couldn’t believe it. Then when I was told I was the first woman in 20 years to win, it hit me how significant it was. I wasn’t thinking about (gender); it never even crossed my mind. I still get chills thinking about it.”

Gallup was no stranger to success, having previously captured five grand championships at regional tournaments. She’s also the reigning empty hands forms and weapons forms champion for the Twin State Martial Arts Association cumulative points circuit. Just a week prior to New Mexico, Gallup won the adult black belt forms grand championship at the Central Mass. Open in Gardner, Mass. 

USAMA Grand Internationals was her first two-day tournament, and it featured a panel of style heads, authoritative masters who help determine competitive standards for chosen disciplines. Gallup competed while donning patches for the various organizations where she has received instruction, including the Reading, Pa.-based International Karate Kobudo Federation and Shidokan USA, headquartered in southern New Hampshire. Gallup was also representing Newport’s Rising Sun Martial Arts, where she has trained with kyoshi Brent Baker since age 6.

“I was nervous leading up to it, to prove I was ready to be there,” said Gallup. “I wanted to represent my dojo and my organizations the right way. So I was always thinking about that.”

Gallup was encouraged by her various instructors in the Northeast to pursue the tournament. They’ve seen the fourth-degree black belt’s skills and maturity blossom over the years. 

“Her attitude and work ethic have been outstanding, but also her understanding of karate and what it means,” said Baker, who was also Gallup’s science teacher at Sunapee Middle School. “It’s not only about how well you punch and kick, but your comportment, your behavior and presentation is a big part of it. Amelia is very strong in those areas, and that’s what made her ready for this level of tournament.”

Many students are adept at executing the stances and motions of forms programs. It requires exceptional kime (“fighting spirit”) to earn the approval of judges.    

“The power of your strikes is evaluated, but also the intensity of your focus,” said Baker. “That’s what separates a lot of (top performers) at competition.”

While preparing for the Grand International tournament, Gallup — an emergency medical technician and volunteer firefighter — suffered head and neck injuries unrelated to karate. She worked diligently to rehabilitate while training before work five days a week and meeting regularly with a sports psychologist. 

“I wanted to prepare my mindset. A big part of karate is your intentions,” Gallup said. “I also have to give a lot of credit to the younger students here (at Rising Sun). They were sacrificial lambs for me, helping me train and get ready.”

Baker’s instructor, hanshi Richard Bernard of Shidokan USA, is thrilled with Gallup’s success — and ambition. The 69-year-old 10th-degree black belt visited Rising Sun on Monday in part to help urge its younger students to consider enrolling in competitive circuits. It’s an aspect of karate that Bernard himself didn’t pursue earnestly until four years ago.

“One of the purposes of karate is to develop self-confidence, but a lot of students don’t want to test it. I call it fear of a trinket, or fear of a trophy. They don’t want to get up at bat; they want to sit in the dugout,” Bernard said.

Since finally diving into tournaments around the age of 65, Bernard has found it both challenging and rewarding. He’s the defending champion in both forms and weapons for a New England-wide circuit, he noted. 

“This May, I’ll have been training for 50 years, and I was a hypocrite of sorts for a long time,” Bernard said. “I do three different (competitive) circuits now, and I’ve found them tremendously valuable. They’re valuable for anyone who practices karate, because you learn a lot about yourself when you’re up there by yourself in front of judges. You learn things about yourself that you can apply to other areas of your life.”

Gallup now has her sights set on the National Karate Championships this August in Riverside, Calif., and expects her experience at USAMA Grand Internationals to benefit her preparation. 

“New Mexico was an excellent experience to compete at a higher level and have a stricter training regimen,” Gallup said. “I have similar goals at worlds: reconnect with new friends, earn respect of the judges and make new connections. I want to represent my dojo and organizations well.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.




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