UT student places fourth at world kickboxing tourney

Deena Mitchell

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A UT student took fourth place at the fourth annual World Kickboxing Championships in Montreal from Oct. 3-7.

Tommy Pitzen, a student studying criminal justice, got involved with kickboxing by accident.

Pitzen’s first instructor was partners with Jeff Gears, a martial arts instructor, and heard stories about all of Gears’ accomplishments.

In 2001, Pitzen tagged along with his instructor to a fight and ended up taking second place.

“I got knocked out and the guy got disqualified and I ended up winning two more rounds but I didn’t remember it,” he said. “They had to show me the tapes because I had no recollection of it.”

Pitzen said a common misconception about kickboxing and other martial arts is that it is not real fighting.

“You are getting punched and kicked in the head and are getting knocked out and are knocking people out,” Pitzen said. He added that people do not understand the sport because it looks similar to tag.

The sport dates back to the ’60s and Pitzen described it as “a hard fast game of tag with punching and kicking.” Five judges make the calls for the points and the majority vote gets the point.

Pitzen competed in what is called continuous fighting or “light contact” kickboxing. The event has different weight divisions and competitors don’t break until the end of the match. For this reason, they are not supposed to have knockouts.

Pitzen got the opportunity to compete against about 30 other countries. Although he has competed in other big fights he stated that there was no other experience that could compare to the world championships. He had hundreds of people cheering not only for him, but also for the American team.

Pitzen took fourth place after a very close match. Pitzen knew the guy he lost to and said that it could have gone either way.

“I can’t describe just feeling the emotion and passion from the crowd,” he said. “It gave me goose bumps.”

Pitzen described the World Kickboxing Championships as the Olympics for their sport. Open Karate is more diverse and allows any style to compete, which is one of the reasons it is not included in the Olympics.

However, the event is run in a similar way and includes a ceremony and anthem for the winners.

Pitzen is currently training for next year’s championships, which are scheduled to take place in Italy.

Pitzen has trained with a lot of people including some in the Detroit area. Pitzen said the sport is not very popular in Northwest Ohio. He added that his friend is in a Judo club on campus but typically there is not a big demand for martial arts clubs.

Pitzen started training with Jeff Gears about a year ago though he said Gears was his role model for a long time.

Gears said Pitzen loves martial arts and is open to instruction and shows respect towards the sport and the people involved.

“Tommy works really hard and the championships gave him the chance to see the level of competition and what he has to do to make it at a higher level,” Gears said.

Pitzen is not enrolled this fall semester at UT due to communication issues but hopes to start up again next semester. Once he completes his bachelor’s degree he plans on continuing his education.

“I learned that you don’t stop until you get where you want to be,” Pitzen said.

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UT student places fourth at world kickboxing tourney