If there was one man who could write a PhD thesis on Dutch kick boxing, that man is Dirk “Hammer-kick” Stal. Known on roguemag.com as the “professor of Dutch kick boxing”, according to him Dutch domination in stand up is here to stay- there is always logic in his words.
Several years ago, when news paper reporter Joost Van Poorten wrote an article on the legendary Rob Kaman and quizzed him on his fight record—Kaman answered by saying “Please ask Dirk Stal, he will tell you: he is my biggest fan!”, It goes to show the faith such big names have in the “professor”. As things are there is Sem Schilt who is arguably the most dominant kick boxer of the modern era and his reign in K1 is ample proof. Don’t forget Bonjesky, Hoost, Aerts and Andy Souwer. The list goes on and on…
Most parts of the world are envious about the success which has been built around competitive advantages and modern day adaptation in an ever changing, dynamic industry of professional pugilism. Stal attributes the hands on skill of boxing being an advantage Dutch fighters have and it is significant that the rest of the world is catching up to it. Especially successful fighters at the world stage from New Zealand have been known to use heavy hands. Mark Hunt, the only Kiwi to win a K1 title is ample proof and also the “Sugar foot” Ray Sefo is a solid boxer.
With Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) beginning to raise its profile, he looks at the effect it will have on stand up fighting and the evolution of hybrid fight cards with a new generation of fighters on board. The contribution of Dutch fighters and their culture as professionals have influenced the way fight sport is perceived in the modern era. The list of champions produced from a myriad of gyms are endless, it’s like a telephone directory.
Knowing the sport inside out in a way only a professor who has enough empirical evidence to write a thesis on, roguemag.com features part I of Dirk Stal and his analysis on Dutch domination and future trends and trend setters. Don’t be one bit surprised if Tyrone Spong is the next best thing, he spotted Spong and his talents when he was fourteen years old. Read on as the “professor” imparts some of his knowledge in this great interview...
Q. Why have Dutch been so strong in the international/global kick boxing arena for so long?
The Dutch have been so strong in international kickboxing, because I think the Dutch are “real” fighters, in every sense and style. Kick boxing is not only kicking, it’s also boxing, so you must also train smartly in boxing and we have lots of examples to prove that theory- that you can be the best. Every kid now, who takes up the sport, will be as big as Peter Aerts or Ernesto Hoost. There is that advantage too…
Q. Who are the “fore-fathers” who started this trend and do you see this continue?
The very first champion was Lucien Carbin and on 23 September 1983, Rob Kaman became the first European W.K.A world champion in kick boxing, he was followed by André Brilleman, Joao Vierra, Milo El Geubli and Fred Royers all great names and fighters. Today, we have Sem Schilt, who’s the K-1 champion and also Andy Souwer, who’s the K-1 Max champion. We already have some new young stars, and they will step in the shoes of these champs, so it will continue. The Dutch base is strong so we have no problems in creating champions of high calibre.
Q. Are Dutch mentally tougher than competitors from other regions of the world? Does that make them better?
Yes, I think that Dutch fighters are mentally stronger and they are prepared to be tough from the start. A lot of fighters here have great stamina both mentally and physically. Of course that makes them better.
Q. Technically are there “special” areas most Dutch fighters do better than the rest of the world?
Yes, every fighter here knows that if you will be good, you must also learn and train boxing. So, a lot of fighters train also in boxing. And of course the low kicks; everybody knows that we have the best!!
Q. Who in your opinion are some of the best Dutch trainers and camps, who produce the type of fighter you see that will dominate the future of the sport?
We have a lot of great trainers. The “godfather” of them all is Jan Plas. Today he’s the trainer of Team Aerts. Lucien Carbin is a great trainer; his gym is Fighting Factory Carbin. Cor Hemmers is the trainer of the Golden Glory team, he has produced many world champions. André Mannaart is also a great trainer, he’s the trainer of the legendary Mejiro Gym and he’s the trainer of Andy Souwer. Dennis Krauweel is the owner and trainer of Friends Gym, he’s the trainer of Albert Kraus and Alviar Lima, he’s also a big name here. The list is just endless- all great trainers!
Q. Especially in K-1 and K-1 Max Dutch domination is very clear, do you see this continue and if any one else is to threaten this domination what must they do?
In K-1 we will still dominate, we have the already the future champions. So, this will continue. And so if anyone else will stop this domination, they must train very, very hard and probably get smarter!!
Q. You say that Rob Kaman is the greatest ever fighter you have seen? Why do you say that and how do you see that against someone like Semmy Schilt or Peter Aerts?
