K-1 is a combat sport that combines stand up techniques from Muay Thai, Karate, Taekwondo, Savate, San shou, Kickboxing, traditional Boxing, and other martial arts to determine the single best stand-up fighter in the world (the "1").
The K-1 organization's governing body is Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG). They organize a variety of fightsport events in Japan and around the world, including K-1's sister mixed martial arts promotion, DREAM. There are K-1 Regional Elimination Tournaments which qualify fighters for the K-1 World Grand Prix, along with licensed K-1 Fighting Network events designed to develop new talent internationally and there is also a 70.5kg (155lb) Super Middleweight division called K-1 MAX ("Middleweight Artistic Xtreme"). In 2007, K-1 introduced a two new Title belts separate from K-1 World GP Champions, Super Heavyweight World Title for fighters over 100kg/220lbs and Heavyweight World Title for fighters under 100kg/156-220lbs.
The sport was first formed by Kazuyoshi Ishii, a former Kyokushin karate practitioner who had formed his own organization, Seidokaikan Karate in 1980. Seidokaikan arranged several successful challenge events against other martial arts organizations, originally using rules based on the Kyokushin Knockdown karate rules, but gradually adapting and changing closer to kickboxing rules. In 1993 Mr. Ishii founded the K-1 organization exclusively as a kickboxing organization, closely cooperating with, but independent from Seidokaikan.
Throughout the year there are 6 K-1 World Grand Prix tournaments and 4 main K-1 MAX events. The winners will qualify to the K-1 and the K-1 MAX WGP Final Eliminations held in Osaka Dome, Japan. From there the final top 8 fighters will compete in the K-1 World GP Finals in Tokyo Dome, Japan.
Every year there are dozens of other K-1 qualifying tournaments and preliminaries all over the world.
The principal objective of K-1 is to win either by a knockout or by a split or unanimous decision. Victories are usually achieved by kicks to the legs, head or midsection or using traditional boxing punches, such as the jabs, hooks or uppercuts.
Classic defensive boxing stance is rather ineffective against leg kicks, and fighters are more or less forced to constantly move and counterattack. The traditional clinch, often used in boxing is not allowed which has lead to a very high K.O. ratio in the K-1, since the fighers in other stand-up fighting sports often use the clinch to gain time to recover if they have been hit. Clinching is also a big part of traditional thaiboxing and the lack of this is basically the biggest difference between thaiboxing and the K-1 rule-system. If you grab an opponent with the intent of using a knee-technique you have to let go after one single blow. In thaiboxing, the fighters often hold on to each other to continuously use their knees and elbows.
Due to the combination of rules and techniques that are allowed and not, the common low kick has time and again proven itself to be one of the most efficient techniques in the K-1 fighter arsenal. Even world class boxers have many times become completely pacified during their attempts to enter the K-1 fighting circuit successfully due to the extreme damage a low kick can deliver to the leg. Some of the best low kick performers in the world are found in several classic full contact karate styles, such as kyokushin and seidokan karate, the latter from which the K-1 origins. This has also lead to great success within the K-1 among fighters with traditional karate background, Andy Hug being the first K-1 fighter with a karate background to win the K-1 and 3-year consecutive champion Semmy Schilt also comes from a full contact karate style known as Ashihara where low kicks are prioritized as technique in competitions. However the biggest success belongs to muay thai fighters which is proved by names of K-1 champions Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky, Buakaw Por.Promuk. Kickboxing is also a common combat style in K-1.
The rules themselves are constantly adapting and changing to create a competition which allows for participants of different styles to fight in a fairer manner, although these rules accommodate kickboxing rules as the main basis.
In K-1 single elimination tournament matches:
Source: K-1 Website
The following actions in K-1 are considered fouls:
A fighter is penalized as follows:
Two cautions result in one warning. Two warnings result in a point deduction, and three point deductions in one round can result in a disqualification.
A red card is shown automatically if a fighter commits a foul with malicious intent.
Source: K-1 Website
The system of K-1 is changing from time to time as a response to the growing popularity in different parts of the world.
In the beginning of the K-1 series it was a single tournament in Japan with fighters participating by invitation. By today K-1 has branched out to all parts of the world and has been divided into preliminary Grand Prix-s, Fighting Networks and qualifiers. There are six regional GPs on all continents (except Africa and Antarctica) and all of them have the exclusive right to send the winners to the Final Elimination. Preliminaries are organized in countries with minor attendance and consists of tournaments where the winners qualify to the regional GPs.
Until 2006 K-1 wanted to gain popularity in the United States therefore two of the GPs were in the U.S., however only a few Americans have been qualified for the Finals. This situation changed with 2006 and one of the American GPs was relocated to Auckland, New Zealand. Also the K-1 Paris GP lost its qualifying right in favor of Amsterdam.
The Final Elimination is an event where the 16 participants compete for the final eight spots in the Finals. The line-up is made up of 6 new GP winners, the eight finalists from the previous year's Final, plus 2 fighters selected by the K-1 organization. In 2006 there was some minor modifications because Peter Aerts was substituted by Glaube Feitosa who reached the final match, therefore he was included in the 2006 Final Elimination.
Usually the combatants of the Elimination 16-men 8-match super fights are paired by drawing but at the Tokyo Dome it's a different case. The whole event is combined with a ceremony and a press conference and reminds of a lottery show, with the fighters pulling a ball from a glass bowl with a number on it. The balls represent numbers 1 to 8, which determines the fighters' order in choosing a position from a giant tournament tree figure standing in front of a drawn bracket. The fighter with the number 1 ball will choose first "empty" section. This procedure goes on until all the fighters have selected their first quarterfinal opponent. This system gives a freedom of choice and tactics to the fighters with the help of a little luck.
In 2007 because of the monopoly-like reign of Semmy Schilt the K-1 organization introduced two new title belts as well as restructured the qualification system. Two new titles can be acquired through single fights. One was created for the heavyweights under 100 kg fighters and the other for the super-heavyweights. Meanwhile the well-known 8-men tournament system stays and the GP titles will be still handed out.
The new tournament qualification system will be: the 8 finalists of last year, 4 new Grand Prix winners and two new single title champions - if some of the fighters holds more than one title, then the extra ones will be chosen by K-1. Finally the last two spots will be selected by the K-1 team and the votes of the fans from around the world..".
The sport is very popular in Japan, Brazil, and most of Europe but enjoys only limited popularity in the United States. In most US states K-1 fight rules are banned. To date, all K-1 tournaments in the US have taken place in Las Vegas or Honolulu (with one exception: Milwaukee 2001).
The events are frequently shown on Tokyo Broadcasting System and Fuji Network in Japan, Pay Per View or ESPN 2 (after its "Friday Night Fights" boxing show) in the United States, The Fight Network in Canada, and on Eurosport in Europe. Smaller K-1 events are broadcast in other countries by national sport channels.
The competitions have met some fans criticisms over the past few years since K-1's use of lower quality athletes that headline the events for no other reason than the size (Bob Sapp and former Yokozuna Akebono), nationality or reality show celebrity status like comedian Bobby Ologun.
There's been a few alleged nationality biased controversies as well. On May 13, 2006, an all-Dutch judging panel decided in favor of Remy Bonjasky from Netherlands against Jerome Le Banner from France at the K-1 World Grand Prix in Amsterdam. Many thought Jerome Le Banner had won the contest but judges had a slim majority decision in favor of the Dutch fighter Bonjasky (30-30, 29-28, 30-28). Also there have been several questionable decisions that favoured Japanese fighters during the K-1 Finals.
Le Banner filed a protest and K-1 officials from Japan and the United States reviewed the match based on current K-1 Grand Prix judging criteria and two weeks later on June 30, 2006, the result was reversed and Jerome Le Banner was officially announced as the new winner. Source: K-1 Website
|1993||Branko Cikatić||Ernesto Hoost|
|1994||Peter Aerts||Masaaki Satake|
|1995||Peter Aerts||Jerome Le Banner|
|1996||Andy Hug||Mike Bernardo|
|1997||Ernesto Hoost||Andy Hug|
|1998||Peter Aerts||Andy Hug|
|1999||Ernesto Hoost||Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović|
|2000||Ernesto Hoost||Ray Sefo|
|2001||Mark Hunt||Francisco Filho|
|2002||Ernesto Hoost||Jerome Le Banner|
|2005||Semmy Schilt||Glaube Feitosa|
|2006||Semmy Schilt||Peter Aerts|
|2007||Semmy Schilt||Peter Aerts|
|2002||Albert Kraus||Kaolan Kaovichit|
|2005||Andy Souwer||Buakaw Por.Pramuk|
|2006||Buakaw Por.Pramuk||Andy Souwer|
|03/03/2007||Semmy Schilt||K-1 World GP 2007 in Yokohama|
|06/29/2008||Semmy Schilt||K-1 World GP 2008 in Fukuoka|
|04/28/2007||Badr Hari||K-1 World GP 2007 in Hawaii|
|06/29/2008||Badr Hari||K-1 World GP 2008 in Fukuoka|