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USKA History

Neil Kelly and the USKA (Ultimate Sport Kickboxing Association’s) History

Everything must have a beginning and the Ultimate Sport Kickboxing Association was born of an ambition of just one man.......Neil ‘Flex’ Kelly.

What the association stands for is held within its ambitions and ideals, a principle of excellence in practice embodied within the philosophies of the Martial Arts. Striving to promote and further the development and profile of this dynamic sport and equally its participants.

It was in 1986 that at the tender age of just 11 that Neil Kelly first took up the sport under the instruction of E.C.K.A. (English Contact Karate Association) supremo Andrew Hennessy and it was after only two years of dedicated and rigorous training that he successfully passed his 1st degree black belt ,attaining top honours and in doing so becoming within the history of the association one of the youngest ever Dan grades.

The sport has many facets and appeals whether it is its fitness aspect, ring experience, the attainment of a black belt or the acquisition of confidence or the ability to defend oneself there is something for everyone. Whilst the young Neil Kelly was competent in all of the above it was the sparring aspect of the sport that was the highlight of his training, attending competitions and tournaments all over the country on a weekly basis fast developing a very successful fighting style and earning him many junior championship honours in both semi contact and light continuous systems as well as in forms competition.

At this point not only did Neil continue his Karate training he also began to take instruction in Kung Fu from the well established midlands Sifu instructor Micha Hudson. Micha helped him develop a dynamic kicking style, one that is most prevalent within the makeup of all accomplished U.S.K.A. Fighters and is now a trademark of the gym. As well as this Micha exposed him to new training methods and styles that would ultimately help him compete with any style of martial art he may encounter on the open circuit, and compete he did achieving tremendous success on all fronts.

In 1990 Neil continued his climb up the grading system with yet again top marks in achieving his 2nd Degree Black Belt still aged only fifteen years old.

Neil’s hunger for Knowledge was insatiable and at this time he started to travel to the clubs of other instructors for extra tuition including “Solid” Colin Treasure and Winston Gordon. These two top E.C.K.A. Instructors whom had also been trained by Andrew Hennessy and E.C.K.A. Chief Instructor Howard Brown were to leave a lasting effect on Neil, not only in the help they gave him to develop as a fighter, but moreover in the way they brought out a confidence and character that would later be most evident in the unique teaching style that was to become Neil Kelly. It was late in that same year that saw Colin Treasure, Winston Gordon and professional boxer Justin Clements along with Neil Kelly open a gym in Birmingham City centre which was to be known as AEROKICK. Aerokick was an amalgamation of the knowledge and experience of all four of it’s instructors each bringing to it their own style of teaching thus offering students the best of four worlds, and for the immediate time after, Aerokick became the dominant force in every discipline they chose to compete in.

1992 saw Neil being offered a senior Instructors role with Anthony “Sparky” Arkinson who was at the time British Full Contact Champion. Sparky himself had decided to take a back seat in the running of his clubs and Neil saw this as a natural progression for his ambition, now having more say in the day to day running of the association and also for the first time having a little input in the content of the syllabus. Arkinson’s kickboxing schools under Neil’s direction blossomed, and grew into a great success, whilst all the time Neil was himself still learning and developing as an instructor in preparation for the day when he would front his own gym and be calling all the shots.

Even though by now Neil was exclusively Sparky’s kickboxing instructor he continued his personal training Karate training under the auspice of his original mentor Andrew Hennessy at E.C.K.A.. It was in 1994 E.C.K.A. Underwent a major reshuffle in its top ranks, and in an attempt to reinvent itself and return the association to its former glory days and once again establish itself as the biggest contact Karate association in the country, they invited back all it’s former top name instructors and fighters to teach for them. Neil believing strength was in numbers duly transferred all his clubs back over to the E.C.K.A. organization. During this period Neil again graded with top honours for 3rd Degree black belt in 1995 continuing his climb through the ranks to the dizzy heights saved for all but the very few. He also stepped up his own competitive career and along with the E.C.K.A. British team captured the W.K.A. European Team Championship in Germany, and the I.K.K.C. World Team Title in Holland. This infectious success soon siphoned back through to his own gym with his Hall Green Club based in Birmingham taking the British Team Championships two years running. This provided Neil with proof enough that through his success as both a fighter and instructor the time was now right to realize his lifelong ambition and in 1996 with the backing of his three Birmingham based clubs formed his own association, one that now is U.S.K.A. (Ultimate Sport Kickboxing Association) The coming of a new force within kickboxing had been born.

