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Kickboxing refers to the sport of using martial-arts-style kicks and boxing-style punches to defeat an opponent in a similar way to that of standard boxing. Kickboxing is a standing sport and does not allow continuation of the fight once a combatant has reached the ground.
Kickboxing is often practiced for self-defense, general fitness, or as a full-contact sport. In the full-contact sport the male boxers are bare-chested wearing shorts and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10-oz. boxing gloves, groin-guard, shin-pads, kick-boots, and optional protective helmet (usually for those under 16). The female boxers will wear a tank top and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear. In European kickboxing, where kicks to the thigh are allowed using special low-kick rules, use of boxing shorts instead of long trousers is possible.
In addition, amateur rules often allow less experienced competitors to use light or semi-contact rules, where the intention is to score points by executing successful strikes past the opponent’s guard, and use of force is regulated. The equipment for semi-contact is similar to full-contact matches, usually with addition of head gear. Competitors usually dress in a t-shirt for semi-contact matches, to separate them from the bare-chested full-contact participants.
Kickboxing is often confused with Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing. The two sports are similar, however, in Thai Boxing, kicks below the belt are allowed, as are strikes with knees and elbows.
There are many arts labelled kickboxing including Japanese, American, Indian, Burmese, as well as French savate. The term kickboxing is disputed and has become more associated with the Japanese and American variants. Many of the other styles do not consider themselves to be ‘kickboxing’, although the public often uses the term generically to refer to all these martial arts.
On December 20, 1959, a Muay Thai among Thai fighters was held at Tokyo Asakusa town hall in Japan.
Tatsuo Yamada, who established “Nihon Kempo Karate-do”, was interested in Muay Thai because he wanted to perform Karate matches with full-contact rules since practitioners are not allowed to hit each other directly in karate matches. At this time, it was unimaginable to hit each other in karate matches in Japan. He had already announced his plan which was named “The draft principles of project of establishment of a new sport and its industrialization” in November, 1959, and he proposed the tentative name of “Karate-boxing” for this new sport. It is still unknown whether Thai fighters were invited by Yamada, but it is clear that Yamada was the only karateka who was really interested in Muay Thai. Yamada invited a Thai fighter who was the champion of Muay Thai (and formerly his son Kan Yamada’s sparring partner), and started studying Muay Thai. At this time, the Thai fighter was taken by Osamu Noguchi who was a promoter of boxing and was also interested in Muay Thai. The Thai fighter’s photo was on the magazine “The Primer of Nihon Kempo Karate-do, the first number” which was published by Yamada.
There were “Karate vs. Muay Thai fights” February 12, 1963. The three karate fighters from Oyama dojo (Kyokushin later) went to the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Thailand, and fought against 3 Muay Thai fighters. The 3 karate fighters’ names are Tadashi Nakamura, Kenji Kurosaki and Akio Fujihira (as known as Noboru Osawa). Japan won by 2-1 then. Noguchi studied Muay thai and developed a combined martial art which Noguchi named kick boxing. However, throwing and butting were allowed in the beginning to distinguish it from Muay Thai style. This was later repealed. The Kickboxing Association, the first kickboxing sanctioning body, was founded by Osamu Noguchi in 1966 soon after that. Then the first kickboxing event was held in Osaka, April 11, 1966.
Tatsu Yamada died in 1967, but his dojo changed its name to Suginami Gym, and kept sending kickboxers off to support kickboxing.
Kickboxing boomed and became popular in Japan as it began to be broadcast on TV. Tadashi Sawamura was an especially popular early kickboxer. However, the boom was suddenly finished and became unpopular after Sawamura was retired. Kickboxing had not been seen on TV until K-1 was founded in 1993.
In 1993, as Kazuyoshi Ishii (founder of Seidokan karate) produced K-1 under special kickboxing rules (No elbow and neck wrestling) in 1993, kickboxing became famous again.
The sport has spread through Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Between 1970 and 1973 (in federation PKA) a handful of kickboxing promotions were staged across the USA. In the early days the rules were never clear, one of the first tournaments had no weight divisions and all the competitors fought off until one was left. A very young Benny Urquidez reached the final. Unfortunately at world level there was no infrastructure, no set format of rules, the elements of danger were still included in the combat forms. As the martial arts disciplines grew in popularity mans urge to meet his/her peers on the competition floor demanded conformity, a universal rules system, and a method that would ensure the practitioners safety whilst competing at sporting level. Various groups came forward in an attempt to unite all these Eastern martial disciplines under one set of rules that would cover the many and various forms of combat all under one umbrella. After many many failures, petty squabbles and political in fighting an organization was formed and termed the World Kickboxing Association (WKA). The impetus of the WKA on world martial arts as a whole was revolutionary. They were the first organised body of martial arts on a global scale to sanction fights, create ranking systems, and institute a development programme. Whereby at grass roots level children of all ages under a strict code of ethics and safety could learn via satellite WKA clubs in every City, Town, and village, a martial arts discipline thus ensuring for future years the growth of the sport. Today, the International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) is the most active kickboxing sanctioning body in North America and one of the top 3 worldwide organizations. The IKF also hosts the Largest All Amateur – Full Contact / Muay Thai – Kickboxing Tournament in the World, the IKF World Classic.