Saturday December 2nd saw the 2006 K1 Grand Prix at Tokyo Dome. The announcer claimed that 54,000 visitors had come to see the climax of what was another year of high tension action in the ring this year – and Stippy.com was there behind the scenes to bring you exclusive insights.
K-1 was first staged in Japan in 1993 by Master Kazuyoshi Ishii (“Ishi Kancho”) of Seido Kaikan Karate and derives its name from a wide range of martial arts beginning in the letter ‘K’ (Karate, Kung-fu, Kempo, Kick-boxing all part of the Kakutogi family) It is now the biggest spectator sport in Japan.
The greatest thing about K1 is that all the top fighters are highly trained and dangerous so anything can truly happen to the toughest fighter – one clear punch or one well placed kick and its lights out! It’s this teeth clenching excitement that keeps me going back year after year to be present at the Tokyo Dome finals.
The Grand Prix Final always features the top 8 fighters that have earned the right to fight for the title through a series of matches held throughout the year. Nothing is spared to electrify the atmosphere – fireworks, cute ring girls, huge lighting shows and raging music – I won’t mention the detracting magic show this time – but all ‘n all it’s an atmosphere worth paying to be part of and never fails to raise the crowd from their seats.
This years fight night saw several huge surprises as Peter Aerts returned to Tokyo Dome in a reserve fight, winning against Japanese hero Musashi, and ended up in the final facing 2005 champion Semmy Schilt from Holland (as are Hoost, Aerts and Bonjasky!)
Remy Bonjasky was supposed to be the lucky one to get a shot at the Kings crown; he recovered from two hard shots to the testicles and won his fight against Stefan Leko in the semi finals – but then Remy was then pulled from the tournament by his doctors who worried about his family jewels. This then left the door open for Leko to face the champion. However, Leko had a suspected broken ankle during his bout against Remy and he too pulled out of the tournament. Before the match Leko swore he would quit K1 if he lost that night….he lost by decision but let’s see if he has a change of heart. Once you get this close to the taste of victory it’s hard to turn your back on it for long. The continual return of veterans Aerts, Hoost and Le Banner proves it!
So following the K1 rules, the winner of the reserve bout had the right to carry on to the next round – enter Aerts. The crowd went wild as Aerts , previous 3 times champion, had returned in the best form I have possibly ever seen him in. He seemed to have more stamina and upper body power than ever and of course his kicks are legendary. He wasn’t ahead on points by any means but only he was able to reach the chin of Schilt in a truly threatening way, shaking the confidence of the huge Dutchman at one stage. His popularity with the crowd was also plain to see.
After taking a front kick to the mid section Aerts crouched over for a count of 5 but it was enough to give his opponent the points needed to decisively win the final judges decision. Personally, I think they should extend the championship fight until a clear decision is made by a K.O.!
The real upset of the night, however, which almost bought me to tears, was the retirement of “Mr. Perfect” Ernesto Hoost . At 41 years old he is still a top fighter and has taken the crown 4 times in his fighting career. Loosing his match by decision to Shilt marked his retirement from the K1 ring. Having had the pleasure to act as interpreter for him and other top seeded fighters on several occasions, I swear the guy is a gentleman through and through. He is quiet spoken and respectful to all around him. Just don’t expect to leave the ring walking! He really deserves his own full page write-up but today I will settle for expressing a hearty “Thanks!” for everything he has done for the Sport.
Keep watching this space for the other evolutionary branch of the Martial Arts – PRIDE