There's always been Street Fighting in one form or another; hell, in the
early eighteen hundreds, underground boxing matches were very popular in
the eastern US. It wasn't until recently, though (about forty or fifty
years ago) that fighters from one form of circuit began to seek out and
challenge fighters from others on a regular basis. The practice has
always been around, but since there was little to gain other than
personal honor, only the most dedicated of warriors would do so.
It is important to note that there was no real circuit at this time, nor
was Street Fighting a particularly organized (for an underground)
sport. Fighters still would do most of their own managing, and there
was no ranking system. It wasn't until Sagat appeared in the mid to
late seventies that things began to change.
There was no 'official' title of Grand Champion. It just kind of
evolved after a while, since until recently, Sagat was undefeated. Even
other fighters with flawless records fell to his mighty attacks, and
soon he became known as the world's greatest fighter.
That is, until the now-famous day in fistfighting history when Ryu
stepped up to knock him into next week.
Upon taking the title from Sagat, Ryu reflected on his journeys the
world over, seeking out fighters for combat. It had potential, he
thought, and he sought to make the practice more widespread. He
contacted his former training partner Ken and, knowing Ken's taste for
the flash and glitter of professional martial arts, figured the two of
them could change the world.
He was right. Soon, through the efforts of themselves and others, more
and more fighters began to emerge. Their reasons for seeking combat
were their own, whether it was honor, glory, money, or the chance to
better themselves. Crowds the world over loved the spectacle of the
matches, which to this day retain about the same regulations as they did
originally. The Ranking system was Ken's idea, because otherwise there
was no concrete way of gauging a fighter's skill. New warriors could
not risk fighting someone out of their league as the potential for
injury was too great.
Through all of this, Ryu began to distain his 'title' more and more.
There were many other fighters out there just as worthy of recognition
as himself. Soon after, the first World Warrior tournament was held,
bringing the finest fighters from all over the world to compete over the
course of several months. The eight winners of this tournament (Ryu and
Ken, the mystic Dhalsim, the American Guile, Edmond Honda from Japan,
Chun Li Xiang from China, the mighty Zangief, and the exotic and savage
Blanka) assumed the titles of World Warrior, providing an ideal for all
others to strive for.
It is important to note at this time the role Focus abilities played in
combat. These mysterious and exotic maneuvers, which included the other
super-powered techniques such as the Hundred Hand Slap and Dragon Punch
in addition to the likes of Fireball and Cobra Charm, were unique and
very rarely seen, the jealously-guarded secrets of masters the world
over, who felt that these techniques were not worthy of those who would
fight for sport. The main reason the World Warriors won their
tournaments and ascended to their lofty rank was, indeed, because of
their mastery of these maneuvers; few could stand Blanka's powerful
rolling attacks or Chun Li's lightning kicks, especially since defending
against them was difficult to teach without knowing anything about them.
Once the World Warriors proved the circuit was good training grounds for
other noble fighters, more and more masters began to open their schools
to many new students, and a new generation of fighters began to learn
the secrets of old, lest they be lost forever.
Ryu's original tenements of the World Warrior code came back to haunt
him, though, as soon others reached that rank through treachery.
Assuming that the only way to achieve such a goal was by hard work,
discipline, and self-mastery, ideals he felt only honorable fighters
could achieve, he merely set the requirements as that of a (relatively)
impeccable record, and the stipulation that defeating one of the World
Warriors would allow the winner to ascend to their ranks.
This backfired when three fighters appeared on the scene and flew to
World Warrior status through no good will at all; Barry L. Rogers, known
to his fans as "Balrog", Santiago Vega, the Spanish assassin, and Sagat
himself, returning to the new circuit after a long hiatus. Soon after,
the mysterious dictator M. Bison cut a swath through the circuit,
achieving a flawless record and World Warrior status in six short
months. Fortunately, the next four individuals to make that rank (Cammy
White, Dee Jay, Thunder Hawk, and Fei Long) were of better caliber;
otherwise, who knows what Ryu (still looked upon as the leader by the
other World Warriors due to his previous title holdings) would have
Growing sick of the commercialization, exploit, and general scumminess
of the mainstream circuit, Ryu has now semi-retired, leaving the
fighting to the younger and more innovative opponents. This brings us
to our next area of interest; change.
The circuit is constantly changing, and the more widespread use of
tactics that, up until a few years ago, were entirely unheard of has led
to a number of new techniques and tricks that more traditional fighters
have been unable to adapt to. Still holding to the firm belief that
they do not need to change, the majority of the World Warriors continue
to compete, feeling that their skills are sufficient to take on all
comers, new-fangled combos or not. Usually, they are right. However,
with the constant influx of new fighters using new styles, some not
practiced (or seen by outsiders) for hundreds of years, there are more
and more new tricks to learn (or learn to defend against), and as many
of the World Warriors are too busy with other pursuits, they do not
continue to keep on top of things as well as they could.
There is also the concept of exchange; originally, the best fighters
were trained from youth in secluded temples or schools, and had little
contact with the other forms of fighting until their style was rigidly
engrained into their minds. This is no longer the case. As soon as
most fighters learn to kick without falling over, they're on the circuit
and learning as they go. They come in contact with many other fighters,
from differing schools (same style or not!) and often learn from them,
incorporating these new techniques into their more flexible regimens.
Who knows what the next breed of World Warrior, having come from this
new era of widespread exchange and mainstream fight culture, will be
like? Times have changed since the first traditional World Warrior
tournament, and should there be another, who will be victorious?
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