Why is kickboxing popular in the Netherlands

How kickboxing came to the Netherlands and why the hype is so strong

Image source: Mr.Peerapong Prasutr [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons (image edited)

Anyone with the Kickboxing as a superordinate discipline, one will inevitably stumble upon the "Dutch style" sooner or later. Holland and the Netherlands are the most significant representatives of Europe in kickboxing. There are also some other strong Europeans, such as France, some Balkan countries and occasionally strong Eastern Europeans. But broadly speaking, the Dutch have been better positioned than anyone else in kickboxing for the past few decades.

Quasi, since the mid-90s, when K-1 became so successful, they were and are continuously represented with several fighters at the top of the world. Kickboxing took place shortly after it was created from the mid-1970s in the Netherlands literally made school.


A development that gave birth to the aforementioned Dutch style. To understand its roots, one has to take a look at the development of full contact kickboxing as a whole.

Origins in Japan

The idea as well as the first implementations of full contact kickboxing were made originally in Japan devised. There Tatsuo Yamada, a karate master, pursued the idea of ​​establishing a full contact competition in karate as early as the 1950s. Because up until then karate was a fighting discipline that was only held in half-contact and, in view of a point system that was sometimes quite confusing, was neither particularly exciting nor comprehensible for spectators. Not to mention that such an occurrence had little to do with real combat. In this context, Tatsuo Yamada was also one of the first foreigners to be interested in Muay Thai (Thai boxing), a sport that had been rather obscure until then and which was not as well known outside the borders of Thailand as it is today. Tatsuo Yamada studied this sport extensively, which influenced his idea of ​​what full contact karate could look like and how it could be held.

As a result, from the 1960s onwards, there were several arguments between Karateka and Muay Thai fighters, although the merits of the respective participants fluctuated considerably (a lot of national pride undoubtedly led to questionable decisions on both sides). But this should be the initial spark for the first one Kickboxing boom in Japan become. Which happened from the late 60s through the 70s. Several broadcasting stations broadcast big kickboxing events and the first Japanese stars, above all Tadashi Sawamura, were to the first stars of kickboxing. Even if their popularity was of course primarily a Japanese national phenomenon. It was at that time that some Dutch became interested in this new style of full contact karate. And so some of them went to Japan to learn it. But it shouldn't stop at just adopting this style.

Dutch style pioneers

The Dutch Kyokushin Karateka Jan Plas, Peter van den Hemel and Jan van Looijen flew to Japan in 1975 to learn this new Japanese kickboxing from Kenji Kurosaki. The root of the Dutch style lies in the Japanese style, but should also continue to develop significantly. In Japan, the Dutch learned techniques that had not yet played a role in their karate, such as low kicks and kicks with the shin instead of the foot. With the return of the Dutch, the first gyms appeared on Dutch soil, teaching this new discipline of full contact martial arts. The most important Dutch kickboxing schools subsequently became the Mejiro Gym, the Chakuriki Gym and Golden Glory.

In 1976 there was a tournament between two rival schools, the Mejiro Gym and the Chakuriki Gym. The tournament met with great interest. Not least because both gyms were in different parts of Amsterdam and local pride played a major role. The success of this tournament laid the commercial foundation for that Kickboxing in the Netherlands. The increasing popularity of the sport led to growing professionalism, because money could now be made with it. And it only took a few years for the first Dutch fighters to emerge from the 80s and 90s who could compete with the best in the world. It was also during this period that the Dutch style developed significantly.

The first international stars of Dutch kickboxing were Rob Kaman (who became a nine-time champion and was also able to win titles in Muay Thai) and Ramon Dekkers. Dekkers was the first foreigner ever defeated a lumpinee champion at the Thai Lumpinee Stadium - an open challenge to the elite in Muay Thai! This did not make Dekkers the first “farang” (foreigner) to be successful in Muay Thai. Rob Kaman and the Japanese Toshio Fujiwara had come before him. What Dekkers did, however, was that he fought against the best Thais of his time and often won! This made him more popular in Thailand than he should ever be in the Netherlands, also because of his aggressive fighting style and because he accepted every challenge. In 1992 he was even named fighter of the year elected in Thailand. An honor that had never been bestowed on a foreigner before. Even today it is the stuff of sentimental legends when people in Thailand tell each other how the traffic in Thailand's cities suddenly came to a standstill whenever Dekkers had a fight. Many taxi drivers refused to continue - they had to go to the nearest television set! And possibly your guests too.

What defines the Dutch style

The dutch style is mainly characterized by two things: by his offensive, aggressive focus (great forward thrust) and by the emphasis on punches. While in Muay Thai the punching techniques with the hands are rather underdeveloped, because they are considered a subordinate point criterion, the Dutch style (even if it is clearly influenced by Muay Thai) is strongly influenced by western boxing. Lateral movements to create favorable flapping angles play a greater role in the Dutch style, which is also influenced by the Boxing testifies. The offensive strategy often revolves around combinations of low kicks, hooks and straights. Often to prepare powerful kicks against the head or body or to disguise their imminence. The clinch, elbow kicks, knee kicks and push kicks (as they are common in Muay Thai) are also taught, but mostly play a subordinate role strategically.

The Dutch style can also be used as one of the most dominant types of kickboxing be interpreted. Definitely as far as medium to highest weight classes are concerned. So have leading promotions like K-1 and Glory their rule interpretation built predominantly around this style. Of the 19 previous K-1 Heavyweight Grand Prix titles (1993-2013), all but four went to the Netherlands! The group of those who could win the K-1 GP at least three times consists exclusively of Dutch (3x Peter Aerts and Remy Bonjasky / 4x Ernesto Hoost and Semmy Schilt).