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History of ...


( The Sweet Science )

...relative to the American Freedom Form Kenbo-Jitsu Hybrid Mixed Martial Arts System

  • From where did the foundation Martial Arts style/system of Boxing originate?

*The "bo" in American Freedom Form Kenbo-Jitsu represents "boxing".

Boxing is a martial art thought by historians to have originated in Ethiopia approximately 6000 years ago, thus pre-dating other forms of martial arts by centuries. We know that boxing made its way to Egypt and eventually to Greece where it officially became part of the 23rd ancient Olympic games in 688 B.C. (Greek mythology holds that the Greek god Apollo created boxing).Those wishing to train as boxers did so at the palaestra (training hall) within a special room set aside for the exclusive use of boxers and pankratists known as the korykeion. Bags or balls filled with meal or fig seeds were suspended from the ceiling at chest level for punching (the original heavy bags). During practice sessions, trainees were usually divided into pairs, with techniques taught progressively. The novice was compelled to learn basic techniques and combinations before he was allowed to participate in "loose play" or free sparring with other fighters. Although participants sometimes wore protective equipment in sparring, such as padded gloves known as spheres and earguards called amphitodes, full-contact was emphasized to bring practice matches as near possible to actual contest conditions. Stamina and flexibility were stressed, along with stretching, running, abdominal exercises, and a kind of shadowboxing known as skiamachia. To toughen one's physique, trainees would first strike a punching bag with their fists and then allow the rebounding bag to hit them full impact in the stomach, chest or back.

In these early times, a boxer's basic qualities were deemed to be good physical form, strong fighting spirit, and faith in eventual victory. (These should sound familiar to modern day martial artists.) The advice which follows, given by the Greek philosopher Nikandros, teacher of Filinos of Kos (five times ancient Olympic boxing champion) was typical. "You should know well, Filine, my son, that in unyielding Olympia, a strong body is not enough if it is not accompanied by a sound and mature mind." (As we, as modern martial artists, strive to strengthen ourselves in body, mind and spirit, it is noteworthy to acknowledge that the importance of these objectives was being emphasized as early as 688 B.C. to ancient Greek boxers.)

Originally, pure aggressiveness in boxing was seen as a virtue. But later on, good defense begins to join aggressiveness as a virtue and real recognition was given to the boxer's ability to respond to his opponent's blows by countering them. A number of ancient history's athletes are mentioned whose strong defense forced their opponents to surrender by raising their index finger or their spread palm. (A famous modern day example of this was during the Sugar Ray Leonard - Roberto Duran fight in 1980 when Duran quit from the frustration of not being able to hit the slick moving Leonard and declared "No mas !" (No more !)

The early Greek boxers began to protect their hands and wrists by wrapping them with thin strips of leather. Eventually, the Romans modified boxing for their own bloody spectacular entertainment, and they modified the wraps to include heavier leather and, later, even metal studs (forming a cestus).The cestus led to even a more sinister weapon called the myrmex (limb piercer). Often, slaves or gladiators were forced to fight until death to please the spectators. They were forced to fight in a circle drawn on the floor (this is where the term "ring" came from.

With the fall of the Roman Empire (Rome banned boxing around 30 B.C.) and the spread of Christianity, boxing, as a public spectator sport, was eventually banned throughout all of Europe and apparently disappeared (some sources say by about 393 A.D.) It was not until the late 17th century that boxing would openly re-surface as a sport in London, England. A London newspaper referred to a bout in 1681, and the Royal Theatre in London was the site of regularly scheduled matches in 1698.

The sport at that time was actually a mixture of wrestling and boxing. Although punching with the fists was emphasized, a boxer could grab and throw his opponent, jump on him when he was down and then pummel him.

James Figg, who opened a boxing academy in London in 1719, introduced a measure of finesse to the sport. Figg was an expert fencer as well as a boxer, and his academy was patterned after the fencing academies of the period. He taught parrying and counter-punching, just as fencing masters taught parries and ripostes to their students. Figg won great publicity for his academy by challenging all comers. He supposedly never lost, and was generally considered champion of Great Britain until he retired in 1730. His success inspired the establishment of several other boxing academies in London, and the fact that he was a fencer gave the sport some additional prestige. A number of "gentlemen amateurs" took up boxing as a pastime. They also became enthusiastic fans at prize fights.

