Master James Bowman, a fifth degree black belt and owner and founder of JB Martial Arts in Orangeburg, was recently selected as a center referee in a tournament he calls the “Super Bowl of Martial Arts.”
Bowman spent the week after Christmas (Dec. 26-31) in Buffalo, New York, refereeing in the 2006 Super Grands World Games, a six-day martial arts tournament that features competitors from all over the world. He was one of three referees chosen from South Carolina.
“It actually surprised me when they called me,” Bowman said of his selection. “He left a message and said ’give me a call.’ When I called him back, he said I was selected to judge at 2006 Super Grands. I said my wife and I have never slept apart. They flew us both up there.”
The Super Grands World Games culminates a year full of martial arts competitions and conferences worldwide. Participants compete on local, state and national levels, earning points. Their point total determines their seeding in the Super Grands. The more points, the higher the seed.
“What’s tough for the referees is it’s hard to remember that first one (competitor) unless he stands out,” Bowman said. “The higher seed usually comes out over the lower seeds.
“One little guy from New Jersey, he was just amazing – 11 years old.”
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Bowman said he was among referees from all over the world, which is necessary in keeping the competition fair. While being a referee was an honor, Bowman said is was hard work as well.
“From a competitive standpoint, it was different. I didn’t get to see a whole lot,” he said. “ As a referee, you see everything. I got a chance to really see how good everybody else is. There were thousands of competitors. When you are competing, you don’t realize it’s that many. I looked around and said ’this is gonna’ be a very long day.’
“Regular tournaments are a day or two. This one was six days. Because I love what I do, it didn’t seem like work.”
Bowman, who recently opened a new location on Summers Avenue in Orangeburg, said he came back from the tournament wanting to train his students a little harder than normal. JB Martial Arts is hosting a preseason tournament of sorts Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Prince of Orangeburg Mall. The goal of the tournament is to get the students ready for the upcoming season of competition.
“This is a small tournament to get them ready for all tournaments throughout the season,” he said. “The goal is not to look for winners or losers, but knock the rust off. Most haven’t been in a tournament since October.”
After witnessing competitors from all over the world, Bowman is ready to give his pupils a taste of what they can achieve.