The Dutch Dominate Heavyweight Kickboxing. Why? (Part 2)

The Dutch Dominate Heavyweight Kickboxing. Why? (Part 2)
In Part 1, K-1 and UFC Veteran Antoni Hardonk shared knowledge from his extensive experience in combat sports. He shed some light on training methodologies and the origins of Dutch Kickboxing, and his thoughts on why it has faired so well in the ring. Now, it’s time to dig even deeper and see if we can uncover the secret to their success.

IL Obviously, there is something to the Dutch approach that’s working. As mentioned in Part 1, 26 out of the last 29 years the Dutch have held the heavyweight title. We know the basic difference in training preparation style, but what makes the system unique and so effective.

AH I think it’s the way the Dutch system is able to efficiently combine all striking options. Whereas boxers have amazing hands no question. And Muay Thai fighters focus heavily on their kicks and clench. I feel like the Dutch kickboxing has a great balance between these elements.

IL But what’s to stop a martial artist from simply training in a boxing gym and also practicing Muay Thai?

AH It ultimately comes down to stances and transitions. By that, I mean that each system deals with distance, balance, and angles differently. For instance, a boxer is frequently leaning forward and heavy on the front foot. Whereas a Muay Thai fighter is more upright and squarer. A TKD player will most likely be in a very bladed stance. So, if you’re trying to go from punch to kick mixing these different arts, the transition can be challenging to say the least. Power can suffer as well as flow and timing.

What we’re looking for in kickboxing is a stance that has perfect balance while controlling distance. Ultimately, we want our fighters to have smooth transitions between punches to kicks and also between offense to defense. We want their opponent to feel like they’re fighting someone with four arms that can engage or disengage at will.

IL Interesting. You mentioned distance. How does Kickboxing compare when it comes to elbows and knees for close distance to, say, Muay Thai?

AHWe train those as well. But ultimately, it comes down to whatever the rules are for the promotion. When looking at kickboxing as a self-defense system, it’s all in there. Maybe to some people’s surprise, the clench is a big aspect of our system. On top of that knees, elbows and sweeps are too. We’re able to combine and adjust to the rules of the day. What’s important is that the philosophy of our movement doesn’t change. We are able to maintain our tool selection and deal with whatever problem may arise.

IL It sounds to me like you work to build a well-rounded, proficient fighter with all his tools. Do you feel that is what has given the Dutch the upper hand in the heavyweight division?

AHYes. You hit the nail on the head. A balanced kickboxer knows how to work from all distances with all his tools. And from all of the time working on partner drills is able to size-up and understand his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, when a proficient kickboxer is up against a great boxer, they already know that they don’t want to spend all night trading hands. They simply choose tools that keep the distance in their favor, be it kicks or clench and elbows. When facing a heavy-kicking Muay Thai fighter that is good with his elbows as well, he knows that his best option is to work primarily from punching range. That’s not to say he won’t’ work in all of the ranges. But, he knows that to have a better advantage that’s where he should put in most of the work.

As you can see, the only way to make this happen, though, is to be well-rounded and to be able to fight from a point of balance. This goes all the way back to our Kyokushin roots and why our ultimate goal is to be able to go between kicking and punching and offense and defense smoothly.

IL One last question: The statistic shows the Dutch, without question, do extremely well in the heavyweight division. What about the other divisions?

AHIn the first place, for many years the K-1 champs were open-weight, not specifically heavyweight. So, people of all sizes competed for the same belt. For instance, my training partner Ernesto Hoost was naturally a middleweight that ate is way up to a heavyweight body transitioning from K-2 to K-1. When you look at many of the great fighters of yesterday and today it is frequently Dutch fighters that top the list such as Roman Decker, Ryan Simpson, Albert Kraus and Nieky Holzken. They all come from a Dutch Kickboxing camp.

So, despite being a small country with a much smaller number of practitioners, the Dutch still do very well across all divisions against systems with many more fighters giving additional credence to the effectiveness of the system.

IL Great. Thanks for your time and insight into Dutch Kickboxing for our readers.

AH Thanks for giving me this opportunity to hopefully clear up some questions and misconceptions about my style.

IL Absolutely!

For you at home, I hope this has given you some food for thought. Whatever martial arts system you practice, I trust there are some nuggets of wisdom from Mr. Hardonk that may prove helpful in enhancing your training.


Ian Lauer

2nd Degree Black Belt American Kenpo

1st Degree Black Belt Tae Kwon Do

1st Degree Black Belt Hapkido

1st Degree Black Belt Coszacks Karate

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