Karate and the Olympics: Tokyo will be the only time that Karateka can fight for Olympic gold.

Karate and the Olympics: A Long Conflict Has Come to An End

By Dr. Christian Tribowski

According to an article by the BBC at the beginning of this year, the organizing committee of the Olympics 2024 in Paris will Karate not include Karate in the program. The article says:

“Karate will make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Games but has not been included on the shortlist of proposed sports for the Paris Games four years later.

Therefore, the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 will be the only occasion for Karatekas to fight for Gold.

Budo-oriented Karateka express relieve

For some this announcement came as a relive. The doubts about a participation among budo-oriented Karateka increased in the last few years. They feared that Karate would lose its ethical foundation. In addition, Sport Karate would turn a value-oriented endeavor to the perfection of ones character into a profane business. Above all, the “traditional” Karate community did not feel represented by the World Karate Federation.

Sport Karate Community Deeply Disappointed

Others, on the other hand, expressed deep disappointment. In addition, the decision by International Olympic Committee came as a surprise by the proponents of the participation of Karate in the Olympics. Some saw their dream been crushed.

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The WKF president Antonio Espinos commented immediately on the announcement:

“Our sport has grown exponentially over the last years, and we still haven’t had the chance to prove our value as an Olympic sport since we will be making our debut as an Olympic discipline in Tokyo 2020”

Long and Conflict Laden History of Karate and the Olympics

Independent of which side one stance, the history of Karate and the Olympics dates back to the 1970. Even back then conflicts emerged, which organization has the right to represent Karate on the global and Olympic stage. In 1988, John K. Evans wrote an article in which he described this difficult relation. The Black Belt Magazine published the article. It can be found here: THE BATTLE FOR OLYMPIC KARATE RECOGNITION WUKO vs. IAKF. (The Shotokai-Encyclopedia provides the article. We highly recommend the encyclopedia because it is a very concise and enlightening compendium.)

Evans described in his article, how the different Karate Do organizations emerged and developed certain political interests. It becomes obvious that Karate in general but Shotokan in particular was from the beginning a field of conflicting positions and groups. Unfortunately, the article leaves out important historical parts like the emergence of the WUKO. In addition, the independence of Evans can be doubt. Because he served a high official for the WUKO back then. However, the article gives a first hint about the history of Karate Do and the Olympics. And it reveals that the dispute dates back much longer than the most think.

3 comments

  1. Unfortunately the IOC did not recognize the UWK as the sole representative of karate. It includes the three main branches of karate: traditional, contact and sport. Each type would compete with their own rules and format. Participants would be allowed to crossover if they wished. It was the best chance for karate in the Olympics. Japan and IOC blew it.

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