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Title [Martial Arts Globe] Introducing the establishment of WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organization)

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  • Date
    09-12-2021
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Photo by Jonathan Tomas on Unsplash. This photo is not directly related to the writing.

 

When you hear the word “kickboxing” you will probably think of martial arts practiced wearing boxers and boxing gloves, something similar to Muay Thai. A boxing promoter Osamu Noguchi from Japan, came up with an idea to combine karate with boxing through competitions between karate and Muay Thai in the 1960s, later complementing it with Muay Thai. This Japanese style of kickboxing is popular also in Korea and most of the kickboxing instructors in Korea follow this style.

 



K in WAKO used to stand for Karate in the old days

 

Apart from the Japanese style, there are also other Western types of kickboxing. These various types of kickboxing were organized and developed into sports events by the World Association of Kickboxing Organization(WAKO). WAKO is the largest kickboxing organization in the world with 130 member countries. The Korean branch has two names which are Korea Kickboxing Association in Korean and WAKO Korea in English.

 

WAKO is recognized as an official kickboxing organization for Sports Accord, Olympic Council of Asia(OCA), World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), and International World Games Association. Kickboxing competitions were held in the 2017 World Combat Games, Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games, and Combat Sports Games organized by OCA. WAKO has divisions in five continents: WAKO Europe, WAKO Pan-America, WAKO Asia, WAKO Oceania, and WAKO Africa.

 

On July 20, 2021, the International Olympic Committee selected kickboxing as an Olympic game and recognized WAKO as an international sports federation.

 


Georg Brueckner (Left side) & Mike Anderson (Right side)

 

WAKO’s history is intimately intertwined with the Western history of kickboxing. In 1974, George Brueckner from Germany and others showed their first full-contact karate performance in LA. Finally, on February 26, 1977, Brueckner establishes the international non-profit organization WAKOwhich stood for World All Styles Karate Organizations back thenwith Mike Anderson from the US, Hans Stoker from the Netherlands, Geert Lemmens from Belgium, and Jean Pierre Schupp from Swiss. Given that WAKO was a Karate association at first, it is interesting to see that people across the world all agree that karate and kickboxing have many things in common.

 

The founders of the organization had brilliant work in martial arts. As for Mike Anderson, he learned Jhoon Rhee style of Taekwondo from Allen Steen who played a match with a celebrity Chuck Norris. Jhoon Rhee is recognized as the father of American Taekwondo. Anderson is also considered the father of sports karate/kickboxing. He used to be a Karate instructor and athlete in Europe. On the other hand, Brueckner is considered the father of European kickboxing. He was the first German to earn a Taekwondo black belt from Hong Hi Choi, the founder of ITF Taekwondo. He also became a black belt in judo, karate, and jujitsu. In 1978, Brueckner performed semi-contact karate and full-contact karate with 110 competitors from 18 countries. The reason Anderson and Brueckner had established the karate association instead of a Taekwondo association, while having practice experience in Taekwondo, not in Karate, is that Taekwondo was not yet set at the time. Back then, it was quite common to operate a Taekwondo academy under the name of Korean Karate in the United States and in other regions.

 


The logo of WAKO

 

Between 1984 and 2013, WAKO was led by Ennio Falconi from Italy, not by Brueckner. The logo of the organization in blue and white color was developed and registered by Brueckner, meaning the copyright belongs to him. This fact was very helpful for Falconi in reuniting the divided groups in 1987, after continuous breakdowns of the organization between 1985 and 1987. In the unity celebration, WAKO changed its name to the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations, no longer representing karate. The headquarters also moved from Berlin to the city of Monza in Italy during Falconi’s presidency.

 

WAKO ensures the maximum use of safety equipment including gloves and kick shoes for a safe punch and kick. The organization also sets up rules and regulations for amateur combat sports. WAKO holds games also for pro players. Considering the founding members’ glamorous background, you can find considerably diverse games in WAKO, largely divided into mat sports (The term tatami is used in a global platform), Ring sports, and Cage sports which were added later on with the influence of MMA. Mat sports involve Point Fighting, Light Contact, Kick Light, Aero Kickboxing, Musical Form, and MMA Light; Ring sports include Full Contact, Low Kick, K-1, Muay Thai, and MMA Full; and Cage sports involve MMA Elite. As the range of games is broad in WAKO, there are differences in outfits.

 

After Falconi’s resignment, the organization was led by acting president between 2013 and 2015. Borislav Plevic served as the president until October 25, 2018, before his unfortunate death. On November 19, 2018, the executive board of directors unanimously appointed Francesca Falconi, the chairman of the legal committee, as a temporary president of WAKO. On February 2, 2019, Falconi held a general meeting to elect the next president in Milano, Italy. After being elected by majority vote in the meeting, Roy Baker has been leading WAKO until now.

 

 ※ Views in this writing are the author's own.