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Patrons Get a Kick Out of Club Combat

April 07, 1999|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One minute it looks like "The Karate Kid," the next it's a flashback from "Rocky." And when a fighter is finally down for the count, look out, "WWF Wrestling."

Welcome to Kage Kombat Sport Submission Freestyle Fighting--a popular event that combines elements of martial arts, wrestling and boxing in a chain-link cage topped with pipe insulation. The octagon-shaped ring is set up in the middle of a glitzy San Pedro nightclub the first Monday of each month.

"Kage Kombat is a hybrid of all kinds of different fighting styles," says Kazja, who created Kage Kombat in response to the growing popularity of martial arts and underground fights. "People like this sport because they can try out different techniques, and no one really gets hurt."

An amateur event that resembles the Ultimate Fighting Championship on television, Kage Kombat attracts dozens of martial arts students and street fighters to the ring while drawing hundreds of mostly male fighting fans to the stands. Each event features 10 to 12 fights that last about five minutes apiece; a pretty girl in a bikini presents the winners with medals.

Kage Kombat opponents start in a standing position and use techniques like kicking, grappling and hooking to take down their challenger. Throwing punches to the head is illegal, except in Level 4--the most advanced level. All strikes, however, must be made with an open hand. The first person to submit or "tap out"--who is unable to break free from a hold--loses the fight.

"Kage Kombat doesn't believe in closing the fist when a fight is for sport," says Kazja, 43, who has 10 black belts in numerous martial arts. "Closed-fist strikes to the head should only be used in life-threatening situations."

To that end, Kage Kombat is pretty tame as far as fighting goes. No bloodshed, no brawling, just good, clean submissions.

"You come here for the same reason you go to see professional wrestling," says Tim Medina, of Lawndale. "There's an adrenaline rush, but here you know it's real."

Kage Kombat is held the first Monday of each month at the Dancing Waters nightclub in San Pedro. (310) 221-0107; http://www.kagekombat.com.

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