On Friday night I had my first ever amateur kickboxing fight, in a ring at a summer festival by the beach here in Beppu. I was up against a local pimp, who is the same age as me but perhaps 5 kg heavier, and from the same gym as me. I think he lied about his weight because there is another chap in the gym who is REALLY scary who he would have fought if he were heavier. I was the 7th fight out of 10, in the main bout section of the evening, so my bout had ring girls and fireworks. I even had a boxing/K-1 style entrance with my own song (Shared Creation by Garden of Delight).

The ring girls were supplied by my opponent – he works with them.

Anyway, I lost the fight, due to a combination of a) only doing 4 weeks of half-arsed preparation, including a total of 3 rounds of sparring training 4 weeks ago b) being shorter and lighter than him and c) not really wanting to be there in the first place. I’m not sure why I agreed to do a fight or why I decided to only train twice a week and not do special sparring sessions, knowing I’d be up against it on Friday. But that’s what happens when you aren’t really into the thing in the first place, I suppose! I’ve been kickboxing for 15 years and turned down opportunities like this before, and I think I just felt like I had to do it, so accepted my teacher’s offer of a place in the festival without thinking too much about where I’d be 6 weeks later… then took 2 weeks off, and then started training…

Anyway, the details of the fight go something like this:

2 x 2 minute rounds
1 minute rests
Full protective gear (helmet, shinpads, 12 oz rather than 10 oz gloves)
Maximum of two standing 8 counts
Knees allowed but not to the head
No elbows
i.e. kickboxing rules, though often kickboxing rules don’t allow knees. Incidentally, I’ve seen a “no-knees-to-the-head” bout go wrong, with one woman deliberately kneeing the other in the head and getting a knockout. It’s very easy for that to look like an accident, and the referee has to decide whether to award the match over a mistake – that woman was not popular with the crowd, but I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of a repeat performance by my opponent. In the ring you do rely a bit on your opponent’s good manners, but I think me and my opponent get along okay usually…

Also, the refereeing was conservative, so the ref stopped fights before he allowed anyone to get knocked out – no bloodbaths to be allowed.

Round 1: We started off pretty equal but he signalled his serious intentions early with 3 really savage kicks to my legs, none of which I managed to block. When the third one came in I realised that I had to pick up my game or I was going to be a Technical Knock Out (I’ve seen this a few times at K-1, where a man’s legs give out and the fight is over). Did I mention 3 rounds of sparring 4 weeks ago? I was running primarily on my memory of serious sparring years ago! So I picked that up, and after that his kicks didn’t land. I delivered some vicious blows in return (and oh what a satisfying sound that is) and in the second half of hte round I heard the commentator (our sensei) saying how I am renowned for my strong punching, and realized that I hadn’t really tried any, so I closed in and boxed him into a corner, landing a nice hard right at some point that rocked his head – he didn’t like that, and pushed his way out of the corner with a series of ferocious kicks and punches. For some reason my usually tight guard was loose, and his punches were coming straight down the centre, which doesn’t usually happen to me in sparring at all – I don’t know what I was thinking[1]. I must have tightened up at some point though because I don’t have any facial bruising, though this could be because he moved to hooks, all of which I defended against. I copped him with a few nice hooks actually, he didn’t seem to be able to defend punches at all. But because he was tall, and using front kicks effectively, it was hard to move in and land punches, and everything was happening so fast that I didn’t have time to work out ways around his guard – typically against a taller man you have to work the outside, or duck and weave, and did I mention I only did 3 rounds of sparring preparation, against a shorter man? Also bobbing and weaving is a very bad plan when you’re in a fight where knees are allowed, so one of my two main range-closing tactics was out of whack.

Round 2: So round 1 ended probably with him slightly up on points, but it was a good showing by both sides. Round 2 went pretty much the same way for the first half, with us exchanging heavy leg kicks, and I think all of mine landed actually but I checked most of his. I also got in a good middle kick that slipped half under his guard, but when you have a savage bastard trying to rip your head off you start thinking conservatively about middle kicks. Every time either of us hit each other you could hear it all the way across the beach, I think. I certainly heard it. Unfortunately things took a turn for the worse in the last half of round 2, because at about the 1 minute mark I managed a fairly solid series of boxing combinations, and in his desperation to get away he delivered a vicious knee to my stomach. I took it without being winded, even though it was a few inches from my solar plexus, but it was followed by this tiny moment frozen in time, where we looked at each other and both simultaneously realised that I don’t have any defences against knees. The next 20 or 30 seconds were spent with him trying to get in close enough to land some solid knee strikes, and he succeeded at least twice, and they FUCKING HURT, and I realised that this was not going to keep up, so I had to start backpedalling and trying to hold him off with kicks, while he hunted me down. There was no getting around this – it wasn’t a matter of me doing anything, because I don’t know how to defend against knees (I’ve done maybe 8 rounds of training with knees in the last 10 years), and he knew it, and every time he threw one I was going to cop it. As a sign of how tall he is, today my upper chest is hurting from the knees that landed on my ribs. I managed to get him in a clinch and nearly threw him despite his bigger size, but kubi zumo (neck wrestling) is also not my area of expertise and I only did that out of desperation. So the last 30 seconds of both rounds won him the fight, and the last 30 seconds of round 2 sealed it. I did think about mentioning a no-knees rule when the fights were organised, but didn’t. Oh well, silly me. How was I to know that being kneed in the chest by 75kgs of enraged pimp would hurt?

But, on the bright side, I didn’t suffer any standing 8 counts – maybe the first fight of the night to get through without standing 8s – and I landed some decent blows myself, and I think if I had been fitter and had some more sparring preparation under my belt, I probably would have given him a really solid challenge. Unfortunately, that “I don’t want to be here” feeling that pervaded the last 4 weeks kind of prevented me from putting in a decent showing. I have only myself to blame though – I could have turned up on two of the last 4 sundays for example, and done an hour of decent sparring each day,  and probably would have been a lot tighter on the night. Today my left leg is sore from those missed checks, and my chest aches, but I am otherwise in good nick and feeling very relieved that a busy period of my life and a stressful fight are out of the way.

It was not fun! But it was a good experience that I almost certainly won’t repeat. I don’t recommend it to any of my readers either. Once I figure out my partner’s snazzy phone, I’ll put up some video. It actually looks quite good, though I’m not recognizable in amongst the helmet and the sweat and the flying limbs, but I think I look reasonably professional. I hope my readers wince watching it as much as I did when it happened.

fn1: actually I was mostly thinking nothing. I was nervous and flat before the fight started and then everything was going so fast that I didn’t get to think much at all, bar the crystallized moments of the emergencies. Usually when I spar it takes me a few rounds to get into the groove, and I didn’t have that luxury this time around!