Thursday, January 6, 2011

Martial Arts Combat Sports History From My Perspective

In the mid 1970s I got my first exposure to the Martial Arts. My father was in the army and we lived on Army bases. My brothers and I took lessons on base from Sgt. Brown. Sgt. Brown taught hand to hand combat to the 82nd Airborne. He student in Korea and taught Tang Soo Do. There was no kids class as dojos (gyms were hardcore) and not commercialized as they are now (kids make up 80% of todays martial arts schools). My oldest brother was 17 years old fighting grown men in tournaments. The competitions were traditional point fighting. There were no pads and hard contact to the body was allowed and blows to the head were controlled (kinda). Sweeps and take downs were allowed and controlled techniques on a downed opponent scored. As my interest in martial arts grew, I would read all of the karate magazines and see famous martial artists  like Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Bill Wallace, etc. Also, during the 70s, tournament karate fighters started trying out full contact competition. Using safety gear (an innovation of Jhoon Rhee), events were being held with continuous contact. There was no ring and the fighters used the same techniques they used in tournament karate (backfist, ridge hands, reverse punches, etc.). There were a lot of hand injuries and the physical conditioning required was different for the karate fighters. They began to train like boxers and adopted boxing gloves. Full Contact Karate became American Kickboxing. On the undercard of the Ali Vs. Frazier "Thrilla in Manilla", Don King featured Jeff Smith Vs. Kareem Adallah. Kickboxing grew in popularity and thrived in the U.S. for almost 2 decades airing on TV and in particular ESPN. PKA (the Professional Karate Association) was what the UFC is now. Joe Corley was the Dana White of that time. In the late 1980s some of the fighters started competing with leg kicks, creating another form of kickboxing, International Low Kicks Rules. Muay Thai gained popularity and by the 1990s, it was the main form of kickboxing. K-1, the premier tournament for the top Heavyweight kickboxers was here and in 1993 the first UFC was shown on Pay-Per-View.  By the mid 2000s MMA became popular to the general public because of a classic battle between Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonner on Spike TVs "Ultimate Fighter" Season I. All of the contact sports mentioned in this post are still around. Even though Full Contact (American Kickboxing) is not very popular in the states, many countries worldwide still air big shows for it. K-1 style kickboxing  (a modified style combining kickboxing and Thai boxing). Here we are today. From Karate to Kickboxing to Low Kick to Muay Thai to MMA.


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