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The Voice: "Inside a Real Kumite"

  • Written by Dave Walsh

KumiteAsk any Jean Claude Van Damme fan about the toughest event in martial arts and they can name it - The 100 man Kumite.  Made famous by Van Damme in Bloodsport, this legendary and near mythical event is, contrary to what you may believe, real.  One challenger faces 100 opponents in succession, each bout lasting 90 seconds.  Over the years, there have been spotty stories about Kumites, but it's often been hard to sort the legend from the truth.  Until now.

In 2009, K-1 commentator Michael "The Voice" Schiavello had the honor of witnessing a Kumite.  The challenger was Armenian Artur Hovhannisyan.  The 100 opponents included K-1 legends Glaube Feitosa and Francisco Filho.  Schiavello has now written an article on the event that is absolutely required reading.  A small sample:

IN A GYM ON THE FOURTH FLOOR OF ICHIGEKI PLAZA IN TOKYO, Artur Hovhannisyan stands by a full-length window and looks down upon the streets of Ebisu though his thoughts are miles away. His white gi is pristine and a black belt adorns his waist with three gold bars on the tip (one for each dan ranking). With his shaved head and clean appearance, the 33-year-old Armenian could pass as a banker or an accountant. Indeed it’s not until you see his calloused knuckles and stare into the black abyss of his eyes that you realize who you’re really standing face-to-face with.

“It’s time,” says a voice from across the room.

“Osu!” grunts Hovhannisyan. He slams his fist into his palm, lets out a loud breath and is led out of the gym by two officials with all the solemnity of wardens leading a death-row inmate to the chair.  Hovhannisyan enters the tiny Honbu (headquarters) dojo and the wooden door slides shut behind him. The eerie thud of a Taiko drum renders the room silent. As he gazes around the dojo his eyes widen; only now does he truly comprehend the gravity of what lies ahead. On the floor sit one hundred black and brown belts, legs crossed, perfectly postured. They’re bare knuckled and hungry, like a pack of jackals ready to rip Hovhannisyan apart at the limbs.

The entire article is available on the HDNet blog - click here.

Seriously folks, I can not stress this enough - you MUST read this.  Drop whatever you're doing, click the link, read it.

Highlights of Hovhannisyan's Kumite, including footage of him facing Feitosa and Filho below.

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