Chechens Fight at Kadyrov Tourney

MTChechens dancing at a Moscow event to welcome the Kadyrov branch into Russia's karate federation Saturday.
The Mir Concert Hall was full of the sound of fists hitting ribs and heels landing on skulls Saturday, all in the name of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, known as a connoisseur of raw violence and a patron of the martial arts.

The change in the noises normally coming out of the hall came courtesy of the Russian Federation of Kyokushinkai Karate, which admitted a freshly formed Chechen branch into its ranks at a tournament named after the republic's leader, featuring four hours of fierce hand-to-hand fighting, folk dances, dagger throwing and frantic drumming.

Saturday's event was to demonstrate the success of efforts spearheaded by Kadyrov to further integrate the North Caucasus republic into Russian sports and restore normal social conditions after a decade of conflict with separatist insurgents, sports and Chechen officials stressed.

Four of the republic's karatekas -- karate practitioners -- took on the country's best-known national champions as hundreds of Moscow-based Chechens roared their support from sections of the hall marked "VIP" and "Super VIP."

The first prize of 100,000 rubles ($4,200) went to the national fighters, but karate champions on hand said the Chechens handled themselves well against formidable opponents.

Kadyrov himself was a no-show, but his sidekick, State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov, and President Dmitry Medvedev's adviser on Chechnya, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, were among the Chechen officials watching.

"When we were little boys, we watched karate movies on video and dreamed of becoming masters of martial arts ourselves," Delimkhanov said in Russian at the opening the tournament, after extended remarks in Chechen, with the Russian words for "sports," "education" and "president" inserted in places.

"And Chechen athletes will be achieving results in sports now, just as we were achieving stability in Chechnya and Russia," he added.

During the 16 eight-minute bouts, in which the rules against hitting opponents in the head by hand or kicking them in the groin were violated painfully on a few occasions, the predominantly Chechen crowd was most animated during the bouts involving Chechen karatekas, cheering loudly and shouting advice.

"So much is being done by Kadyrov, I believe that in two years one out of every three athletes on Russia's national martial arts team will be Chechen," Aslakhanov said.