||A brief history of Kickboxing worldwide.
The origins of Full Contact Kickboxing can be found in Thailand in
the 2,000 year old discipline of Muay Thai fighting. Thai boxing was
devised, initially, for self-defence. It only developed into a sport
when unarmed combat in warfare became less and less effective. It
remains the national sport of Thailand. Thai boxers are awarded the
same superstar status in their home nation as premier league footballers
in Europe or basketball players in the USA. Full Contact Kickboxing
developed through a combination of Muay Thai and other martial art
It was aided in its rise, when Bruce Lee exploded onto the big screen.
The first time anything resembling what we now know as Full Contact
Kickboxing began in the United States in the early 1970's as Full
Contact Karate. In September 1974, in Los Angeles, the first ever
World Championships of Full Contact Karate were hosted. At that time
Karate's own sanctioning body, the PKA, provided the official nod
that was required.
The bouts took place on a standard karate surface (no ring). Some
of the best traditional Karate fighters of North America tried their
hand at this fresh take on their ancient art. It wasn't until the
late 1970's that the sport moved into a boxing ring. Initially, there
were only weight 4 divisions. The first Full Contact World Champions
were the legendary Jeff Smith, Joe Lewis, Bill Wallace & Isuena
Duenas. From 1974 until 1985, the PKA was the most widely-recognised
world-wide sanctioning group, even though it operated mainly in the
Don & Judy Quine, along with Joe Corley, helped it on its way
and were instrumental in establishing the first links with television.
Their contract with the American TV network ESPN helped take the burgeoning
sport to a wider audience. The PKA developed the first fighter ratings
systems and presented their champions with a very real and very high
profile. Jean-Yves Theriault, Brad Hefton, Jerry Trimble, Steve Shepard
and others became the first stars of this new regulated sport.
The roots of the sport in Europe were planted in Germany. In 1975,
an amateur organisation to rival the PKA appeared. The WAKO (WORLD
ALL STYLE KARATE ORGANIZATION) was created by Georges Bruckner and
was the only international amateur federation in Europe. Over the
next decade a myriad of sanctioning bodies came and went - all claiming
to represent the best interests of the fighters and the sport. WAKO
has developed into the leading amateur federation in kickboxing. WAKO
was taken over by Italian Ennio Falson in the late 1970’s.
Under the guidance of Mike Anderson a professional branch - the PKO
(PROFESSIONAL KICKBOXING ORGANIZATION) - soon emerged. It was short-lived
however and when Anderson retired, in 1991, it was replaced by the
IKL (INTERNATIONAL KICKBOXING LEAGUE), which itself lasted only a
few years. The WORLD KICKBOXING ASSOCIATION (WKA) was created in 1976
by Howard Hanson, a Shorin Ryu Karate black belt and student of Mike
Stone. It developed the field of low kicks thanks to some strong Asian
connections and good promotions in Japan. The WKA also prospered in
Europe. Champions like Rob Kaman, Fred Royers, Ivan Sprang and Ronnie
Green emerged over a decade ago and remain planted in the memory.
When Howard HANSON sold the WKA to Canadian Dale Floyd in 1991 its
North American activity started to fade. Newly appointed European
directors Fred Royers from Holland and Jean-Paul Maillet from France
left in January 1994 when Paul Ingram took over the prestigious federation
and established its World headquarters in the UK. At the time, WKA
was the second largest professional sanctioning organisation in the
When legal problems sent the PKA to the wall in 1985, five major USA-based
promoters and PKA executives decided to create a new body. On July
16th 1986, the International Sport Kickboxing Association was born.
Mike Sawyer, Karyn Turner, Tony Thompson, John Worley and Scott Coker
where the first ISKA Directors in the USA. Most of the major PKA promoters
began sanctioning their events with the ISKA and several joined its
administration. Major title bouts featuring the sport's finest fighters
were broadcast during 1986 on ESPN television network, and helped
bring credibility and recognition to this new association. At the
time, the intercontinental links were the weak part of those sanctioning
bodies as WAKO was virtually non existent anywhere other than Europe
and WKA was almost only active in Asia.
A European arm of ISKA was going to prove vital. In October 1986 Olivier
Muller, Jérome Canabate and Mohamed Hosseini were appointed
ISKA European directors. American Richard Mayor oversaw the establishment
of this European wing as European President between 1986 and 1988.
By 1991, the worldwide control of the ISKA was shared by co-chairmen
- SAWYER and MULLER. It was their work that secured international
TV coverage, that began to unite separate organisations springing
up world-wide and took responsibility for sanctioning and grading.
During all these years, Thai-boxing remained the main fighting sport
in Asia and is still controlled by the Thailand government. All sanctioning
bodies sanction Muay-Thai titles but the WMTC remains the most credible
organisation in Thai boxing. From 1996 until 1998 the ISKA was headed
by Olivier Muller. In two years he revitalised and added fresh impetus
to a management-heavy organisation - an organisation that in the early
nineties had began to flag - and turned it into one that operated
60% of world-wide kickboxing business.
ISKA to WKN.
But as before, minor squabbles and petty professional jealousies have
led to a split. The younger blood that led the European charge has
become disillusioned with the incumbent American leaders and a fresh
body (the WKN) evolved in late 1996 as a subsidiary of ISKA to capture
another part of the market. Unfortunately the Americans saw the WKN
as a threat and in late 1998 the organisations split. The departure
of Muller from the scene was imminent.
A tight, young team runs the WKN, chaired by Frenchman Stephane Carbrerra.
Other big names in the world of Kickboxing have followed. Already
the organisation has seen their fighters on one Don King under-card
with more to follow soon. Rather than money from sanctioning fees
being siphoned into a slush fund for a few big cats at the top, all
monies will go into a central pot. This is used to promote and boost
less established fighters and events. Crucially, it is non-profit
WKN - A 21st Century Kickboxing Federation!