The International Olympic Committee (IOC) unanimously agreed yesterday (August 3rd, 2016) to add baseball/softball, skateboard, sports climbing, surfing, and more importantly for us, karate to the sports program for the Olympic Games that are going to be held in Tokyo, in 2020.
Several applications for karate were made, some including two rules (no-contact rules and full-contact karate rules), like the one from the Japanese Fullcontact Karate Organization (JFKO), and others supporting only no-contact/light-contact karate. In the end, the application that was approved is the one supported by the World Karate Federation (WKF) and the Kyokushin organization of MATSUI Shokei (IKO), for no-contact karate. After three previous attempts to have karate included in the Olympic Games, the WKF has finally succeeded.
This morning (August 4th, 2016), the Japanese Karate Federation (JKF), member of the WKF, held a press conference to give us more details about the competition. There will be a total of eight different categories: three for men kumite and three for women kumite (the exact weight categories have yet to be decided), and two for men and women individual kata. A total of 80 participants will be allowed, evenly divided between men and women (40 and 40). This karate event will be held in the Nippon Budokan, over two days, after the judo competitions.
As stated above, the rules will be those of sundome karate (no-contact karate), with points being attributed every time an attack has been clearly placed. However, any strong contact on the opponent will result in a fault and points being removed (light touch will be tolerated). About this, the head of the JFK, SASAGAWA Takashi, addressed directly full-contact karate fighters and welcomed them to participate regardless of their group of origin:
There is also tradition in Kyokushin tournaments, or ippon rule tournaments (K.O. rule of the Japan Karate Association), and they can continue striving with those rules. However, we would not mind them participating as long as they respect the safe and injury-free rules of these Olympic Games.
Separately, MATSUI Shokei also gave his comments for the occasion:
I am extremely glad about the approval of karate for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Within our Kyokushin organization, we have ambitions for karate, and as someone being in charge of a karate organization, I would like to express my appreciation towards the many years of difficulties the Japan Karate Federation has faced. Taking this opportunity, we will work hand in hand in order to make karate, one part of the Japanese traditional culture, even better.
The application for karate has only been approved for Tokyo 2020 for now, but SASAGAWA Takashi feels confident that if Paris is chosen for the Olympics of 2024, karate will still be there. Let’s hope he is right, and that full-contact karate will also be included then!