With total control over all elements of this new association Neil developed a more competitive orientated style to his syllabus whilst still incorporating a strong street and self defence ethos. Taking a little from all his former instructors and incorporating his vast knowledge and at the same time adding his own blend of distinctive magic he has today perfected an unmistakably effective and unique fighting system, which students today can now benefit from. With his own softly spoken and yet very powerful presence a lesson from Neil in U.S.K.A. Kickboxing stays with students long after the session is over, with the emphasis being on the understanding and application of technique. The Association grew rapidly gaining tournament success at a tremendous rate and its reputation as a highly regarded gym spread quickly. Another land mark in the associations development was in 1998 when then Lau Gar practitioner Phillip Richards joined U.S.K.A., This is a man Neil regards as his final instructor. Bringing a totally unorthodox and flamboyant style to the ring Phillip notched up an amazing fight record winning numerous professional titles which has accumulated in him capturing the W.A.K.O Pro British Welterweight Title. Phillip’s other obvious talents as a full contact coach was also harnessed by Neil with Phillip always managing to bring out the best in him as a fighter and helping maintain Neil as unbeaten as a full contact fighter over a 13 year period, during which time he has gained W.K.A. Midland Area Title at Super Middleweight. The W.A.K.O. Pro English National Title at light Heavyweight. The I.S.K.A. British Light Heavyweight Title and in 2002 the I.S.K.A. Commonwealth Light Heavyweight Title.

Another of Neil’s coaches and U.S.K.A. Senior instructor Allan McDonald has proved himself invaluable in preparing Neil for the full contact arena, when it comes to pushing Neil to the limits and getting that extra mile or round out his charge there is no one quite like him, he is someone Neil has come to have ultimate respect for, as both a coach and a fighter in his own right. Allan has himself amassed a handsome haul of silverware including 4 Amateur E.C.K.A. And W,K,A, British full contact Championships, and the professional W.A.K.O. Pro Midland Area Super Middleweight Title.

Neil continued his work within the martial arts both promoting it and teaching it and was awarded his 4th dan black belt in 2000 from the ISKA (International Sport Kickboxing Association).

Neil retired from Professional Full Contact competition after winning the Commonwealth Light Heavyweight Title in 2002 and decided he would try his hand at commentating being involved in many productions for Sky Sports, Channel 5’s night of combat and numerous DVD and live internet productions as an expert commentator. This is something he received high critical acclaim for and something he enjoys doing to this day.

One of USKA’s greatest success stories is the development of a young fighter who goes by the name of Qasim ‘The Dream’ Beg. The Dream walked through the USKA gym doors at the age of 11 to learn self defence and to get fit.

Little did he or his coach Neil know at that time where it would lead to or how exciting a prospect Qasim would turn out to be. After building up an impressive unbeaten junior record winning Midland Area, English, three versions of the British title and three versions of the European title it was all eyes on him in 2005 when he made his full contact debut.

The winning streak continued with 'The Dream' powering through the Amateur rankings on route picking himself up the Midland, English, two versions of the British title, the Illustrious Golden Belt title belt, the ISKA European championship, the Golden Belt -62kg European Championship, the ISKA World Super Lightweight Championship and then lastly as an Amateur the WPKC Super Lightweight Championship of the World.

After turning Professional in October 2007 winning ways continued for Qasim and the victories kept on coming notching up 22 straight victories which included him picking up the IKF, WKA and ICO Super Lightweight Professional British title belts against top contenders, the ICO Five Nations title, the ICO European title and in November 2014 fulfilling a life long dream of becoming the ICO Super Lightweight World Champion proving to be one of the best kickboxers this country has ever produced.

He has since then won three more versions of the World Title with the WRSA, the IKF and the AFSO and incredibly has only lost one contest in 51 fights.

In April 2015 Qasim was inducted into the MAI Martial Arts Hall of Fame receiving an illustrious Gold award in recognition for his outstanding achievements as a fighter.

Qasim holds a Senior Instructor position at the USKA Fight Facory and is still active as a competitor in the sport chasing World titles and Glory.

Another intricate cog in the complex USKA wheel is Neil’s right hand man Sean ‘The Mighty’ Quinn. Sean who first joined USKA as a student in 2002 after earning his black belt at the PKA (Professional Karate Association) and then later moving on to become not only one of USKA’s but one of the country’s finest coaches and cornermen. Sean himself built an impressive fight record losing only 1 light continuous bout and 1 full contact bout in well over 20 contests, but his forte lay in his ability to bring the best out of fighters. His eye for perfection and attention to detail has seen him play a major part in producing some of the finest fighters in not only the country but the World. His week in, week out, day to day involvement with the fighters get them in tip top condition to fight and represent USKA to the fullest at the highest of levels.