One of Figg's pupils, Jack Broughton, became known as the "father of English boxing." Broughton, generally acknowledged as champion from 1729 to 1750, taught boxing and operated an arena in London. In 1743, he drew up the first formal rules for the sport. Under Broughton's rules, there was a 3-foot square in the center of the ring. When a fighter was knocked down, his handlers had 30 seconds to get him into position on one side of the square, facing or "squaring up" to his opponent. In effect, this marked the first division of a bout into rounds, since each knockdown ended fighting for at least 30 seconds. Although wrestling holds were permitted, a boxer was not allowed to grab his opponent below the waist. Broughton also was credited with inventing the first boxing gloves, known as "mufflers," to protect not only the hands but also the face from blows. However, they were used only in practice, not in actual fights.

The rules devised by Broughton were used throughout England with only minor modifications until 1838, when the Pugilistic Society (founded in 1814) developed the London Prize Ring Rules. The new code called for a ring 24 feet square, enclosed by two ropes. A knockdown marked the end of a round. After a 30-second break, the fighters were given eight seconds to "come to scratch," unaided, in the center of the ring. When Broughton passed out of the picture, boxing suffered because it had lost the man who was recognized as "The Father of the English School of Boxing". Shortly after the death of Broughton, "crookedness" crept into the sport. The popularity of the sport waned until the appearance of Daniel Mendoza. Daniel Mendoza, another London fighter and the first Jewish fighter to win a championship, had a significant effect upon the style of fighting. After receiving severe punishment in his first win against a much larger, heavier opponent, Mendoza began to teach footwork, sparring and counter punching at his Mendoza School and helped change boxing from the often sluggish, brutal bouts to the more sophisticated art of the fight game. Relying on superior agility and speed, Mendoza captured the imagination of the British public and held the championship from 1791 to 1795.

The 1800's saw many English fighters claim the World Championship. Some of the more prominent names included Jem Belcher, Tom Cribb, James Burke and Jem Mace.

The Queensbury Rules of 1867 or "Marquis of Queensbury Rules" would affect "gloved boxing" (as opposed to bare-knuckle boxing) and would change the sport again by requiring three minute rounds, no wrestling or hugging, a ten second count and gloves to be worn for the first time. These rules, introduced by John Sholto Douglas (the Marquis of Qeensbury) and John G. Chambers are still used largely unchanged today.

By the end of the 1800's, British champions were starting to lose their hold on the sport (1899 saw the last British heavyweight champion, in the person of Bob Fitzsimmons, for nearly 100 years).

The famous American boxer John L. Sullivan would rise to prominence in bare knuckle fighting just as boxing would become one of the most popular sports in the free world. "The Boston Strong Boy" would beat the Irishman Paddy Ryan for the World Heavyweight Championship in 1882 at Mississippi City, MS. He spent the next five years making money off the championship without putting it at risk, touring the country and fighting exhibitions, for the most part.

Meanwhile, Jake Kilrain was being pushed as a contender by Richard Kyle Fox, publisher of the National Police Gazette. Early in 1887, Fox declared that Kilrain was the real champion and presented him with a diamond-studded championship belt. Sullivan's supporters immediately raised the money to buy an even more impressive belt for their champion.

In 1889, Sullivan finally accepted a challenge from Kilrain. For the first time, newspapers carried extensive pre-fight coverage, reporting on the fighters' training and speculating on where the bout would take place. The center of activity was New Orleans, but the governor of Louisiana had forbidden the fight. On July 7, an estimated 3,000 spectators boarded special trains for the secret location, which turned out to be Richburg, Mississippi. The fight began at 10:30 the following morning, and it looked as if Sullivan was going to lose, especially after he got sick and regurgitated during the 44th round. But the champion got his second wind after that and Kilrain's manager finally threw in the towel after the 75th round.

Sullivan's victory made him a true national hero. A famous American saying of that day was, "I shook the hand that shook the hand of the mighty John L". Again, he focused on making as much money as possible outside of the ring. He spent all of 1890 touring in a stage production called Honest Hearts and Willing Hands and then went to Australia to fight a series of exhibitions. He reportedly earned over $ 900,000 in his career as a prizefighter, sparring and on stage. When he returned to America late in 1891, he offered to fight any challenger under the Marquis of Queensberry rules for a purse of $25,000 and side bets of $10,000.

James J. Corbett, known as "Gentleman Jim", accepted the offer and upset John L. Sullivan for the World Heavyweight Championship on September 7, 1892 in New Orleans, LA. Corbett demonstrated that innovative footwork and boxing skills could overcome the raw power and strength of Sullivan when he knocked out the defending champion in the 21st round. Thus began the modern era of boxing.

In 1904, amateur boxing was included for the first time in the program of the Modern Olympic Games in St. Louis, MO. With the growing popularity of boxing, weight classes other than the unlimited heavyweights emerged. At those 1904 games, bouts took place in seven different weight divisions. Amateur boxing is widespread today and is currently practiced by approximately 186 countries around the world. The annual Golden Gloves tournament is one of the most prominent amateur boxing events in the United States.

