Good governance and change should be what world karate needs after the 2020 Olympic Games. It is apparently clear now that it was Japan, Japan Karate Federation and the Sasakawa influence that got karate its first and possibly last appearance in the Oympic Games. But the narrative all along was that the Spaniard Antonio Espinos did this on his own.This far from the truth. The Espinos Samaranch factor was always the motivation used for karate to being the Olympics.
So let’s take a journey down memory lane and understand the situation and ask ourselves how do we assist karate to get back in the games after 2020. We shall do this is four parts.
History is a funny animal it is harsh on those that try to change its cause.
The World Karate Federation as we know it today was the World Union of Karate Organization (WUKO) until 1995, this name was proposed by International Olympic Committee (IOC), at its Congress held in Monte Carlo called the 101st Session.
It was at this session that the Congress have asked Judge Keba Mbaye, a Senegalese jurist and IOC members to attempt to get unity in world karate by unifying the World Union of Karate Organization with the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF) into a unified organization called the World Karate Federation.
But the spirit of unification as required by the IOC was undermined by both groups. Firstly, the WUKO which I was a part of, serving as Vice President with the current President from 1993 to 1998, interpreted the unification as the ITKF disbanding and merging into the WUKO to form the WKF, so this would be giving up everything and simply being usurped into WUKO with a name change.
The ITKF understood unification as being a merging of equals. The WUKO did not accept this interpretation as they believed that they had more national federations who were members of National Olympic Committees and they should be the senior player. This was the first break down in the unity process.
The IOC did not assist very much in this regard to clarify the proper intrepretation and allowed the difference in interpretation to continue. Second issue of discontent was the difinition as crafted in the 101 Unification Statues where the designation of karate was divided into three designated groups. Will make up the new World Karate Federation. The definition was General Karate ~ karate competition formats as promoted by WUKO, Traditional Karate ~ karate competition formats as promoted by ITKF, those federation that did both types of karate and were already working together in their National Federation. Now at this time around 1988 WUKO did have more national federations, and this was understandable as they were the organization that was provionsionally recognised by the IOC.
WUKO received such recognition around 1978 and at that point had about 40 federations, surprising ITKF had a similar number of federations, but after the IOC recognition many countries decided to leave the ITKF and join with WUKOto get better government support financially and politically.
In 1995, a flamboyant Japanese karate lover Kunio Tatsuno head of a karate organization called the Seishinkai in Osaka, Japan, this organization had a sterling pedigree which was developed by the Kokuba family, a family that was regarded as karate royalty, in Japan they were known as the Kuniba family. Tatsuno assumed the Soke position after the passing of it’s previous head, Shugo Kuniba, who was residing in the USA, married an Ameican women and was expanding the organization internationally.
Tatsuno was a charismatic individual and usualfor a Japan and was looking for something to give him world prominence, he had a checked past and was associated with the under world in Japan. This new character was always going to clash with the established cabal in the World Karate Federation, especially the Sasakawa famiy and the European karate mafia under Decourt. Tatsuno portrayed himself as the new Saskawa. These two previous WUKO groups , Sasakawa and the European karate mafia were partners and they did not want a ” new child on the block” to come in and distrub their party which they were firmly in control of.
Delourt was also having problem of his own in the powerful French Karate Federation and the new emerging young turks led by Antotio Espinos and Francis Didier. Espinos started his ascension to power during the 1988 Mexico World Championships, taking advantage of the majority of Spanish speaking countries who attended this championships to start his agenda to take over. Many were not happy with Decourts handling of the Olympic issue, besides he and Samarach were not fans of each other. He was seeking power and was craftng a plot to get a mandate to take over the WKF.
The next championships was to be held in Granada, Spain, and Espinos being ambitions and crafty thought that he would be able to do a palace coup in his own country, but this did not happen.
Sasakawa resigned as President at this Coigress, at this time and Delourt was still in control and assumed the position as President, he was Executive Chairman before this. France was still a force in karate politically and technically, in 1992, but Spain was creeping slowly as a powerhouse, especially in the Spanish countries, Delcourt also relingusihed his position as President of the powerful European Karate Federation and this was the chance Espinos was waiting for and this chance presented him with a great opportunity to roll out his coup. He craftily used many people to ascend to the top in Europe, such as Mike Dinsdale, Gunnar Nordhl, George Yerolimpos, George Popper, and many more. His next aim was the WUKO as it was called then. The next chapter will deal with his sinister plot. Until next time keep training, uniting and developing karate in your own way.