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Fossum co-wrote ‘The Book’ on kickboxing lowdown

Community Portrait
By: Story and photo Michael Kirby
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The karate thing all started for Steve Fossum when he got in a shoving match at school at age 15. He wasn’t beat up but he felt bad that he had cried. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I never want to feel that way again,’” he said. There were not many places in Auburn to learn self-defense in 1976. Classes were offered at the Auburn Recreation District, and Fossum had a friend who knew some karate and he trained a little with him. Professional karate studios were few and far between in the foothills in the mid-70s, but when Fossum got his driver’s license at 16 he found classes that fit his style in Placerville. The training he received there launched him into a career in martial arts that continues today. “I had no idea in the world that I would be doing martial arts for 35 years, it went by so fast,” Fossum said. Fossum, 50, first opened a karate studio in Auburn’s DeWitt Center in 1982, just before he turned 21. His studio called, Steve Fossum’s International Karate, grew to 150 students and larger facilities on Lincoln Way. Cementing his role as a dojo sensei, Fossum also had a very successful career fighting in full contact karate tournaments. Full contact karate fighting eventually became known as kickboxing. The sport was new and there was not much in the way of ranking fighters for competitions. The rules were not standardized and there was a need for organization and sanctioning of the sport. In 1992 Fossum and former fighter Don Stell conceived an idea of a periodically published booklet, called “The Book.” This was before the Internet was available and Fossum’s book fast became the standard for ranking kick boxers of various fighting rule styles. “Most fighters wanted to be in our book and it just grew. Pros would call and say, how do I get in The Book?” Fossum said. The Book included rankings, news, upcoming bouts, championships, events, results and contact information for promoters. It was the beginning of a sanctioning body that Fossum still operates today. The advent of Internet use for Fossum in 1997 turned a simple early website into an overnight success that took The Book into cyberspace worldwide. “Clearly our niche is our information-based website. People want to be seen on our site to be considered a legit fighter,” he said. Fossum and Stell then founded the IKF (International Kickboxing Federation), which soon became the largest and most organized sanctioning body for kickboxing and Muay Thai, another form of competition fighting. Other sanctioning bodies followed. In 1999, Fossum formed the ISCF, International Sport Combat Federation, sanctioning cage fighting, later to become known as mixed martial arts. Sanctioning kickboxing, karate and mixed martial arts events has taken Fossum all over the world. Currently, Fossum’s organizations sanction 600 to 700 events a year. In his headquarters the walls are lined with framed photos showing Fossum with champions and dignitaries at bouts in foreign countries. Also displayed are championship belts won in title fights. He’s traveled to Russia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Middle East, Armenia, China, Holland, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom, supervising fighting competitions and organizing and training officials. Fossum also owns a championship belt manufacturing and merchandising company. He supplies title belts and high-end awards for championship bouts and distributes match shirts and caps and related apparel. Semi-retired from karate and kickboxing instruction, Fossum still teaches an occasional self-defense class or kickboxing seminar for fighters. Fossum lives in Weimar and is married to Toni Fossum, who runs her own graphic design company and West Coast Pageants, putting on the Miss Auburn, Miss Teen Auburn and other pageants each year. They have a 5-year-old daughter Fallyn.