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Karate Under Consideration for Olympic Games Addition

by on August 20, 2008

A couple days ago I wrote about taekwondo being considered for eviction from the Olympic Games following the 2012 games. Some encouraging feedback has motivated me to extend our little discussion of karate’s addition to the Olympic Games.

How long has karate been under consideration for addition? I dug around a little to find the proceedings of previous IOC Sessions at which the Olympic committee vote on the removal and addition of candidate sports. In 2005 in Singapore, karate made it past the first round of voting along with squash but was rejected at the last minute. Squash did make it and I think you’ll see it at the 2012 Games in Longon. Karate is again on the table for the next IOC committee meeting to take place in 2009 in Copenhagen. So it seems karate is seriously on the block.

In order for it to be accepted, we need to look at the requirements for the addition of karate to the Games. The first requirement brings us back to why Taekwondo is being scrutinized: judging. I think “te” pointed it out best that scoring in karate tournaments needs to be identified within quantitative parameters. Now, the first Karate World Championships were held in 1970 in Japan with 33 countries and 178 athletes. The 17th World Championships held in Mexico in 2004 saw 79 countries and 582 athletes participating. That’s been long enough to have a track record for accurately judging these tournaments, hasn’t it? Have any of you attended these tournaments? Were there major discrepancies in judging accuracy?

Note to anyone partaking in the definition of scoring requirements for Olympic Karate: don’t make it as ridiculous as judo… please! Understandably, a subjective means of identifying points is necessary, but drafting up immaculately unrealistic rules is not going to help anyone. I don’t really keep up the judo scene, but if the scoring requirements of judo are not reviewed soon, the number of people watching is going to plummet.

Another requirement for Olympic inclusion is viewership. Just like CBC specials and prime-time sitcoms, the Olympics need people to watch them in order to survive. If no one is going to tune in, karate is not likely to be accepted, or will at least be unlikely to stay around if it does make it in, just like the story of taekwondo. Considering the competition participation mentioned above, the ISKF having 42 member companies with 10’s of thousands of members, and the JKA have at least as many, I don’t see viewership being an issue.

If karate is going to make it into the Olympics, its going to be at the foot of the World Karate Federation, as a competitive standards body for karate. I don’t say this likely because the WKF was official recognized by the IOC at their 109th post-Olympics Session in Seoul in 1998 [pdf]. After this point, some predicted that karate would be entered as soon as 2004 — this didn’t happen. Why? Unknown. What is known, is that there are two martial arts (“martial sports”?) in the Olympics already and karate has been up for a vote twice and rejected twice (although by an ever decreasing margin).

I wonder if there has been some reluctance from some karate practicitioners to add karate to the Olympics for 2008 or 2012 in fear that it would meet a similar fate as taekwondo is now. Does addition of a martial art in the Olympics dilute the art into a meaningless set of punches (et al.) like any other martial art? Can we use the same formula that has been used for the hundreds of competitive karate tournaments worldwide for the past 30+ years?

I’d like to hear your comments.


From → judging, karate, news

  1. I was most dissapointed in the standard of the taekwondo at the olympics this year. I am an ex karate competitor but I was still looking forward to the tkd. It’s the first time I have watched it though and I was so bored within a few minutes. I do not understand why they keep their hands by the side for the entire fight and just bounce up and down waiting for an opening. At least in karate you keep your guard up and try to draw your opponent out and there is constant movement. I think we need to analyse why fighting sports like boxing is still very popular if we are going to generate greater interest in karate in the olympics.

  2. philipobrien permalink

    I agree. It wasn’t the most interesting for me either. This is something that reinforced my decision to study karate and not tkd. In almost all matches of tkd at the Olympics, all they do is kick. I know this is the main focus of tkd, but they are allowed to be (and would be advantaged by) throwing punches once in a while.

  3. I think it is time to include karate in the forthcoming Olympics in London.

  4. kuldeep singh mokawat permalink

    i thinks, this is the right time to include karate for 2012 olympics,myself is a wkf player and i personally feels karate is more interesting from teakwondo and wushu which was being the part of olympic for years , so ioc should take a positive result on this issue……..

  5. kaywex permalink

    Karate is not in the olympics for good reason- it is not a sport. I will say again, karate is not a sport, and the olympics is a sports’ competition.

    Karate is an art. It is not the same as a sport at all. You cannot practise karate the same way you practice tennis. When’s the last time you saw Serena Williams make a serve that looked like a dance. If karate were to be in the olympics I think only kumite would be entered, not kata, and thus it is no longer karate, it is merely sparring.

    These are words I’ve heard from people who far out rank me 😉

    Just thought I’d mention…

    • Harry permalink

      There is a difference between sport karate and traditional karate.
      I myself train at a sport karate.
      Kata is the art and kumite is the sport put them together and you get karate.

  6. kaywex: Master Okazaki would agree with you 🙂 It says so right in his book, “Perfection of Character” on page 91 (the 9th precept). “Karate is not a sport. It is a life discipline.”

    There are those that would say we can take the sparring portion out of karate and use that as the sport. I think those people are missing the point of karate. Its a lifestyle, a culture, a way of life.

