As a Muay Thai fan, you probably know about the Dutch Kickboxing style. Or at least heard about it.
After all, Dutch Kickboxing is one of the most exciting and aggressive fighting styles in the world.
Fans of martial arts and combat sports would nod in silent awe and agreement.
The rest of the world is likely to scratch their heads in confusion and ask questions such as – Is that a style of martial art? And did it originate from the Netherlands?
If you want to learn more about the style, then read on. This article’s all about Dutch Kickboxing!
What is Dutch Kickboxing?
To start, we’ll need to clear a few things.
First of all, we need to establish the fact that Dutch Kickboxing is a distinct style.
A lot of people confuse it for being an offspring of Muay Thai. And some think that it comes purely from Karate.
Well, they actually have some component of truth in them.
The trademark style of Dutch Kickboxing put a lot of emphasis on boxing combinations and low kicks. Knee strikes are allowed but elbows are not. Push kicks and clinching are also allowed but the latter is not used much due to limitations by kickboxing promotions.
When you think of someone using this style, you think of a fighter that’s always coming forward and aggressive. He’ll throw a lot of power punches and those are punctuated by heavy leg kicks.
The truth is that this style is a fusion of three premier striking styles: Muay Thai, Kyokushin Karate, and Western Boxing.
To better understand how it all came together and resulted in what we now know as Dutch Kickboxing, we need to start at the beginning.
The History of Dutch Kickboxing
The roots of Dutch Kickboxing can obviously be found in the Netherlands, hence its name.
Compared to Muay Thai or Karate or even Western Boxing, Dutch Kickboxing is relatively new.
You don’t need to go back hundreds or even thousands of years to look at when it started. In fact, you only need to go back a few decades to the 1970s for its origin.
That was the time when Dutch martial artists went all the way to Japan to learn Japanese Kickboxing.
It must be noted that Japanese Kickboxing is itself a result of combining Muay Thai and Kyokushin Karate. Japanese kickboxers developed a distinctive style when a number of notable Kyokushin Karatekas traveled to train in Thailand in the 60s.
Mas Oyama, along with Kenji Kurosaki were the original founders of Kyokushin, the first full-contact form of karate in the 50s.
Kenji began traveling to Thailand in the 60s to train Muay Thai. He then founded the Mejiro Gym in Tokyo, Japan, teaching a Japanese kickboxing style by fusing Kyokushin Karate with Muay Thai.
Mejiro Gym is also the home to Japanese kickboxing and Muay Thai legend, Toshio Fujiwara. (Read about Toshio Fujiwara in the “Best Foreign Muay Thai Fighters“)
A number of Dutch kickboxers including Jan Plas traveled to train with Kenji at Mejiro Gym in the 70s.
After their learning experience in Japan, the Dutch martial artists went home to the Netherlands. Jan Plas returned to Amsterdam where he started the NKBB (Dutch Kickboxing Association) and Mejiro Gym.
Mejiro Gym (Amsterdam) produced many of the most prominent Dutch kickboxers in history including Peter Aerts, Rob Kaman and Andy Souwer. The gym is considered by many to be the birthplace of Dutch Kickboxing.
They continued refining the style that they learned and eventually added elements of Muay Thai and Western Boxing. The result is Dutch Kickboxing as we know it today.
Notable Dutch Kickboxers
The Netherlands produced many of the world’s top kickboxing champions. Many Dutch kickboxers found success in eminent promotions like K-1, Glory Kickboxing and ONE Championship Super Series.
Besides Mejiro Gym, Mike’s Gym is another top Dutch Kickboxing gym. Michael “Big Mike” Passenier founded the gym in 2003 and continues to run it today. He trained a number of kickboxing world champions such as Artur Kyshenko, Gokhan Saki, and Badr Hari.
Between 1993 and 2013, Dutch kickboxers accounted for 15 out of 19 K1 World Grand Prix champions. This is a testament to the success of the Dutch in international kickboxing.
Here’s a look at some of the most notable Dutch Kickboxers to have competed and found success in the international scene over the years:
Rob Kaman competed professionally from the 80s through the 90s in both kickboxing and Muay Thai. He was a multi-time WKA and ISKA kickboxing world champion.
Kaman was famously known as “Mr Low Kick” due to his incredible leg kicking power that helped him secure many victories. He retired in 1999 with 97 wins out of 112 fight appearances, 77 by way of KO/TKO – an incredible 79% KO win rate.
The late Ramon Dekkers is a legend of Dutch kickboxing legacy and a fan-favorite around the world. He is well-respected among both kickboxing and Muay Thai fans.
Dekkers brought an aggressive Dutch fighting style to Muay Thai, competing against the best golden era fighters on their soil. (Read more about Dekkers in “Best Foreign Muay Thai Fighters“)
Ernesto Hoost is a retired Dutch Kickboxer considered by many to be one of the greatest kickboxers of all time.
Hoost is a 4-time K1 world champion along with multiple titles in kickboxing and Muay Thai over his career. The kickboxing great has beaten the likes of Peter Aerts, Andy Hug, Changpuek Kiatsongrit and Mark Hunt.
The list would not be complete without mentioning the “Dutch Lumberjack”, Peter Aerts.
Aerts is a 3-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion who started competing professionally from the late 1980s. He was known for his high kicks and boasts a KO win rate of nearly 80% with 79 KOs out of 106 victories.
