In loving memory of the best Kyokushin fighter ever
shihan Andy Hug

Andy Hug 1964 - 2000

There are precious few heroes in this world, and we were privileged to come to know a very special one in our beloved Andy. He was only a few weeks short of his 36th birthday, when he suddenly died. Shihan Andy Hug will be sorely missed by many, not only in the martial arts community.

Thank you Andu Hug shihan.
Osu !

Sjaak van de Velde.

Andy Hug

Andy Hug was born on 7th September 1964 in the small village of Wohlen in Switzerland. Because his mother was unable to care for him, Andy was immediately given up for adoption. Andy Hug spent the first years of his life in an orphanage, until his grandmother took over his care at the age of three years old.

It has been said that Andy's home situation brought on mocking and bullying from his classmates. When a friend of Andy introduced to him the local Karate dojo (he was only 10 years old at the time) Andy began taking karate lessons so he could fight back. Andy quickly became so good that the Swiss Karate Federation bent the rules to allow the teenaged sensation to compete with adults for the All Switzerland Karate Championship. Andy won the tournament easily!

Andy was only 19 years old when fought in Japan for the first time, at the Kyokushin 3rd World Open Tournament in 1983. Andy was newcomer and a young talent, and he impressed the whole world with his unique fighting skills and technique. Four years later, at the 4th Kyokushin World Open in 1987, Andy made it to the finale by easily defeating big fighters like Masuda from Japan and Ademir da Costa from Brazil - both of whom have passed the ultimate test in Kyokushin, the 100 men kumite.

The 4th World Open finale was a fight against the two best technical fighters ever in the history of Kyokushin: Matsui and Andy. It was the first time ever that a non-Japanese fighter was in a World Open finale, and today Kyokushin karate-ka and fight lovers around the world still talk about the big finale, and about the outcome and the result. But no matter the result, Andy opened a new area for European and western fighters, and showed the world that by hard training and true skills, anybody can become a champion. To a lot of people, Andy was the true winner of the finale, and should have been the champion of the 4th World Open Tournament. 

One year later, on 17th September 1988, a special Kyokushin karate event was held in Sursee in Switzerland. It was the 1st International Super-Cup, which had been organized by the Swiss Karate Association. Kyokushin competitors from Japan, Great Britain, Netherlands, Hungary, Germany and Spain fought in the tournament. Before the vice-world champion, Andy Hug was to fight against Kenji Midori from Japan in the finale (Kenji Midori became the 5th Kyokushin World Open Champion in 1991); Andy defeated Siegfried Elson from the Netherlands in the semi-finale. The most exciting fight of the evening was undeniably the finale between Andy Hug and Kenji Midori. After two extension rounds, Andy Hug was declared as the winner of the fight and the Tournament. 

In 1989, Andy Hug became Kyokushin European Champion in the Heavyweight Division for the second time. Andy was a superior European champion, and he was so popular that he traveled around the countries of Europe as a special guest instructor at Kyokushin summer camps to teach the art of knock down karate. Before Andy Hug left Kyokushin karate in 1992, to fight for Seidokaikan Karate and in the K-1, he fought against the best fighters and the biggest names in the history of Kyokushin, and only losing very few fights. Even though it has been more than 8 years since Andy Hug has left the Kyokushin karate organization, Andy is still remembered and respected as a superstar and idol for many Kyokushin members - as the true champion that he was in more than a decade in Japan and around the world. 

The same year Andy Hug left the Kyokushin organization, he became World Open Champion in Seido karate, by winning the finale against Taiei Kin on 5-0 judge decision. One year later, in 1993, Andy was again in the finale in the Seido World Cup, by wining on TKO against the famous fighter Nobukai Kakuda in the opening rounds. The finale was a fight against the Japanese champion Masaaki Satake. It was a finale where Andy Hug controlled the fight from start to finish! Andy even hit Satake in the face with his famous axe kick so hard that Satake went down. But fighting against the national hero and champion, Andy was fighting against uneven odds, and he lost the fight and the finale on tameshiwari after three extension rounds. But he won the heart of the Japanese people, and got the nickname: The samurai with blue eyes. 

It was also in 1993 that Andy Hug started his K-1 career. On 5th November 1993, Andy got his debut in the K-1 against Ryuji Murakami, a fight that Andy won by TKO in the first round, after he knocked out Ryuji three times in only 50 seconds. Andy Hug became a superstar from Hokkaido to Okinawa. But it was not only his famous axe-kick, super strength and his sublime technique that made him the people choice, it was his spirit and warmth that earned him the deep respect of his opponents and the deep love of his fans. 

