Kick Boxing: Saturday night was made for fighting: Kick boxing combines grace and brutality as Britons seek global limelight. Mike Rowbottom reports

THE Master of Ceremonies smiled like the Cheshire Cat in the centre of the ring. 'Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready?' he enquired, with the required degree of showbiz archness.

The response from the socially graded congregation at the Everton Park Sports Centre - beer drinkers in jeans and trainers at the perimeter, wine drinkers in ties and suits at VIP tables within sweat-spraying distance of the canvas - was clearly insufficient.

'I don't think the fighters can hear you. Are you ready?' This time the response from the 1,200 spectators was sufficient, and their Saturday night out could begin in earnest.

This year's final event in six World Kickboxing Association promotions presented a curious amalgam of grace, technical accomplishment and brutality.

Kick boxing was established in the late Seventies by karate experts in the United States who wanted to match themselves against the best exponents of Thai boxing, a discipline devised around 3,000 years ago in the Buddhist temples of Thailand as a means of self-defence and an aid to meditation. While Thai boxing allows punching and kicking of all targets, grappling and use of the knees and elbows - don't ever argue with a Buddhist monk - kick boxing is a more basic combination of kicking and boxing. Not that you would argue with a kick boxer either.

Both variations of martial artist were on show in Liverpool, which occasioned some oddity. There was razzmattazz - 'Ladies and gentlemen, cheer the warriors on'. There was the elemental

appetite for blood and battering - 'You're sparring with him, Shaun]' shouted one middle-aged female supporter. And, awkwardly, there were the vestiges of Thai religious observances.

Ashley Gichard, a 19-year- old PE student from Sale, preceded his victory in the Thai British superlightweight title fight by dropping to his knees in prayer and then pressing his forehead against each of the corner cushions. Other flourishes by Thai boxers were viewed with a mixture of curiosity and stifled derision.

The traditional pre-fight dance - the Thai boxer's haka - has been dropped from the proceedings, largely because of the accompanying music. Not good television, apparently. Paul Hennessey, the promoter, can see the

argument. 'It sounds like a cat being strangled by someone banging a dustbin lid,' he said.

In a martial arts world that is dizzyingly full of different disciplines, the relative newcomer of kick boxing is working hard to project itself. Judging by initial viewing figures, the domestic television audience is responding to the WKA offering.

What will sustain interest, as in all sports, is the high-profile performer. Saturday offered Aicha Lahsen, a doughty 21-year-old from Ormskirk who is tipped to reach world championship level after winning all five of her fights since switching from freestyle karate, where she was European junior champion.

'Kick boxing has already brought me more recognition than 100 karate fights.' Not that the switch has been without its difficulties. 'In my first fight I punched the girl and I saw her wobble, and I thought: 'I can't do it. This is not me.' The second fight I broke the girl's nose and I thought, 'I still don't like this'.'

She is soldiering on, however, with the ambition of becoming a film stuntwoman. Gary Sandland, who became a world heavyweight champion on home territory in the last fight of the night, is hoping eventually to follow the many martial arts exponents who have become involved in films either through taking part or directing fights. Sandland, who is already a wealthy man and Mercedes driver thanks to his building insurance consultancy, has marketable potential. He looks like a fleshier version of Sylvester Stallone with a touch of James Garner thrown in.

His fight against William van Roosmalen, of the Netherlands, took place at around pub chucking-out time, which, given the bulk of the action, was appropriate. Against a taller, more technically adept, opponent, Sandland employed the basic

approach which had earned him a record of 25 wins in 26 bouts, 24 by knockout, 19 of those in the first round.

One left hook in the fourth round, more martial than art, dropped the Dutchman and lifted everyone else in the hall off their plastic seats. This warrior did not lack for cheers.

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine