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In December 20, 1959, a Muay Thai match among Thai fighters was held at Asakusa town hall in Tokyo. Tatsuo Yamada, who established "Nihon Kempo Karate-do", was interested in Muay Thai because he wanted to perform karate matches with full-contact rules since practitioners are not allowed to hit each other directly in karate matches. At this time, it was unimaginable to hit each other in karate matches in Japan. He had already announced his plan which was named "The draft principles of project of establishment of a new sport and its industrialization" in November 1959, and he proposed the tentative name of "karate-boxing" for this new sport. It is still unknown whether Nak Muay were invited by Yamada, but it is clear that Yamada was the only karateka who was really interested in Muay Thai. Yamada invited a champion Nak Muay (and formerly his son Kan Yamada's sparring partner), and started studying Muay Thai. At this time, the Thai fighter was taken by Osamu Noguchi who was a promoter of boxing and was also interested in Muay Thai.The Thai fighter's photo was on the magazine "The Primer of Nihon Kempo Karate-do, the first number" which was published by Yamada.
There were "Karate vs. Muay Thai fights" on February 12, 1963. The three karate fighters from Oyama dojo (kyokushin later) went to the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Thailand and fought against three Muay Thai fighters. The three kyokushin karate fighters' names are Tadashi Nakamura, Kenji Kurosaki and Akio Fujihira (also known as Noboru Osawa). The Muay Thai team were composed of only one authentic Thai fighter. Japan won by 2–1: Tadashi Nakamura and Akio Fujihira both KOed opponents by punch while Kenji Kurosaki, who fought the Thai, was KOed by elbow. The only Japanese loser Kenji Kurosaki was then a kyokushin instructor rather than a contender and temporarily designated as a substitute for the absent chosen fighter. On June of the same year, karateka and future kickboxer Tadashi Sawamura faced against top Thai fighter Samarn Sor Adisorn, in which Sawamura was knocked down 16 times and defeated. Sawamura would use what he learned in that fight to incorporate in the evolving kickboxing tournaments.
Noguchi studied Muay Thai and developed a combined martial art which Noguchi named kick boxing, which absorbed and adopted more rules than techniques from Muay Thai. The main techniques of kickboxing are still derived from Japanese full contact karate (kyokushin). However, throwing and butting were allowed in the beginning to distinguish it from Muay Thai. This was later repealed. The Kickboxing Association, the first kickboxing sanctioning body, was founded by Osamu Noguchi in 1966 soon after that. Then the first kickboxing event was held in Osaka on April 11, 1966.
Tatsu Yamada died in 1967, but his dojo changed its name to Suginami Gym, and kept sending kickboxers off to support kickboxing.
Kickboxing boomed and became popular in Japan as it began to be broadcast on TV.By 1970, kickboxing was telecast in Japan on three different channels three times weekly. The fight cards regularly included bouts between Japanese (kickboxers) and Thai (Muay Thai) boxers. Tadashi Sawamura was an especially popular early kickboxer. In 1971 the All Japan Kickboxing Association (AJKA) was established and it registered approximately 700 kickboxers. The first AJKA Commissioner was Shintaro Ishihara, the longtime Governor of Tokyo. Champions were in each weight division from fly to middle. Longtime Ilyushiner Noboru Osawa won the AJKA bantamweight title, which he held for years. Raymond Edler, an American university student studying at Sophia University in Tokyo, took up kickboxing and won the AJKC middleweight title in 1972; he was the first non-Thai to be officially ranked in the sport of Thai boxing, when in 1972 Rajadamnern ranked him no. 3 in the Middleweight division. Edler defended the All Japan title several times and abandoned it. Other popular champions were Toshio Fujiwara and Mitsuo Shima. Most notably, Fujiwara was the first non-Thai to win an official Thai boxing title, when he defeated his Thai opponent in 1978 at Rajadamnern Stadium winning the lightweight championship bout.
By 1980, due to poor ratings and then infrequent television coverage, the golden-age of kickboxing in Japan was suddenly finished. Kickboxing had not been seen on TV until K-1 was founded in 1993.
In 1993, as Kazuyoshi Ishii (founder of Seidokaikan karate) produced K-1 under special kickboxing rules (no elbow and neck wrestling) in 1993, kickboxing became famous again. In the mid-1980s to early 1990s, before the first k-1, Kazuyoshi Ishii also partook in the formation of glove karate as an amateur sport in Japan. Glove karate is based on knockdown karate rules, but wearing boxing gloves and allowing punches to the head. In effect, it is oriental rules kickboxing with scoring based on knockdowns and aggression rather than the number of hits. As K-1 grew in popularity, Glove karate for a while became the fastest growing amateur sport in Japan.