My bilingual interview this month is with the England national coach & world champion, Wayne Otto.
My 12-month writing contract with JKFan is now finished for this year so I look forward to starting up the project again next year. My thanks goes out to the magazine and everyone's support.
JKFan article 2010 #12: The future of international sport karate
What is the future for international karate? Karate is already a worldwide phenomenon, with clubs in every country, numerous style associations and national sport organizations, plus the World Karate Federation is leading its global amateur development. If there is a karate crystal ball, what future insights would it reveal?
It starts by seeing the future through the recent past via the WKF rule changes over the past decade. Athletes and coaches state these changes now require a more complete, physically-prepared athlete while spectators can easily follow competitions. Gone are the days when counter punchers win gold medals.
In conjunction, the WKF is actively spreading training and administrative information more broadly, which nurtures talented athletes coming out of any country when clubs and national associations make an effort to utilize these new resources.
So better athletes are the future, connected specifically through YouTube. There is a vast library of spectator-shot tournament videos being uploaded exponentially. Already athletes are analyzing each other online, which in turn requires greater performance innovations to achieve the winning edge in future competitions.
New ideas, especially in kumite, will require athletes to diversify their strategies to overcome opponent’s tactics. For example, the trend of some athletes quickly scoring one or two points, then using a defensive finish strategy to hold the lead, like in soccer, is a change from the karate ideal of winning by as many points as possible.
This rapid sophistication of karate requires professional coaches. The future sees full-time national coaches evolving new training ideas, like figuring out how to close the gap between kumite athletes even faster, especially to overcome the above trend.
Stronger athletes led by pro coaches will of course want to compete in the Olympics. Karate's participation in the Summer Games is still the main wish of most people. It is in every other major multi-sport event, its athletes proving they are just as dedicated to being faster and stronger.
The IOC does require improvements in sport karate, and these new ideas seem to be coming from Europe. For example, new rule proposals are tried out at open tournaments in Europe first, then presented to the WKF for consideration.
But has karate missed opportunities that will affect its future? For sure. The explosive growth of MMA in a few short years has proven martial arts can be marketed as a dynamic business. MMA's successful approach is letting fans get to know the athletes instead of just portraying them as muscular pugilists.
The karate industry should utilize the MMA strategy. With 50 million karate people on this planet, someone somewhere must be smart enough to create a professional sport karate league for amateurs to become paid athletes so we can cheer on the best of the best in a fair, competitive format.
Lastly, karate needs vigorous daily media reporting of our industry to allow fans to follow their athletes, which greatly increases karate's exposure, leading to advertisers and promoters paying attention.
If three times is a charm, then the next IOC round will see karate's Olympic acceptance, firmly establishing its amateur status. The future of karate then is to look beyond the amateurs. It's time for the karate world to turn pro.
(Thanks to Tokey Hill, Wayne Otto, Billy Finegan, Ashley Hill, Norma Foster, Antonio Oliva and Con Kassis.)