Georg F. Brueckner has been a true pioneer in martial arts who shaped the landscape of fighting sports in Europe. At a time when most people thought karate and taekwondo were too dangerous and fighting was off limits – due to the fast kicking techniques being assumed as possibly deadly – he promoted the first European All-Style Karate Championships in West-Berlin. He didn’t pick a college gymnasium for the competition, but rented the largest event facility in Berlin at that time, the Deutschlandhalle holding 9300 seats – used for national TV-shows, Rolling Stones concerts and professional boxing. To the finals of the tournament he added the first Martial Arts Super Show, an evening filled with demonstrations of various styles featuring grand masters Al Dacascos, Jhoon Rhee, Hidy Ochiai, Fumio Demura, Tadashi Yamashita, Park Jong Soo and others. The first appearance of American karate champions Joe Lewis, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, Jeff Smith, Jim Butin and Howard Jackson was presented by Mrs. Linda Lee, the widow of Kung Fu King Bruce Lee. For the main event these Americans fought against the newly crowned European Champions Frank Brodar, Bernd Knittel, Budimir Veijnovic and Bernd Grothe.
Georg filled the stadium to its capacity marking this event as a milestone in European and German martial arts that went down in the history books as the event branding him the “Father of European Kickboxing“. The main event of the evening gala matched the winners of the European All-Style Championships with America’s karate superstars. It was the first time Germans were able to observe the lightning speed of Bill Wallace’s roundhouse and hook kicks. The Americans were wearing Safe-T kicks and punches designed by Jhoon Rhee. It was the first protective equipment that allowed fighting with contact. The Americans proved their superiority in the ring. They outscored the Europeans without even being hit once in return. Their skills were unmatched, their speed and technique superior. The event opened the road for various contact karate styles from light- to full-contact. The contest represents the first step towards the creation of two important sports organizations: The PKA, Professional Karate Association, for professional full-contact and the WAKO, World Association of Kickboxing Organizations, for amateur competition.
Local fighter Rainer Budich who participated in this event as a lightweight still holds keen memories from that day. Being a traditional shotokan karateka like most other participants he made it to the lightweight final where he lost to Dieter Knuettel, who would go on to fight against Howard Jackson in the Europe vs USA team fight of his division.
USA point-fighting team:
Brueckner continued the event in the following year with a similar concept. On top of the second All-Style European Championship he presented the first full-contact world title fight in Europe: Ramiro Guzman against Gordon Franks for the Professional Karate Association’s world superlightweight title. (full article in a future post on Backkicks). Again, a sell-out crowd. In 1978 the same Deutschlandhalle was host to the first WAKO World championships in what is known as amateur fullcontact kickboxing, today.
The remarkable thing about this success story was the amazing amount of resources Georg put into promoting his event and the martial arts he loved so much. Apart from the financial efforts, he was fighting against resistance from traditional martial arts organizations who preferred to practice kata and self-defense but opposed actual fighting. Media and press were rather critical about the brutality on display. Injuries were frequent and death victims were anticipated according to their opinionated coverage. The newly introduced Safe-T gear changed that perception. Suddenly, contact sport became less dangerous while remaining highly entertaining as Bill Wallace and company presented the arts. Participants of all styles from Kung Fu to Kyokushinkai Karate and Taekwondo were able to compete under the same set of rules. Brueckner started his company Universal Import KG and distributed Jhoon Rhee’s safety gear for years to come. Years later he invented his own sophisticated fighting and boxing gear that made contact sports safer tor practitioners. His Top Ten headgear and boxing gloves would earn highest praise as the official equipment for the Olympic Games’ boxing tournaments from 1992 to 2000. Until today Top Ten is one of the market leaders in fighting sports equipment.
Georg Brueckner died on December 30, 1992 in his hometown Berlin.
He is still remembered as the father of kickboxing in Europe.