During the early 1900's, professional boxing (boxing for money or "prizefighting") remained illegal in many parts of the United States. Then in 1920, New York passed the Walker Law, which permitted public prizefighting in that state. Soon other states legalized boxing, which quickly grew as a spectator sport and entered what would become known as its "Golden Age".

George L. (Tex) Rickard became the leading fight promoter of the 1920's. In 1921, he promoted the first match to draw a "million-dollar gate." The bout was between the U.S. heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey and the French challenger, Georges Carpentier, who was the light heavyweight champion. Dempsey defeated Carpentier and reigned as heavyweight champion from 1919 until 1926, when Gene Tunney defeated him for the title. When Dempsey and Tunney fought again in 1927, more than 100,000 persons paid $2,658,660 (a record at that time) to watch the bout, which Tunney won to retain his title.

Joe Louis ("the Brown Bomber") became one of the most famous boxers of the golden age. He held the heavyweight title longer than any other fighter—from 1937 until he retired in1949. Louis came out of retirement in 1950, but lost to the heavyweight champion, Ezzard Charles. He later won several comeback bouts in his continuing but aged efforts to regain the crown. In 1951, in what would be his last fight, Louis was knocked out by one of his biggest admirers, the legendary Rocky Marciano.

The rivalry between middleweights Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano was a boxing highlight of the 1940's. The two men fought for the championship three times. Zale knocked out Graziano in the first and third fights, and Graziano won the other.

Archie Moore, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Rocky Marciano were three of the greatest fighters of the 1950's. Moore held the light heavyweight title from 1952 to 1961. Sugar Ray Robinson, who many say is the greatest pound for pound boxer ever, was the welterweight champion from 1946 to 1951 and then went on to win the middleweight crown five times. Rocky Marciano was the heavyweight champion from 1952 to 1956 and won all of his 49 professional fights.

Attendance at boxing matches began to wane during the 1950's with the rise of television. Many fans preferred to watch major fights on television at home rather than attend local club fights in person. As a result, many small boxing clubs, where fighters got their start in the sport, were forced out of business. In time, the general public's interest in boxing decreased to the point where only some of the major championship bouts were televised.

During the 1960s, boxing, like mostly everything else around the world, went through some rather radical changes. Boxers from the old guard gave way to a new movement filled with youth, controversy and enthusiasm. The decade of the 1960s is best remembered by the insurgence of a young, brash and talkative Olympic Gold Medal winner named Cassius Clay (The Louisville Lip), who would, in his own words turn pro and "shake up the world" by defeating Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the Heavyweight Championship. He would then declare himself against the Viet Nam war and change his name to Muhammad Ali. Many sociologists, observers and critics now view Muhammad Ali "The Greatest" as a reflection of the radically changing society of that decade.

The decade of the '70s is considered by many to be the best ever for the Heavyweight division: Ali returned in 1970 from his forced retirement, and Joe Frazier was the world champion when Ali returned. Former world champions Jimmy Ellis and Floyd Patterson as well as George Foreman, Oscar Bonavena, Jerry Quarry, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, Ron Stander, Chuck Wepner, Jose King Roman, Light Heavyweight champ Jimmy Foster, John Tate, Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle, Joe Bugner, Scott LeDoux and many others added intrigue to the division. Don King surged as a leading boxing promoter, and champions Roberto Duran, Carlos Monzon and Muhammad Ali had historic rivalries with Esteban DeJesus, Rodrigo Valdez and "Smokin"Joe Frazier, respectively. Muhammad Ali would win two out of three against Joe Frazier and would defeat George Foreman in classic "wars" en route to regaining the Heavyweight Championship Title and to becoming known to most in the world (including himself) as "the Greatest of all time !!!".

An intense rivalry between a new generation of smaller, quicker world champions (including Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran,"Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, Thomas "The Hit Man" Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard) sparked increased interest in the lighter weight divisions and greater money purses for the Welterweight and Middleweight World Championships during the 1980's. One of the most popular was Sugar Ray Leonard, who won a gold medal in boxing at the 1976 Olympic Games before turning pro. After winning the WBC welterweight title in 1979, he fought Roberto Duran twice in 1980, first losing his title and then regaining it from Duran. In 1981, Leonard defeated previously unbeaten Thomas Hearns for the world welterweight title. In 1987, Leonard defeated Marvin Hagler for the WBC middleweight championship.

Larry Holmes was generally considered the top heavyweight of the late 1970's and early 1980's. In 1986, "Iron" Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight ever to win a portion of the world championship when he won the WBC title at the age of 20.