  7. daniel permalink

    hello i go to write in spanish i hope you understand because your article is very interesting.
    yo pienso y tengo la seguridad de que karate va aser un deporte olimpico cuando se tenga grandes patrocionadores o esponsors,lamentablemente no importa que asociacion,organizacion ,federacion, estilo de karate, filosofia de arte marcial o deportivo, no tiene la cobertura de otros deportes que hasta menos globales y atractivos si lo tienen.
    (rough translation) I think and I have the security that karate goes as an Olympic sport when have large patronage or sponsors, sadly it does not matter that association, organization, federation, style of karate, philosophy of martial or sports art, does not have the cover of other sports that to less global and attractive if they have it. greetings

  8. I was bored watching Tae kown do, and I will be bored watching the sport version of Karate too. Karate is not a sport. Karate is more than a mere competition is a way of life. Get the facts and start practicing it for real.

  9. Get the “facts”? Is it a fact that karate is a way of life?

    Karate began as a method of self-defense during the Meiji restoration. It had real implications and sometimes meant life or death. What’s emerged from that since is certainly not a life-or-death situation, but it also doesn’t have to be a way of life.

    Funakoshi may have INTENDED it to be a way of life, but how people choose to practice karate it their own prerogative. If you want to start practicing it for real, move to Japan, give up most of your money, and try to overthrow the government. Start in a few local bars and work up from there. That should give you plenty of “real” experience”.

  10. I think that there should be a world body overseeing a unified rules striking sport, like “World Striking Sport Federation” or something. Here, all striking arts can compete and be governed by a unified set of rules. If you think about it, many stand-up martial arts have the same competition rules, regardless of Ryu or Kwan (schools). They can still practice their own style, but for point system, they must adhere to the unified rules. Japanese Karate, Korean styles like Tang Soo Do or TKD (which is derived from Shotokan anyway), Kung Fu or other Chinese wu shu, Muay Thai, or even Kickboxing can all participate and follow the same point guidelines: 1pt punch to the body, 2pt kick to the body, 3pts kick to the head, maybe even sweeps, or whatever, just naming examples.
    This governing body can represent all the stand-up striking style sports and increase their chances of getting picked by the IOC. Heck, maybe all the styles can rally behind the kickboxing community and represent themselves as “Kickboxing” where all stand-up styles can join under the same unified rules. They stand a way better chance of getting selected.

  11. Trimthisfunk,
    Like UFC, minus the ground work? If you took the wrestlers and jujitsu guys out of UFC, you’d end up with what you described. I think Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in a movie back in the 90’s about exactly this thing.

    It’s an interesting idea. I’d like to see what the rules would look like in the end. Its difficult for different organizations of the same martial art to agree on rules, that’s the main reason there are many organizations at all. I don’t see many martial arts coming together and resolving a set of art-agnostic striking rules. The toughest sticking point would be on the degree of contact which never allows for “shades of grey” or degrees of contact. Its full-on fight club, or its a game of tag.

  12. Karate don’t need Olympics…Olympics needs Karate!

  13. Kim permalink

    Karate is good sports discipline . It is competitive and should be in the Olympics. It is practised worldwide and has a mass following not only in adults but with little children too. Everyday Thousands of Children world wide enroll to learn Karate.

  14. Taylor permalink

    Karate has been one of my passions for years next to dance, if other types of martial arts get to be in the olympics then karate, one of the most widely know types of martial arts, should be given a chance. People spend thousands of dollars on classes for this and I think the olympics would be a step up from the world championships because almost everyone knows about the olympics, no one ever knows about world championships.

    • Taylor permalink

      Ya and those gymnasts get to dance around with ribbons. That’s not a sport in my book and I think that kata should also be part of the olympics. The definition of a sport is something that you use physical movements to beet the other person. Kata and kumite not only fit these requirements but are basically the backbone of sports.

  15. sam lye permalink

    I don’t know what its like in other countries but England/GB do better in karate competitions than we do in football and yet football is always shown.

  16. Bob permalink

    Karate is an art yes but that does not mean it shouldn’t be included. Why just focus on Kumite? Yes we could have a kumite medal but there could also be a Kata medal which would very much keep the art side of it alive. Karate is steeped in tradition which i why i think it is not making it into the olympics, the senior people do not want to dilute it, which is very understandable as many of them have devoted their lives tirelessly to the art, but i do think that the next generation should be looking for solutions to the barriers of making it into the olympics, ultimately i belive it would be good for karate.

  17. Karate is much more entertaining to watch then Judo and Taekwondo. It’s the best sport in the world! Why do things like Synchronised swimming, which is hardly a sport, get to be in the olympics?

  18. Karate is damn more disciplined then taekwondo , still not in olympics …….

    its more intresting way of fight , not a series of punches …

    I insist IOC for recomendation of karate in olympics either on any ruled assigned ,That will give hope for karate proffesionals to have a greater opportunity in the feild of karate .

  19. Slicklocrian permalink

    Watching Tae Kwon Do at the Olympics was like watching karate combined with Riverdancing. As a shotokan karateka, i was very disappointed.

  20. anas permalink

    karate is more than a perfect sport, its a lifestyle , its my cause, its my honor and i will defend it
    the “K” is on the way

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