In Japan Andy Hug received the title of "Samurai" which is a distinction of great honor. Kancho Ishii, the promoter of the K-1 in Japan tells: "The reason why the people in Japan like Andy so much is because he owns something that the Japanese respects: a big heart, generosity, strength and a will of iron."

Because of Andy's fitness and charisma, he got enormous popularity in Japan where he had lived in recent years. But even though Andy became rich and famous, he remained modest, polite and truthful. Andy Hug always had time for his fans and he never refused an autograph request, and it was precisely this which his primarily young fan club loved. He was a true hero. 

Since Andy Hug was as a young boy, he was inspired from the "Rocky" movie to train passionately in his quest to become a World Champion. Andy became a champion - many times. Andy did take on the world, working through Kyokushin and Seidokaikan karate. In 1996, Andy Hug's determination netted him the title of the best martial arts fighter in the world. But before he became K-1 champion in 1996, and K-1 finalist in 1997 and 1998, Andy also won the UKF World Super Heavyweight Champion, WMTC World Super Heavyweight Champion, WKA World & European Muay Thai Super & Heavyweight Champion. 

Andy spent his last years in Japan, but even though he no longer was living in Switzerland, Andy was the most popular sportsman in Switzerland, and he loved his home country very much. So once a year, Andy Hug was fighting in the K-1 Fight Night Tournaments in Zürich, in the period from 1995-2000. Andy never lost one single fight in Zürich, even though he was fighting the best from the game and the biggest names, like the double K-1 champion Peter Aerts, the famous Mike Bernardo from South Africa, Mikro Filipovic and Stefan Leko. Andy Hug got the name "Ironman" from his opponent in the K-1 because he was always fighting and attacking round after round, and because he refused to give up or slow down when he was fighting. 

From 31st July and in the beginning of August 2000, Andy was home in Switzerland to visit his wife Ilona Hug, with whom he just had been divorced from last month, and his loved son, Seya Hug. Andy did not feel 100% fit, and therefore he went to a hospital in Switzerland for tests & medical examination. Andy had been complaining to doctors about attacks of hot fevers, but there was no sign of illness, even though Andy had over 39 incidents in which he was suffering hot fever attacks, and heavy nosebleeding. Andy decided to return to Japan, despite his illness and the advice of the doctors in Switzerland, on August 14. Even on the way to the airport, Andy has serious nosebleeding, but Andy was determined to return to Japan, to participate at the K-1 Grand Prix 2000 Tournament in Fukuoka. Andy's manager Rene Ernst was also trying to persuade him not to travel but he had no luck in the attempt. Andy never returned to Switzerland again. 

Andy has just returned to Japan, when he three days later, he collapsed, and was taken to the Nippon Medical School Hospital for further tests and medical examination. Andy's personal physician found a swelling tumor on the left side of his neck, and that was when doctors realized he was suffering from Leukemia. Treatment began immediately, including chemotherapy. Andy knew that he was seriously ill, and so he contacted his wife Ilona by phone, to tell her the scarring news about his health and his condition. Andy told Ilona that he will not return to Switzerland, but that he would stay in Japan. Andy said: Japan is my home, and here I will stay and fight the illness. 

The doctors gave Andy a big warning message, and told him that since he was suffering from heart and/or circulation problems, the chemotherapy had a very high chance of backfiring and destroying his body for good. Andy had tears in his eyes when the doctors gave him the diagnosis, but still he was so committed to the sport and his fans, that he asked for an interview, so he could tell about his disease to the people. But in the judgement of the group of doctors, the interview was not allowed. 

On 21st August at 9 a.m. Kancho Ishii visited Andy Hug at the Nippon Medical School Hospital. According to Kancho Ishii, they talked about the K-1 tournament in Yokohama on the 20th of August, where Andy's friend Francisco Filho won. Andy also told Ishii that if he should die soon, he would like to die in Japan. 

On 22nd August Andy was in a "fine" state, he was watching television and talking on the cell phone and was eating without help. Andy calls Ilona Hug by the phone, and tells her that, if the worst situation should happen, he would like spending his last time in Japan. Andy also took the time to write this letter to his fans:

Dear Fans

I think that you will be shocked when you will hear in what state of health I am. When the doctor told me about it, it was an enormous shock even for myself. But I want to inform you about my state of health so that I can fight together with you against this illness. This illness is the most severe opponent of all my fights. But I will win. As if I would stand in the ring I will get power from your cheers and beat this strong opponent. Unfortunately I will not be able to fight at the tournament in October. I will fight against this illness in Japan and one day I will appear again with you. Let's keep it up!

