Rodrigo Rojas: Disputed Funakoshi Cup Champion

By Dr. Christian Tribowski

First non-Japanese Victory since 1998

In 2017, the ground shook. The earthquake of that day changed the landscape of traditional Shotokan Karate for the next decade. Rodrigo Rojas from Chile broke the winning streak of the dominating Japanese Karateka. It took place in the kumite competition at the 14th Gichin Funakoshi Cup, the official JKA world Championship in Limerick, Ireland. Since 1998, no non-Japanese won the JKA world championship. And nobody expected Rodrigo Rojas to change this. However, he did and the surprise was huge.

Seminar with Andre Bertel in Germany
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Rodrigo Rojas Behavior caused Criticism

Right after his victory over Okada Yasunori many critics raised their voice. The most of them revolved around Rodrigos behavior during his fights. While nobody accused him of unfairness. Most of the commentators criticized his way of dealing with the judges and his way of celebration when he scored a point. Both, how the critics described it, were not bushido-like but rather cocky. Exaggerated cheering after scoring and head shaking after several decisions of the judges were perceived as disrespectful and a shame for traditional Shotokan Karate Do.

We do not know Rodrigo. We do not know his intentions, his character, upbringing, convictions, or his way of live. And it is not in our aim to judge anybody.

Rodrigo Rojas also Fights in the WKF and Karate Combat

However, whether somebody agrees with the critics or not, the case of Rodrigo Rojas reveals the deep differences between traditional Shotokan Karate Do and Sports Karate like it is practiced within the WKF. Rodrigo himself has been fighting in the WKF for several years now. He is also part of the highly commercialized Karate Combat tournament.

Do less important in Sports Karate

In both organizations athleticism, medals, and sponsoring contracts are more important than respectful behavior. As everybody could see during the last WKF World Championship in Madrid, many fighters behaved in a cocky and emotional way. Apparently, Sports Karate does not put much energy in the education of the mind, manner, humility, moral consciousness, spirit, and Do.

Shotokan Serves Ethical Purpose

For us, however, Shotokan Karate Do empowers people. Shotokan helps them to reach their full physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually potential as human beings and free them from negative influences. It also civilizes the world and guide people in a non-violent, respectful, and humble direction. All that happens when they follow the 20 Precepts of Gichin Funakoshi. Do is paramount for us. This is our Way of Shotokan.

If you agree or disagree leave us a comment below and let us discuss. Oss!

6 Comments

  1. Es ist nicht entscheidend, was wir wollen, was entsteht, ist wichtig… 🙂
    Eine Persönlichkeit muss reifen dazu braucht es klar markierte Initiationsrituale egal, ob man es “Sport Karate” oder “Shotokan Karate” nennt… persönlich bin ich der Meinung, dass gezeigte Verhalten beim Finalkampf ist nicht zu akzeptieren.

    • Hallo Thomas,

      wir teilen deine Ansicht, dass es feste Rituale benötigt. Die Frage lautet aus unserer Sicht, wie gestalten sich die Rituale aus und welche Wertvorstellung lege wir hierbei zugrunde. Geht es nur um einen fairen Wettbewerb als Zweck in sich selbst, dann reicht es ja erst mal aus, einfach fair zu bleiben, um den Anspruch des Rituals genüge zu tun. Soll der Wettbewerb aber als ein Mittel zu einem höheren Zweck dienen, z.B. geistig-moralische Reife erzeugen, dann muss das Ritual auf hierauf ausgerichtet sein.

      Im traditionellen Shotokan, so unsere Bewertung, ist der Wettbewerb ein Mittel, um eine andere Haltung (Zweck) zu erreichen. Im Sportkarate, so unser Eindruck, ist der Wettbewerb bei aller Beteuerung von Sportsmanship selbst der Zweck. Worum es also beim Ritual Wettkampf geht, was legitim, richtig oder falsch ist, verändert sich je nach dem, ob man ihn als Mittel oder Zweck ansieht.

      Ergibt das irgendeinen Sinn für Dich? Wir hoffen, wir konnten auf deinen Kommentar angemessen antworten. Wir freuen uns auf weitere Kommentare.

      Herzliche Grüße,

      Das TST-Team

  2. This was embarrassing. The young lad from South America should have been scolded and perhaps disqualified for his behavior. If I was his Sensei he would have bowed out and walked off giving the other person the win, only for behavior reasons mind you.

  3. Thanks for sharing this video. I agree with your comments that Sport Karate especially WKF has become too far removed from the humility and ‘perfection of character’ aspect of traditional Karate.
    This JKA championship took place in my hometown Limerick, thanks to the hard work of Sensei Noel Casey for putting the platform forward via the University Arena and local tourism board. The Russian team came to my family restaurant 5 days in a row!

  4. I fully agree with the article.
    Sports Karate, like any other competitive sport, takes athletes to their highest level of performance and consequently to a very big amount of stress. It shouldn’t therefore come as a suprise when we see this reactions in athletes.
    But this is where, in my opinion, karate-do practioners should do different. Maintain character even in situations with a lot of stress and emotion.
    This is why i highly respect anyone who is able to show respect and humility when competing.

  5. I am reminded that only actions, not idealistic principle, puts food on the table.

    Bushido has a primary tenet of duty, which drove the Bushido led army in the Bataan Death March and the Asian Holocaust.

    Strip away the Bushi part and list only honorable tenets, as Shotokan has apparently done. Observe then the resulting scoring bias since the inception of the tournament against non-Japanese. Do in practice.

    This was a great win, and it had to be overwhelming to be a win at all. We should take nothing from the victor.

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