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)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own