Kickboxing Origins

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On December 20, 1959, a Muay Thai match among Thai fighters was held at Tokyo Asakusa town hall in Japan. Tatsuo Yamada who had established “Nihon Kempo Karate-do” was interested in Muay Thai because he wanted to perform Karate matches in 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 planning which was named “The draft principles of project of establishment of a new sport and its industrialization” in November, 1959, and he put forward a new sport “Karate-boxing” which was a tentative name then.

It is still unknown that 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 formerly as 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.

For example, 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 3 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 and Kenji Kurosaki (Kyokushin karate instructor) 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 from Muay Thai style. This was repealed later. 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 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 North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Spreading to Europe, Australia, North America and New Zealand: Jan Plas, the Dutch kickboxer founded Mejiro Gym with some Muay Thai pioneers in Netherlands, 1978 after he learned kickboxing from Kenji Kurosaki in Japan. In addition, he also founded NKBB (The Dutch Kickboxing Association) which is the first kickboxing organization in Netherlands in 1978. The sport took off in the U.S. with the popularity and success of Bill “Superfoot” Wallace” in the 1970s.