The heavyweight legend continues to compete to this day at the age of 49.
Rico Verhoeven is the current number one ranked heavyweight kickboxer of the world.
He is a Glory heavyweight champion since 2014 having defended the belt successfully 9 times. Verhoeven is a tall and athletic heavyweight and quite possibly the most talented kickboxer of this generation.
Nicknamed The King of Kickboxing, Verhoeven is primed to become one of the greatest kickboxers of all time.
If you want to learn more about the top kickboxing legends, check out “Top 10 Kickboxers You Should Know“.
Difference between Dutch Kickboxing vs Muay Thai
As a Muay Thai blog, I figure I should cover the difference between Dutch Kickboxing and Muay Thai.
Dutch Kickboxing techniques are influenced largely by Japanese kickboxing which in turn is influenced by Muay Thai. The most obvious difference between the two striking styles is the range of weapons.
The three main weapons of the Dutch style are punches, kicks and knee strikes. Muay Thai has an expanded arsenal of weapons that also include elbow strikes and more complete variety of clinching techniques.
Dutch Kickboxing Techniques
There are also fine differences in the use of punches, kicks and knees.
Let’s start with the punches. The punches used in Dutch Kickboxing are almost identical to those used in Western Boxing. It’s immediately obvious to observers and followers of the sport.
The slight difference being that Dutch Kickboxing allows punches like the superman punch, for example. So fighters have a little more variety to their punching.
Dutch Kickboxers focus a lot on their boxing skills compared to their Muay Thai counterparts. Generally speaking, the Dutch tends to outbox the Thai in either rule-set.
When it comes to the kicks, the leg kick (low kick) is of course the preferred kicking weapon of choice. A lot of combinations end with the leg kick, usually after a barrage of punching combinations.
That’s not to say that other kicks such as the body kick and head kick are not used. They are, but we can’t really say that they are preferred.
Another kick that is not given as much preference is the front kick. It’s allowed, but you’ll rarely see it used in the way that the teep is used in Muay Thai.
As for other techniques, knee strikes are allowed and widely used. A lot of fighters using the Dutch style use it as one of their main weapons. But due to the clinch restriction, Dutch style knee strikes usually comprise only of straight and flying knees.
How Dutch Kickboxing is Trained
Dutch kickboxing places a lot of focus on partner drills and it has become one of the sport’s norms.
Dutch gyms carry out give-and-take drills in their training. Many of the top Dutch kickboxing gyms incorporate these drills into their training routine.
What makes these drills unique and productive is that it eliminates the need for coaches to hold pads for the fighters while training.
Instead, training partners will use one another to do the drill. So if you’re training and you got a partner, you’ll choose which one of you gets to do the drill first.
If you go first, then you’ll proceed to hit your partner’s gloves. It will serve the same function as the pads that a coach will hold in a Muay Thai setting. After you’re done, it’s your partner’s turn to do the drill and use your gloves as pads for hitting.
This method of partner drills is also common in Muay Thai gyms outside of Thailand where the classes might be big and there are not enough trainers.
Pad work is also featured in Dutch kickboxing training with a focus on punches, knees and low kicks.
Sparring in Dutch Kickboxing
Sparring is a crucial part of most striking styles like Muay Thai and Boxing. But Dutch Kickboxing takes sparring into a whole new level.
Why? The Dutch spar hard. This aggressive approach to sparring is likely a major part of why those who use the style are very aggressive in actual fights.
Most gyms in the Netherlands schedule sparring every day and hard sparring is a regular thing.
Light sparring is mostly unheard of in Dutch gyms, unlike in Thailand. Muay Thai fighters usually do technical sparring to minimize training injuries.
This style of sparring does offer some serious benefits. First of all, Dutch kickboxers become more “fight-ready” than fighters that use a different training method. They’re more exposed to the conditions and situations of a real fight. So there, they’re able to cope with it better in an actual fight.
Another benefit is that the fighters feel more confident in their fighting abilities. Having a very good idea of what to expect is a tremendous boost to their confidence. Lastly, hard sparring helps increase the cardio and fitness level of the fighters.
Hard sparring has its share of critics who argue that it does more harm than good due to risks of concussion and head trauma. The increased risk of injuries can also be detrimental to a fighter’s development.
Dutch Kickboxing in Actual Fights
You will see the Dutch Kickboxing style in tournaments and promotions all over the planet. But it’s most commonly seen in those promotions that use or at least is similar to the K-1 rule set.
Dutch style emphasizes punch combinations that are punctuated by heavy low kicks. Some say it’s the perfect fighting style for those rule specific rule sets and promotions.
The fact that those rule sets typically have 3 rounds of 3 minutes each means that the furious and attacking style of Dutch Kickboxing gives an automatic advantage.
So those fighters who come from a different background will probably have a difficult time adapting to the pace. They are automatically at a disadvantage when facing a Dutch Kickboxer who’s used to coming forward and toughened by hard sparring day in and day out.
Dutch Kickboxing is indeed one of the most exciting fighting styles in the world. One can say that it’s among the most fan-friendly styles that can get people on their feet and cheer fighters on.
It has also proven itself as an effective fighting style against other striking arts since the days of K-1. Whichever way you look at it, Dutch Kickboxers are among the very best fighters in the world. Dutch Kickboxing continues to achieve a lot on success on global platforms like Glory and ONE Championship.