In 1990, Buster Douglas knocked out the previously undefeated Mike Tyson in one of the greatest upsets in boxing history. Late in 1990, Evander Holyfield defeated Douglas to win the title. Holyfield won the WBA heavyweight championship two more times, defeating Riddick Bowe in 1993 and Mike Tyson in 1996.

Lennox Lewis, a British heavyweight, held the championship belt in the early 2000's and retired as heavyweight champion. Other prominent boxers in various weight divisions at the dawn of the new millennium include Oscar de la Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosely, Floyd Mayweather, Fernando Vargas, Bernard Hopkins, Manny Pacquaio, Roy Jones, Jr., Antonio Tarver, and Vitali Klitschko.

Boxing is known as the "sweet science" as it is recognized and highly regarded by those who know and understand it as a true Martial Art which has pure, scientific and technical aspects (technique, strategy and tactics) and very aesthetic aspects (form, rhythm and style). To the uninitiated and uninformed, it is often misunderstood and much maligned as just two people simply trying to beat each other up.

Boxing is as much an intense mental sport as it is physical. Even to the extent that the sport is physical, the body is inextricably linked to the mind. Good fighters are masters of the intense interaction of the mind and body. In order to explain the mental challenges presented to boxers, one must understand the human body as it relates to the art of boxing.

Power equals mass (weight) multiplied by velocity (speed). Punching power is a precise blend of speed, timing and proper coordination of muscle tension and mass in the correct form. The good boxer with effective punching power must execute the punch as a kinetically combined chain from the ground up with his feet, legs, hips, trunk, core, shoulders, arms and hands along with proper rotation, appropriate muscle relaxation and precise muscle tension all comprising independent and critical links which must function synergistically to maximize his punching power.

Boxers must employ a great deal of strategy as they attempt to solve the dilemmas implicit in their art. They must consider when to throw a punch, when to throw a combination (and of what type), how much they should tense their muscles versus relaxing their muscles, and with what speed and power they should throw their punches at any given time in order to impact their opponent without unduly subjecting themselves to damage and injury or fatigue. Fighters must decide when to advance or retreat, at what angles, the appropriate time for particular movements and punches, when and how to utilize defensive techniques and feints, all while attempting to control the distance, timing and rhythm of the fight.

These decisions all depend on the respective fighter's and his opponent's defensive and offensive strengths and weaknesses. The efficaciousness of the fighter's many decisions and his overall strategy will largely depend upon his individual fight intelligence and instincts as they relate to his ability to assess the many relative factors.

Unfortunately, it is much too rare that the intellect of fighters and the intelligence demanded by this Martial Art is extolled by the media. It is important for the legitimacy and advancement of boxing that the public be educated regarding the intellectual aspects of this art. If the public does not appreciate nor approve of the art of boxing as a commercial sport, it should not be because it ignorantly views the sport as lacking intellectual challenge.

Buck Cunningham began to learn to box when he was just 5 years old, from his father, Gene Cunningham, who would spar with him and often take him to Golden Gloves contests (his grandfather Robert E. was also a boxer). Buck grew up in the boxing hey-day of the 1960's and 1970's with the boxing influences of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard after whom he patterned his fighting style (he also later analyzed and studied film footage of Sugar Ray Robinson, Floyd Patterson, Joe Louis and others). Mr. Cunningham learned very early the importance of being fit and well-conditioned by losing an early fight after being ill and, therefore, poorly physically prepared. It was an important lesson, however, which pushed him to train very hard to avoid further losses. From that point on, Mr. Cunningham successfully fought many bouts and rounds in purposeful preparation and eventually won Championship Titles in two different weight divisions. It was during this time that he was tagged with the boxing nickname, Buck "The Cobra" Cunningham due to his hand speed, general elusiveness and the hissing sound he made when he hit opponents with punches they say "they never saw". One of the highlights of Mr. Cunningham's career, besides winning and successfully defending his Light Welterweight and Welterweight Championships, was when he won runner-up in a very prestigious U.S. Olympic pre-qualifier at the Southeastern United States Regional Championships in South Carolina, narrowly missing the opportunity to advance to the Olympic trials in a controversial decision in the championship bout to a fighter from the home state of South Carolina. Compiling an overall boxing record of 57-2, Mr. Cunningham is uniquely qualified to incorporate Boxing into the diverse martial arts system of American Freedom Form Kenbo-Jitsu.

Mr. Cunningham's son, Coltin, also began to learn boxing at a very early age. "Joltin" Coltin Cunningham displays lightning quick hand speed, slickness with his foot speed and overall athleticism, agility and power (not to mention excellent kicking and kickboxing skills) that are real assets as an instructor in the American Freedom Form Kenbo-Jitsu System.

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