ACADEMY FIGHTERS SHINE ON WORLD STAGE
Eight members of The Combat Academy fight team attended the Unified World Championships this past week as part of the International Combat Organisation's (ICO) Team England. The event was the first time ever that major organisations worked in partnership to bring together over 5000 competitors, from 120 plus countries spreading across five continents.
The historical event was declared as "A dream for many Athletes, Masters and Directors" by WKA World Director Michelle Panfietti who also added;
"The Unified World Championships will be a truly great, must-attend, not to be missed legendary event,which will leave an indelible mark in the history of Martial Arts and Combat Sports. In fact they will be the very first Unified World Championship of such magnitude ever organised."
Along with the ICO, the WKA, WTKA, IAKSA, WCSA and WKL collaborated to make this event the first of its kind in the history of the sport. Panfietti said; "To claim first spot in any competition at this World Championships will mean the most prestigious martial art victory ever."
With such high stakes the Academy left no stone unturned this year in their preparations for the event. Since learning of their selection for the national squad in February they have been on a relentless schedule of training and competition to get them in the best competitive shape of their lives.
The results were across the board career best performances from the entire team. Overall, the academy fighters took part in 20 bouts across various categories of Kickboxing, K1 and Muay Thai. The end result was a total medal tally of 5 golds, 1 silver and 5 bronze.
Coach Mick Crossland said "I am elated with the fighters performances, each an everyone of them gave their all and showed a high degree of skill, courage and fitness. Some of our fighters were competing in their first international and gave away weight, age and experience but that did not stop them performing to their best. Even the fighters who lost, did so in close, hard fought fashion."
Stand out performances came from Gold Medal Winners Jamie Clarke, Tommy Crossland, Blaine Knaggs and Zak Hamshaw who not only won, but dominated their divisions.
Jamie fought a fight a day for three days to take the K1 rules gold. After out smarting and out scoring the favourite from the Czech Republic in the first round he went on to beat a Russian in in a technical affair in the semi finals before overcoming a Frenchman in the finals in what turned out to be a war of attrition. Jamies signature sniper attacks were the key to his ealry victories while his win in the final was down to guts, aggression and fitness as he took the Frenchman to deep waters by setting a hellish pace and standing toe to toe.
Tommy Crossland was a double gold medalist, making easy work of the Ring Light Continuous winning his semi final and final bouts in dominant fashion and then going on to score his first ever stoppage in the Thai Boxing gold medal match as he out skilled and outsped his Israely opponent before over powering him with educated use of clinch and knees.
Wonder kid Blaine Knaggs has a habit of stealing the show wherever we take him. This tournament was no different. As is often the case with Blaine, he took a while to get going, winning his prelim bouts convincingly but without really showing his best work. The warm up bouts served their purpose in the final however when Blainey beat his Russian opponent in emphatic fashion with a spectacular display of speed, footwork and confidence as he kept his man off balance with his beautiful fast sniper attacks and lightning "Sugar" Ray Leonard-esque dancing which kept the Russian hitting air and reeling across the ring everytime he missed.
Zak Hamashaw gave what legendary coach Neil Kelly said was "The stand out performance of the tournament so far" when he bested a strong and technical Scottish fighter who was three years his senior. Zak used his speed, defence and lightning counters to win the first round on the back foot. Following his corners instructions Zak went on to press his advantage as he took the front foot and started to back up the Scotsman en route to an emphatic unanimous victory. Zak went on to an easy final and after five fights in total got what he came for when he was awarded gold!
Also in action for the Combat Academy were Sonny Greaves, Brogan Knaggs, Lucy Unijat and Lewis Tighe Harrison. Each of them received a bronze medal after going out in the semi finals and going on to claim their medals in the third place fight offs. Considering their inexperience, this was an amazing feat in itself and is testament to their talent and hard work.
All fighters now begin their path to next years worlds as they eye up the 2014 competitive season.
The Combat Academy would like to thank all the sponsors who contributed towards the fighters' training and travel costs. Without your efforts, their succes would not be possible!