“The Black Panther” Michael Thompson was a professional martial artist who competed in K-1 (a striking-oriented martial arts company) competitions. Prior to and during his time in K-1, Thompson also fought in style specific tournaments in the Seidokaikan and Kyokushin forms of karate. Between 1982 and 1999 he would win a number of World, Commonwealth, and European championships.
Martial Arts Training
In the late 1970s, Michael Thompson began pursuing Kyokushin karate. Japanese for “ultimate truth,” this style was formed by Mas Oyama, a master known to have defeated bulls and bears with his bare hands. Fellow Kyokushin black belts include Michael Jai White, Willie Williams, Sean Connery, Dolph Lundgren, and Sonny Chiba (who played Oyama in several films).
Later in his martial arts career, he pursued Seidokaikan karate and kickboxing. In training in the Kyokushin system, he was eligible to enter International Karate Organization competitions. The IKO—built around Kyokushin karate and formed by Oyama—drew large numbers of fighters each year.
Professional Karate Career
On the national stage, Thompson won the British Open gold in 1982, 1984, 1986, and finally in 1990. He would take the bronze medal in 1983 and 1985. His 1982 debut also saw him take bronze at the European Championships. Later in 1987 and 1989, the Black Panther would win the silver medal. He finally took the gold medal in 1991.
On the world martial arts stage, he fought in the fourth annual Kyokushin World Open in 1987 and walked away with the bronze medal.
By 1993, Michael Thompson began fighting using the Seidokaikan system. This change in style came as the K-1 organization was formed in Japan. While it is now more of a fighting event promotion organization, when it launched it was simply an organization based on striking/kick-based martial arts such as kickboxing, karate, taekwondo, and kung fu.
He fought on the first K-1 event K-1 Grand Prix ’93, losing by decision. His last two showings in K-1 in 1993 and 1995 saw him victorious. Thompson also competed in Seidokaikan Karate World Cup that year making it to the quarterfinals. He would fare better in 1994 as he made it to the finals. This would mark his last major appearance in full karate competition. He would return for a final match in 1995 but focused mostly on K-1 competition and kickboxing training out of Switzerland.
Professional Kickboxing Career
After his final karate tournament appearance, Michael Thompson focused on kickboxing. He had mixed record in K-1 using the style at 6-5. Fighting once a year between 1996 and 1998, winning each of the bouts. His final professional fight was in Switzerland, losing to Michael McDonald in May 1999.
Since his retirement, he remains involved in martial arts by training the next generation of fighters.