Yes, Rob Kaman is for me the best of the best. For me, he’s what Muhammad Ali is in boxing. He was a great fighter, with some great techniques. He was world champion in kickboxing, Muay Thai and full contact all at the same time. In the eighties he fought a lot in Japan and he opened many doors for all other Dutch fighters. I met Rob a few times and became friends with him. I’m very proud, that he sees me, as his biggest fan. But also let’s not forget Peter Aerts and Sem Schilt are great fighters, but for me, Rob Kaman is number one. He is the one man who paved the way for Dutch fighters- he is No. 1!
Q. Who’s your favourite Dutch fighter, from the present crop- today?
My favourite Dutch fighter is Albert Kraus. He’s a great fighter in the ring, but outside the ring, he does a lot of work for children. He does a lot for KIKA, a foundation that collects money for children who have cancer. Also he fought recently in Zevenbergen, two demo fights against children, who had no opponent that day. That a fighter with a big reputation will do that for children, that’s really fantastic!
But, there’s more. Peter “Hurricane” Smit is the one who introduced me into kick boxing; he died on 15 august 2005. I was friends with him for about 40 years!! Albert promised that as long he would fight, he will honour and respect the fighter’s name, The Hurricane, and he promised that he will tell everybody about Peter, and that nobody in Japan or worldwide, ever forgets Peter “Hurricane” Smit. So, Albert Kraus can always count on my support. Being a fighter in a country with such a proud heritage is great and what he does for fight sport in and out of the ring is very valuable!
Q. Who in your opinion is/was the best Dutch, Muay Thai exponent and who will probably be the next star from Holland in Muay Thai? Why so?
The best Dutch in Muay Thai is Ramon Dekkers; he fought many times in Thailand. He’s the most respected foreigner in Thailand. I think that nobody can ever, step in his shoes. The times are changing and most of fighters, will try to come into K-1. Because in Japan, they pay much more, than in Thailand, that’s the reality. We will have to see who will hold their own in Muay Thai; we have many fighters who are competitive at the top level.
Q. Is there much difference in Dutch training methods to say Thai or any other region, what makes the winning formula?
Yes, they train different here. But I think it’s a unique difference, every gym has their own training methods. The winning formula is that you must train hard, if you are to be the best in your own unique way. Dutch have fluid combinations and that’s a huge advantage…
Q. You predicted back in 2002 that Andy Souwer will be the next “star”- now in 2008 he is almost “legend” like, who do you think will be the next from present fighters? Tyrone Spong?
I met Tyrone Spong at the end of 2002. I was invited by his trainer Lucien Carbin on a gala and so I met him. He fought his first A class fight, at that event. I was surprised how good he was, at that time. That’s now more then five years ago, and he will become very big. He’s a great champion now, but to me, he’s always the same. That’s what I like about him. If he has the right weight, he will fight in K-1 and he will dominate there. I see him as the next Dutch K-1 champion.
Q. What are some of the most memorable fights you have seen which had a massive impact on Dutch fight sport?
The most memorable fight, I have seen is Rob Kaman vs Ernesto Hoost II. For most kickboxing fans, that fight is the best fight ever fought in Holland and Europe. Also Changpuak Kiatsongrit vs Peter Smit I, Rob Kaman vs Marek Piotrowski, Rob Kaman vs Jean Yves Theriault, André Brilleman vs Howard Jackson, Ramon Dekkers vs Coban II are memorable fights for me.
Q. How do you see MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) impacting Kick Boxing in Holland? Will it over take it, like UFC is doing in America?
No, MMA will never over take on Kick boxing. But MMA is becoming very popular- it does have its place. We have some good MMA fighters, Gilbert Yvel, Alistair Overeem and Melvin Manhoef are all great fighters and they all have a lot of fans here. My own favourite MMA fighter is Fedor Emelianeko and I also like Wanderlei Silva a lot.
Q. Will the younger generation take up more MMA and will this effect stand up, especially in the newer gyms of Holland?
I think it’s more a mix today, some will train kickboxing and some others will train MMA. Here in the most gyms, you can train both. It’s up to the individual and they can decide…
Q. How do you see the rest of the world competing with “Dutch domination” in Kick Boxing- in your expert opinion will it continue or will the gap close down?
The Dutch success story will go on !! We are a land of big fighters and many legends. Which country can say that they have champions as, Rob Kaman, Ramon Dekkers, Peter Smit, Ivan Hippolyte, André Brilleman, Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts, Fred Royers, Albert Kraus, Andy Souwer, Tyrone Spong and many, may more. They all are big examples, that if you want, you can be the best!!
ROGUE: Thanks “Professor for your valuable time…..
D “Hammer-kick” S: You are welcome anytime!
Editor’s note: Watch this space as the thesis and his findings continue with future parts to follow very soon!