Holland’s Saskia van Rijswijk is the second only kickboxing world champion to appear as a centerfold in Playboy magazine.
She’s very possibly the world’s most beautiful martial arts champion, and, in the wake of the controversy that surrounded America’s Graciela Casillas, the first world full-contact karate champion to pose nude in Playboy in early 1984, Amsterdam, Holland’s Saskia van Rijswijk, too, posed nude in a 1985 Dutch edition of Playboy.
Based in Amsterdam, Holland, one of the world’s most liberal and open-minded cities, Saskia is the retired World Thai Kick-Boxing Champion of 1981-82. Gorgeous, charming, chic and sexy, she’s a perfect choice for a Playboy pictorial. Although sleekly muscled, one would never guess that she engaged in punishing Thai kickboxing bouts which permitted the rough-and-tumble leg kicks indicative of this sport. Outside the ring, she’s the epitome of femininity. Saskia, whose step-father was a professional rugby player in Holland, began her training with Amsterdam’s famed Thom Harinck in 1975 at age 14. Harinck’s Chakuriki School is known for its rugged fighters and demanding no-nonsense training regimen. Saskia was the first female to train with and as hard as the men in the school. There are no basics taught at the Chakuriki School. Like the other students, Saskia started training immediately in fullcontact karate and savate (French boxing). She fought her first fullcontact fight in 1976, and two years later won the Dutch and European titles. Because there were so few women active in the sport, Saskia, of course, had a problem finding suitable opponents. Then in 1980, Harinck linked up with the Thai boxing leaders in Bangkok. Under the Muay Thai banner, Saskia won the Dutch kick-boxing title in 1980, and in 1981 became the World Thai Kick-Boxing Champion in the featherweight division (55 kilos; 121 pounds). Saskia lost only one bout in her career, a non-title fight to America’s Lilly Rodriguez, Benny Urquidez’ sister, in 1982. Later that year, Saskia retired with a record of 8-1. Since most of her fights appeared on Dutch television, and because of her public demonstrations for the Chakuriki School, Saskia has become a local celebrity. People young and old recognize her in public. When they don’t remember her name, they do remember her face. The Playboy opportunity came to her in just that way. In September 1984, she was at the beach when a Playboy employee recognized her and asked if she’d be interested in doing a photo session for publication. When she expressed interest, he introduced her to Suki Langereis, reportedly Amsterdam’s finest photographer, whose work has been published in the United States and throughout Europe. Although Saskia’s pictorial initially appeared only in the Dutch edition, Langereis believes Playboy will pick it up in America, as well as in other major European countries.
Nudity Stirs Controversy For Kickboxing Queen In Graciela Casillas’ case, her appearance in Playboy stirred controversy because martial arts purists felt her depiction in the nude contradicted traditional martial arts values. On the other hand, martial arts modernists thought her appearance — and the resulting sizable mainstream publicity that accompanied it — was an asset to the growth of the industry. Of all topics, sex is the one that exposes the hypocrisy of the American people. We got our best example in 1984 when Vanessa Williams, the reigning Miss America, was discovered to have posed for a series of racy nude photos one year before ascending the throne, a throne she was forced to abdicate when Penthouse published the photographs. The scandal made banner headlines from coast to coast.
Americans have been behaving in this ridiculous fashion for upwards of 200 years now: notoriously, we are a people obsessed with sex — it appears in every form of advertising; paradoxically, we go on pretending the contrary, piously proclaiming that spiritual concerns are far more important to us than erotic ones. Publicly, we sanctimoniously denounce our carnal appetites as instruments of the devil; privately, we indulge them from adolescence to extreme old age with unabated and often highly unbecoming zest. The hypocrisy of sex cuts both ways; it’s equally at home on the opposite sides of any question. We practice it as naturally as we breathe, yet we find it as difficult to outwit, whether in ourselves or in others, as the devil himself. There are, it would seem, no bikinis in heaven or in the martial arts. And as for going topless or bottomless, that is reserved for children of a tender age. Fortunately, nudity is accepted as natural and even commonplace in Europe, where people of all ages attend coed spas without a stitch of clothing, and the women at public beaches more often than not are topless. There are even coed spas in the finest martial arts schools in Europe. Which leads us back to Amsterdam’s Saskia, whose nude photo layout was published in the Dutch edition of Playboy in March 1985. Saskia once again grabs attention by posing as The Fighter’s first centerfold poster girl (see pull-out calendar poster in the center of this issue). One of Saskia’s ambitions is to become an actress and work in Hollywood films. She has been dancing professionally for several years, and in 1976 she was the National Disco Champion of Holland. A budding professional singer, she’s the lead singer of a group called Los Alegres (The Happy Ones). The group was recently contracted to record a new version of the 1975 pop hit, “Kung-Fu Fighting.” The new version will be called “Thai Box Fighting,” and will be accompanied by a rock video depicting Amsterdam’s best Thai boxers rigorously training in the Chakuriki School. At 25, Saskia van Ryswyk is on the threshold of potential stardom in her native country. In the meantime, her martial arts fame assuredly spreads worldwide in this premier issue of The Fighter.
This article by John Corcoran was published inside the Fighter International magazine in 1987.