What is ISKA?
Originally founded as the International Sport Karate Association when the birth of kickboxing in America grew out of “Full-Contact Karate,” ISKA is now also recognized globally as the International Sport Kickboxing Association. Since 1986 ISKA has set an unprecedented standard for professionalism and integrity while servings as the world’s most well recognized sanctioning and regulatory body for combat sports and competitive martial arts. ISKA maintains a continued commitment to training and certifying officials and updating rules and regulations while recognizing both worthy champions and world-rated contenders in more than twenty different types of martial arts and combat sports.
From Moscow’s Olympic Stadium to Queensland, Victoria, Australia; from Lausanne, Switzerland to Durban, South Africa; from the legendary Lumpini Stadium in Thailand to the Bellagio resort in Las Vegas, live ISKA events worldwide are very well attended and viewed by television audiences circling the globe. Whether it’s the US OPEN ISKA World Martial Arts Championships hosted annually in Disney World and aired on ESPN, or GLORY World Series elite professional kickboxing as seen on SPIKE TV, ISKA maintains its’ involvement in the industry’s cutting edge. Historically this includes STRIKEFORCE MMA as seen on CBS and SHOWTIME as well as K-1 USA, and Chuck Norris’ World Combat League.
The height that the ISKA has attained continues to reflect its basic commitment to credibility and uncompromising integrity. The sports’ future will rely on that commitment in cooperation with the industry’s many talented martial arts / combat sports athletes and the ever-growing foundation of dedicated fans around the world.
Full contact kickboxing began in the USA in the early 1970s as full contact karate. Some karate competitors wanted to test their techniques without the rigid points fighting system, landing their strikes full contact. The first world championships of full contact karate were held in Los Angles in 1974. The first champions became legends: Joe Lewis, Bill Wallace and Jeff Smith.
The Professional Karate Association (PKA) was established in 1974 by Don and Judy Quine, along with Joe Corley. They took the burgeoning sport to a wider audience, signing a contract with American TV network ESPN. The PKA developed the first fighters’ ranking system: PKA Champions were the first high-profile martial artists, the stars of a new sport. They included Jean-Yves Theriault, Brad Hefton, Jerry Trimble and Steve Sheppard.
When legal problems caused the downfall of the PKA in 1985 and it ceased to operate as a sanctioning body, a group of major USA promoters and former PKA executives decided to create a new body. On 16 July 1986, the International Sport Karate Association was born. Its first directors were Mike Sawyer, Karyn Turner, Tony Thompson, John Worley and Scott Coker. Most of the major PKA promoters began sanctioning with ISKA and several joined its administration. Major title bouts featuring the sport’s finest athletes were broadcast on the ESPN television network and brought credibility and recognition to the new sanctioning body.
The European arm of ISKA was established on 9 October 1986 when Oliver Muller, Jerome Canabate and Mohamed Hosseini were appointed ISKA European Directors. ISKA spread rapidly across Europe and when the iron curtain was lifted it was the first to sanction events in Eastern Bloc countries. By 1991 ISKA was the largest sanctioning body in the world with representatives in over 60 countries. Major title fights were sanctioned in Australia, Japan and South Africa. New disciplines were sanctioned and ISKA developed rules for freestyle (low kick), oriental rules (modified Thaiboxing) and Muaythai (full Muaythai rules).
The big names during the 1990s fighting on ISKA events were Rick Roufus, Denis Alexio, Stan ‘The Man’ Longinidis, Rob Kaman, Ernesto Hoost, Dida Diafat and Peter ‘Sugarfoot’ Cunningham. ISKA events were being televised around the world by companies such as ESPN, Showtime, Cannel+, Fox TV, Network 7, Skysports and Eurosport. There is no doubt that ISKA is the most televised sanctioning body in the world.
ISKA Leading Change
Going into the new millennium ISKA worked with major fight sports brand K-1. Two ISKA world titles were sanctioned under oriental rules on the first K-1 MAX event in Tokyo on 1 November 2000. Japanese Star Masato defeated Murhad Sari of France for the welterweight title and Japan’s Takayuko Kohiruimaki defeated England’s Neil Woods for the super-welterweight title. Dutch superstar Ramon Dekker made his K-1 MAX debut, fighting to a draw with Japan’s Akeomi Nitta. ISKA began a working relationship with K-1, with leading ISKA promoter Scott Coker hosting K-1 USA events at the Bellagio and Mirage casino resorts in Las Vegas.
ISKA directors also advised on and were involved in the development of Chuck Norris’s World Combat League, a team-based hybrid kickboxing league which aired for two seasons on VERSUS cable TV. ISKA President Cory Schafer wrote the rules governing the sport and served as the league’s commissioner for their two year run
While becoming diversified in the regulation of martial arts and combat sports, ISKA also maintained their leadership in the arena of traditional martial arts tournaments. The US OPEN / ISKA World Martial Arts Championships is commonly regarded as the most prestigious event of its kind. The event regularly draws more than 3,500 competitors representing more than 50 different countries. Their spectacular ISKA Night of Champions is aired live on ESPN 3 while highlights are edited into a special presentation for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN International.
In 2012, ISKA was contracted by GLORY World Series to help develop and regulate “Road to GLORY,” a developmental kickboxing league designed to identify and cultivate young American kickboxing talent. This lead to the ISKA sanctioning of GLORY’s high profile series of events for SPIKE television which features the world’s most elite kickboxing athletes in single matches and a four-man tournament format.
ISKA continues to contribute in as many ways as possible to providing safe and fair opportunities for deserving athletes while assisting our associated promoters to raise the profile of our sport. This is our mission.