Sean as a man is absolutely selfless with his time, effort and commitment that he gives to the members of USKA. Whether it be a fighter taking part in his first amateur light continuous contest or a fighter who is contesting the professional championship of the world.

Sean continues to this day putting the fighters through their paces at the USKA Fight Factory and continues himself to improve as a coach all the time believing that knowledge is power so that he can pass on that knowledge to the fighter in his charge.

In May 2015 for Sean's coaching achievements he was inducted into the MAI Martial Arts Hall of Fame receiving a highly regarded Gold award, this is an achievement he was very proud of and it is an achievement bestowed on only a few within the Martial Arts fraternity.

In 2006 Neil was asked to become the ISKA (International Sport Kickboxing Association’s) Chief Ring Sports coach looking after the ISKA National team that would travel to compete abroad in both Ring Light Continuous and Full Contact Competition. This was a chance for Neil to share his years of knowledge not only with his own fighters at USKA but to some of the best fighters from around the country.

ISKA Team England enjoyed tremendous success under Neil’s guidance breaking International records and medal counts at both European and World Championships year in year out.

In 2008 Neil was recognised for his efforts by being awarded the ISKA Coach of the year by their board of directors in their first ever annual award ceremony.

Late in 2006 Jesters Kickboxing’s Dale ‘The Snail’ Wood from Matlock in Derbyshire asked Neil if he would train him in the closing stages of his Professional career. Dale was a former Midland, English, British and European Champion with the only title to elude him being the World Title belt.

He felt that with Neil’s expertise that he could achieve this lifelong dream and began working with Neil and the USKA team travelling from Matlock to Birmingham on every possible occasion.

Early into Dale and Neil’s training relationship Dale was offered an ISKA Super Middleweight World title shot at 24 hours notice following an Italian opponent failing a medical against the very experienced European Champion Brian Aston. Although these weren’t the best circumstances an unprepared Dale jumped at the opportunity and accepted the fight putting in an amazing performance only to get stopped in the 10th round despite being ahead on all three judges’ score cards.

This showing of bravery from Dale warranted him a rematch and in 2007 a fully ready and prepared Dale won a unanimous points decision over Brian to lift the Professional Super Middleweight Championship of the World.

This victory would see Neil produce his first Professional World Champion, a fact he was very proud of.

Feeling there was a massive Void in Britain’s Ring Light Continuous circuit of competitions Neil formed the B.L.C.C. (British Light Continuous Council) in 2007 and as President and founder developed a scoring criteria and fight circuit that aimed to lift the standard of Ring Light Continuous fighting like never before.

Along with a loyal support from the U.K’s finest gyms the B.L.C.C quickly became the premier circuit and leading promoter of the fight discipline.

The B.L.C.C. Continues to go from strength to strength under Neil’s guidance with at least one competition every month up and down the U.K..

Neil resigned from his ISKA Chief Coach position in 2009 to champion a new and exciting governing body called the ICO (International Combat Organisation) where once again he would assume the position of chief Ring Sports coach and also take a role as a senior Ring Sports Director.

Heading ICO team England Neil would once again lead his team to unprecedented success at their World Championships beating all previous records and to this present day still holds the position.

Neil was awarded his 5th Dan Black Belt and master status from the International Combat Organisation in 2011.

On 23rd October 2011 Neil Kelly The fighter once again laced up the gloves and climbed back through the ropes for the first time in 10 years in Kelkheim / Fischback Germany as part of ICO team England at the ICO 2011 World Championships.

Neil who was acting team England Ring Sports Head coach decided to compete in his first competition in 13 years and his first International in 15 years while training with his students who were also in the competing in the team. Turning back the clock Kelly weighing 83kg fought heavier Opposition throughout his +80kg Veterans category shaking off the years of rust round by round winning unanimously every round and finally beating former World Champion Eduard Vinogradov of Russia in the final to become the new ICO Champion of the World

In 2013 British and European Champion Mick Crossland from the Combat Academy in Barnsley met with Neil and asked if he would be interested training him. Neil being a good friend and a big fan of Mick’s fighting style jumped at the chance and Mick began making the long journey from Barnsley to Birmingham in pursuit of developing his style and to add the trade mark USKA artillery to his already extensive vocabulary of technique.

A fight was soon signed for him to fight for the ICO Super Middleweight World Title fight against the IKF World Crusierweight Champion Aidan Brooks from Ireland.

In training Mick hit a form he had never seen before. His training camp was gruelling, his fitness was at an all time high and his skill set had everyone confident that they had covered all bases and was ready for every eventuality.

