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?
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

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage