Friday, November 30, 2007

BJJ Asia

My friend Ben just pointed out to me this great blog: BBJ-Asia

It's a great ressource for finding BJJ academies all around asia, and even has news and videos of seminars.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Hero Legends 2007: International K1 Style Fighting Championships

(thanks to Michael for this guest post ! If you want to read about martial arts in China on a blog that's updated more than twice a year, go check out his site !)

October 13th in Shenzhen Coliseum was a landmark in the development of professional fighting sports in China. Hero Legends, China’s first privately run professional K1-style event was broadcast live on Guangdong Satellite TV to an audience of millions.

Held in Shenzhen Coliseum, Hero Legends started with some sensational choreographed martial arts performances that left the audience feeling as if they had just been digitized and were inside a martial arts video game. The fights proved to be equally entertaining.

The card was a solid line up of talent from all corners of the world.

Saiga Kizaemon (Japan) – Chandi Sarawut (Thailand)

The undercard was equally exciting with Japan’s Karate prodigy Saiga Kizaemon fighting Sarawut in his first professional fight. Six-time world Karate Champion and already identified as one of tomorrows stars by the K1 organization, Saiga fought the more experienced and battle scarred Sarawut with a tremendous amount of heart.

Saiga attempted several rolling kicks in an effort to surprise the Thai. He succeeded in his effort to surprise but was rewarded with a kick in the head as he was landing on the ground. That fueled some heated exchanges between the two that the referee quickly halted. A little bit of anger between the fighters made the following 2 rounds even more exciting with Saiga repeatedly trying to land his rolling kick. Sarawut, in typical Thai-fashion, stayed with what he knew and worked the low kicks and rear hand. Saiga was on the painful end of most of the exchanges but did manage to show the audience his skill in kicking with some wild spinning kicks that missed their mark. In the end, Saiga proved no match for the more experienced Sarawut. Sarawut won by unanimous decision

Joey Pagliuso (USA) vs. Xu Yan (China)

The second bout of the afternoon saw Chinese athlete Xu Yan systematically take apart Joey Pagliuso a Karate fighter out of California. Xu Yan was taller but thinner than Joey and used that reach advantage to keep Joey from implementing his plan to close the gap and work the inside. In what turned out to be an uneventful fight we saw Joey looking weary at points, either frustrated by being unable to implement his strategy or at his conditioning. The fight went the distance and Xu Yan won by unanimous decision.

David Morrow (USA) vs. Han Yang (China)

This bout was a comeback fight for David who was fighting his first pro event in 4 years. Han Yang a last minute replacement for David’s Ukrainian opponent who didn’t make weight was an unknown quantity who proved himself very quickly after the first bell. David’s speedy boxing-based style of fighting proved easy to evade with Han Yang keeping David at a distance with round kicks. We saw David receive a standing 8 count after a vicious exchange against the ropes that dropped him. He came back with some tremendous Navajo spirit to push Han Yang to his limits and give the crowd a great show. Once again it was a lightening round kick to the neck that finished David’s Hero legends experience. Han Yang by KO.

Ayron Howey (Canada) vs. Hou Xu (China)

Howey, a Sanshou fighter from Canada with an impressive record, wowed the crowd with an impromptu Xingyi demonstration on the runway as he walked to the ring. The fight started quickly with Ayron showing his power but not managing to land anything damaging to the well-conditioned Hou Xu of Beijing. Hou Xu nervous in his first appearance on a televised event calmed down in the 2nd round and began picking away at the now tired Ayron. Ayron who’s training leading up to the event was mostly MMA-based was not in the habit of checking the low kick and went down twice due to well-placed low kicks to the inside front thigh. In addition he went down 2 more times with not-so-well placed low kicks that found their way to Ayron’s groin. Visibly tired, Ayron’s rear hand started to drop and Hou Xu in control by that point picked his shot and floored Ayron with a well placed round kick to the neck. Hou Xu by KO

Kang En vs. Tatuya Ishda

Kang En is perhaps the most accomplished international standup fighter in China today. With KO wins in all 4 of his last fights, Kang En was confident that he would win this fight too. His prediction of a KO fell short as Tatuya in only his third pro fight proved to have heavy hands, a stone chin, and a huge heart, well worthy of K1’s strong interest in this young fighters career. Kang En’s usual explosive style was continuously shut down by pressure from Tatuya’s forward moving Karate-style of fighting. Although he consistently had Kang En on his back foot, Kang En was consistently inflicting more damage on Tatuya. Disappointingly for both his fans in China and Kang En himself, he failed to knock out Tatuya and won by unanimous decision.

Dong Jiangtao (China) vs. Wichanrit Trakanchan (Thailand)

This was the main event of Hero Legends and it proved to be a rollercoaster bout between 2 strong fighters. Jiangtao being a young and inexperienced fighter with limited international experience up against Wichanrit who has never been beaten by a non-Thai boxer. Wichanrit, a former Rajadamnoen Champion fighting out of Japan, dominated the rhythm of the fight from the outset and consistently scored damaging blows with his simple and beautiful kicking style. After 2 rounds, which I had scored to Wichanrit, he let his guard down and began putting on a show for the television audience, dropping his hands and smiling at his opponent at times. Jiangtao with some quick boxing and good luck managed to score enough for the judges to give him the third round. The third round was definitely entertaining with Wichanrit thinking he had the fight in the bag, so it was a surprise to see that the judges ruled a draw and a 4th round to decide the bout. In the 4th round Wichanrit perhaps didn’t give his opponent enough respect and once again was not 100% focused on the destroying he has become known for. Jiangtao stole the last round and the fight in what I thought was a controversial call. Kudos to Jiangtao for asking the audience for another round as he felt that Wichanrit had outfought him and he didn’t deserve the win.

Hayden Brooks (USA) vs. Vitali Fedorenko (Ukraine)

Hayden fighting out of Hermosa Beach, California faced off against the challenge he was looking for in Vitali Fedorenko of Ukraine. Vitali seemed in top form as the bout started evading some powerful kicks in dramatic Khaokolai fashion and following up with some heavy hands. His arsenal seemed limited though for someone who had practiced free-fighting since the age of 3 with virtually no round kicks during the first round.

By the second round the more technical Hayden had figured out that Vitali was not going to try to kick let alone knock him out with the devastating round kicks we had seen earlier in the evening.

Hayden found his rhythm and consistently punished Vitali with solid combinations that left him on the back foot with nothing to return. Hayden couldn’t put him away though and the fight went to a unanimous decision for Hayden.

Hero Legend’s promoter Zou Guojun, himself a 7 time national Sanda Champion, credits Hero Legend’s success to the fighters, and teamwork between organizers and promoters inside and outside China.

Hopefully, the success of Hero Legends is a turning point for fighting events in China. Hero Legends received strong support from Japan’s K1 organization, and other prominent promoters in the US and Thailand and many expect this precedent to herald the coming of overseas promotions such as K1 and UFC to 1.5 billion Chinese consumers very very soon.

Can’t wait for that!