Few men have served as long a tenure in the upper echelons of kickboxing as the Dutch Lumberjack, Peter Aerts. It is fairly safe to guarantee that Aerts has been punching men in the head since before most of my readers cared about watching men punch each other in the head. What is even more surprising than how long ago Aerts began fighting is how long he has maintained a passion for fighting; he could easily have retired five or ten years ago and simply coached great fighters of his own, but he actively chose to keep fighting and remained relevant to the K-1 Grand Prix right up until his most recent appearance in the finals opposite Alistair Overeem.
Today we will examine one of Peter Aert's early highlight reel knockouts against Jean Claude Leuyer.
There are a few interesting things to note in this bout - firstly that Peter Aerts' boxing doesn't look as sharp as it did in his later fights, he simply threw jabs followed by right hooks or uppercuts and then did no more. It was pretty simple and though it got the job done he rarely was able to capitalize on his right hand landing because he never followed it with a third punch. It is important to note just how committed to power striking Aerts is though.
When Jean Claude punches he makes the audible hiss that all kickboxers are told to make and it seems he tries as hard to hiss as he does to strike. When Aerts strikes he audibly grunts, as if he is snatching a large weight from the floor or actually exerting himself - it seems as though it is a natural side effect of concentrating on exerting so much striking force. Watching a young Naseem Hamed or Ricky Hatton fight reveals much the same, despite a lack of microphones on the fighters you could often hear them grunting or even barking as they punched, such is the concentration of a striker who hits to hurt.
The most significant moment of this meeting, however, was obviously the high kick knockout which seemingly came out of nowhere. Throughout the bout when Jean Claude had clinched, Aerts had done little until the referee broke them. On the final occasion when Jean Claude moved to clinch, Peter Aerts took neck control and landed a knee before Leuyer smothered him. Before the referee ordered the fighters to break Aerts pushed Leuyer away and as the latter's hands came down for balance Aerts connected his signature high kick.
Aerts is not a man of enormous flexibility like Mirko Cro Cop, so he could rarely trick his opponents into thinking that he was going to kick low and then change it to a high kick, he instead found intelligent ways to set up his kicks. The push out of the clinch is an absolute classic for Aerts because
- Many opponents are lazy when backing out of a clinch, not expecting to be struck.
- The placing of Aerts' hands on his opponent's chest or shoulders clearly leads them to believe he is going to push them away and that as his hands are occupied he cannot strike.
- The act of shoving a man backwards will naturally force him to use his arms to adjust his balance. Almost no-one can maintain a strong enough guard to stop a full power high kick when they are stumbling backward.
This is a technique that I, as a fairly inflexible high kicker, developed into one of my tokui-waza or favourite techniques and when neck wrestling I often look more for a good position to shove my partner out from than for head control alone. I highly recommend that those of you who train regularly have a play with this simple set up, with the utmost care and you'll realise how useful Aerts' techniques are to even the less physically gifted, explaining the longevity of his style.
A whole article could be done on Aerts' high kicks alone (and I do intend to do a full analysis of Aerts in the future) but for now I'll reel off some gifs!
1) Aerts jabs and circles to his left, then stiff arms and kicks with his right.
2) Aerts jabs and circles to his left, then kicks with his left behind Mighty Mo's parrying right hand.
3) Aerts kicks the southpaw Jerome Le Banner as Le Banner attempts a right jab.
4) Aerts has forced Andy Hug backwards and connects his kick as Hug attempts to fight off of the ropes.
There are just a few of Aerts' high kicks, there have been a great many more such as his brilliant stiff arm to kick against Maurice Smith. If you have a dull afternoon ahead, at work for instance, I highly recommend getting Aerts' record up on your screen and looking for a few of the many fights that are recorded as "KO (High kick)".