All the hard work paid off with Mick winning the fight by sensational 3rd round KO and with that lifting the World Super Middleweight title.

Mick now intends to continue under Neil’s guidance with plans to unify World titles at the weight.

This was Neil’s second Professional World Champion and again one he is very proud of.

On the announcement that for the first time in the Sports history there was to be a Unified World Championships to be held in Tuscany Italy at the end of 2013 Neil felt motivated once again to dust off the running shoes and lace up the fighting gloves to come back and compete in the Masters +85kg division.

Despite injuries Neil managed to train hard and was rewarded for his efforts when he won the Unified World Championships Gold Medal beating a game but out-gunned Algerian opponent in the final in a dominating performance proving once again against the odds that he had what it took to compete at the very highest of levels.

in May 2014 Neil was inducted into the Martial Arts Illustrated Fighters Hall of Fame when he was presented an award for outstanding achievements within the world of martial arts.
The MAI Legendary Fighter Award was presented by Martial Arts Illustrated magazines Bob Sykes.
The award ceremony in Burton-On-Trent honoured some of the UK's leading Martial Artists in a number of different category's and Neil Was especially thrilled to be awarded the Legendary Fighter Award after almost 30 years involved in the sport of Kickboxing.

Despite ongoing injuries hindering his training. Neil was determined to attempt to regain his unified World Title in Tuscany Italy in November 2014 and pushed through the pain battling Knee tendon damage, Achilles heel inflammation and calf strains.
Neil prepared the best he could working around the injuries knowing this could be the last time he had a chance to compete at this level of competition.
To make matters worse on fight week Neil developed a throat infection which required a heavy course of antibiotics.
Neil had a bad reaction to the medication and on top of that then had to deal with sickness and diarrhoea causing him to lose 5kg from the time of the weigh in to the time he got n the ring to fight.
Despite all of this he found a way to win in two divisions on his worst day and although not anywhere near his best was happy with his achievement overcoming the odds and pulling off the results to once again become a World Champion at 41 years of age.

In May 2015 Neil for the second time in his career was inducted into the MAI Martial Arts Hall of Fame, this time in recognition of his achievements as a top coach.
This is an award he is very proud of following a coaching career that has produced three Professional World Champions, over 80 amateur World Champions as well as countless European, British, English and Area champions.

In October 2015 Neil alongside ICO Team England travelled to the ICO World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany when once again he would climb through the ropes to compete in three separate divisions.

After a good training camp in complete contrast to the one he had for the Unified World Championships in Italy the year before Neil performed well and lifted three Gold medals and World titles.
The icing on the cake came for Neil at the medal ceremony when he was presented the 'Best of the Best' fighter of the tournament award at the age of 42.

October 2016 saw a final return to the ring for Neil at the Unified World Kickboxing Championships in Tuscany, Italy in his retirement tournament.
Neil once again produced the goods at the biggest competition in the sport and won a Gold Medal and final World Title in the Masters Heavyweight division bringing a close to an amazing competitive career that has spanned over 30 years.

On 30th September 2017 ICO World President and Neil's original instructor Master Andrew Hennessy awarded Neil Kelly his 6th Dan Masters grade after over 31 years service to his sport. He was extremely honoured and humbled to be awarded such a respected and prestigious grade at just 44 years of age.

Over the space of 9 days in October 2017 at two separate World Championships both home and abroad the USKA Team as part of ICO Team England brought home the largest International medal haul in the Associations history.
Following the ICO World Championships in Birmingham, England and the Unified World Championships in Tuscany, Italy USKA amassed an amazing 60 World Championship Medals including 33 Golds, 17 Silvers and 10 Bronze's.
This is a feat unlikely to be matched or beaten anytime soon.

For his part Neil in total has gained 17 national titles in semi contact, light continuous free from and full contact competition. He has won numerous International, European and World Championship Medals in W.K.C,/ W.K.A / I.S.K.A./ I.K.K.C/ I.C.O Competition, won Nine Light Continuous World Titles and as to this date still remains unbeaten as a Full Contact professional kick boxer. Throughout his years as a teacher he has coached his students to over 350 national titles and 150 International medal successes, Making him one of the most competent and successful fighter/Instructors in the U.K today. It is a much widely accepted fact that success breeds success, it is little wonder then that students of Neil Kelly’s U.S.K.A. Gym are so prolific within all aspects of competition. An old proverb states “that to know the Master you have only to look at the student” the reverse is also true, and who would not want to emulate the career of this gladiator supreme, and master technician.

  Neil Kelly’s technical ability remains second to none and his U.S.K.A. Fight Factory Gym is undoubtedly... Where Champions are made!