Andy Hug

Strangely, this letter became the last message to his fans before he died. Kancho Ishii has also said, that the last word Andy Hug spoke to him was before he went into coma was: "I love you"… And Ishii replied with the words: I know Andy-san. 

In the morning of 23rd August, Andy has difficulty breathing. Later in the afternoon Andy cannot breathe by himself and his condition worsened, and Andy gets attached to a respirator. Andy had purple spots on his body, along with digestion pipe bleeding, eyeball bleeding, urinary track bleeding and bleeding genitals. Andy's condition is now so critical, that Ilona Hug has been told to take the first airplane from Switzerland to Japan.

Thursday on 24th August, at 18:21 - Andy Hug dies at the age of only 35 years old. According to Japanese TV, Andy's heart stopped three times, but somehow the doctors managed to get his pulse back again. But the fourth time Andy's heart stopped, the doctors no longer tried to bring Andy back to life, and let Andy sleep peacefully into the death - and the fight ended when the doctors stopped. 

The famous Dutch K-1 fighter, Peter Aerts was also at the Nippon Medical School Hospital, where he was doing treatment of the lower back. Peter Aerts collapsed and was crying for more than two hours, when he was told that Andy passed away. Peter Aerts was interviewed on live national TV only one hour after Andy was declared dead, and here he promised the world, that he will fight for Andy, who was a personal good friend to Peter, in the upcoming K-1 Grand Prix on 10th December 2000. At the same time, the news of Andy's death was reported by all news shows and broadcast live on TV on NHK news 10, Sports MAX, Fuji TV, News Japan & TV Asahi. The death of Andy was also telegraphed to all over the world by the AP communication.

Thursday, 24th August, at 20:45 a group of five doctors, who gave treatment to Andy and Kancho Ishii, attend and a press conference, which took about one hour at the Nippon Hospital. At around 21:45 Francisco Filho comes to the condolence hall. About 40 minutes later, Filho left the Hospital speechless without any words to the reporters, with wet red eyes. 

On 26th August, it gets decided that the K-1 World Grand Prix 2000 Tournament in the Tokyo Dome on10th December 2000, becomes an Andy mourning performance. Also the part with the profit of the mourning performance is to be presented to Seya, Andy's five-year-old son.

The funeral service and the last farewell took place at the Yoshifuku Temple on 27th August in Tokyo. More than 12,500 people were lined up to pay Mr. K-1, Andy Hug the last respect and condolence. A floral tribute from the many fans began with the special altar outdoors, and the procession of the fans reached more than 2 kilometers. 

Andy's wife, Ilona Hug made a speech for Andy and for the 800 special invited guests at the ceremony, with veil she was holding in her arms was a frame with a picture of Andy Hug smiling. Some of the many invited guests at the ceremony was: Family and friends of Andy, The President of Switzerland, K-1 Master Ishii, Kancho Matsui, Kenji Midori, Hajime Kazumi, Masuda, Nicholas Pettas, Francisco Filho and even the big sumo wrestling grand champion in Japan.

People were heartbroken, and when Francisco Filho, Nicholas Pettas, Nobukai Kakuda, Sasaki and other chosen martial arts fighters where carrying Andy's coffin, the official ring announcer of the K-1 was calling Andy by tears: "In the red corner, 180 cm, 97.7 kg, the former K-1 Grand Prix champion; Ann Deeee Hu-uug" over the loudspeakers as the champion took his final exit. At the same time, they listened to the music of "We will rock you" by Queen, the song that had for years trumpeted Andy's arrival into the ring.

Andy Hug was preparing for the K-1 Grand Prix finals in December 2000, and planned on having a retirement match in Japan in the near future, after the Grand Prix. Andy was hoping to start a film career after retiring from fighting, but his last dream never came true. 

There are precious few heroes in this world, and we were privileged to come to know a very special one in our beloved Andy. He was only a few weeks short of his 36th birthday, when he suddenly died. Shihan Andy Hug will be sorely missed by many, not only in the martial arts community. My deepest condolence is offered to Andy Hug's family and friends.


Special thanks to Oliver Sperling sensei for his permission to use this article + photo's
More pictures of Andy Hug :