ClashinaCage words li liao-hanusiewicz
Full-contact martial arts comes to Macau on 21 May in FURY 1 – Clash of the Titans.
Since the dawn of time man has been looking to test and prove his endurance, strength and skill against a worthy opponent in one form of full-contact sport or another. It seems to be an instinct intrinsic to human nature. In ancient Greece, as early as 648 BC a blend of boxing and wrestling called Pankration was introduced into the Olympics Games. The term was derived from a combination of the words for “all” and “strength/power” – in other words an allencompassing fighting style and the beginnings of organized, minimal rules, empty-handed combat. Through the ages the concept evolved and adapted to civilizations as they came and went. Popularity also peaked and waned over the millennia with notable activity at the beginning of the 20th century. Numerous multi-disciplinary, no-holds-barred events searched for the most effective fighting style in Europe, Japan and the Pacific Rim, as well as in the Gracie family’s vale tudo martial arts tournaments in Brazil. The late 1980s and early ’90s ushered in the most recent and more organized resurgence and modern Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was born. For the past 20 years MMA has been growing in popularity in Europe and the USA, propelled largely by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Sets of rules such as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts have created a safer and more reasonable environment and opened the door for a wide acceptance and following. Under the surface, Hong Kong is now also starting to catch onto the MMA craze and is home to several fighters. The gyms and dojos that were, until recent years, catering only to the demand for Muay Thai/kickboxing, are now filling up with enthusiasts of all ages and professions who can’t wait to throw off the monkey suit after a long day at work and dive onto the mat for a gruelling session of the martial arts of their choice. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), wildly popular in the USA for its effectiveness in grappling and submission and an arguably essential element to an all-round MMA training, is now also gaining recognition in Hong Kong with some world-class instructors and purpose-built training facilities. I spoke with Damien Roche, director of the Kontact Mixed Martial Arts Training Centre in Central recently. Roche arrived in Hong Kong 6 years ago and has witnessed the evolution of the interest in MMA
here firsthand. He points out that, even though there are as yet no formal regulations for MMA in Hong Kong and China, it is really taking off and is already hugely popular in Shanghai. In fact, even fashion labels are clambering over one another to get in on the action. ‘For fitness, it’s a very complete sport, you get to work your whole body,’ says Roche. But he advises those who want to train more seriously than just for workout purposes to first develop a foundation in one particular style and then go from there. Being from a karate and kickboxing background himself, Roche recommends people start with standing styles. Although the basics in such styles may be slightly counter-intuitive, once they are mastered, it is easier to move to the grappling styles, which tend to follow a more natural and instinctive approach. In November 2009, Roche organized the first Vegas-style MMA event in Macau, which was hugely popular. So, following on that success, he is organizing FURY I – Clash of the Titans, the region’s first cage championship competition to be held in Macau on May 21. It’ll be a Vegas-style, high-class event in the Grand Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Macau at City of Dreams – complete with food and champagne. This preliminary battle for the light heavyweight title will feature Antony “Wild Thing” Rea from France against Yoshiki Takahashi from Japan. The 33-year-old Rea stands 1.83m and weighs in at around 93kg, has a total of 17 wins (10 by knockout and six by submission) and 13 losses. He specializes in savate, Greco-Roman wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Forty-one-year-old Takahashi, stands 1.78m and also weighs in at around 93kg with 28 wins (eight by knockout and 10 by submission), 24 losses, three draws and a no contest. He specializes in Pancrase from Japan, a hybrid form of wrestling derived from the aforementioned ancient Pankration. This is set to be the first of several such MMA events to be scheduled at 3- or 4-month intervals with an impressive list of participants reading like a Who’s Who of the MMA world, such as the likes of Ramazan “The Punisher” Ramazanov from Russia versus “Russian Beast” Sergei Vasiliev, Dion “The Soldier” Staring versus Peter “The Chief” Grahams, Jason Jones (Netherlands), Vaughn Anderson (Canada), James Doolan (UK), Nabuhiro Obiya and Takeshi Numajiri (Japan), Sayed “White Tiger” Irshaad and Vuyisie “Cheetah” Colossa (South Africa).