The Tokyo 2020 Summer Games are still four years away, but now that karate will be added to the Olympics, members of a Saanich karate club are already practising their high kicks.
Last Wednesday, Kenzen Sports Karate celebrated the unanimous landmark vote by the International Olympic Committee to allow karate and four other sports – baseball and softball, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing – into the Summer Games.
“It’s a really big deal because karate has never been part of the Olympics before,” said Richard Mosdell, professional karate coach with Kenzen Sports Karate. “Only 13 sports have been added to the Olympics since the Second World War, so it’s very difficult.”
Mosdell, who has been waiting for karate to get into the Summer Games since the 1980s, said the martial art will be the third Olympic sport not based in the western world, after judo and taekwondo. Karate has been eligible for the Olympics for about 30 years, after the World Karate Federation was established and world championships were held every two years.
While Mosdell has been let down before by the vote, he said this year felt like the most likely for the IOC to vote karate into the Olympics.
“The confidence was probably the highest because the host city was really pushing for it,” he said. “The IOC executive membership also approved it, so while the voting members of the IOC don’t have a background in karate, there was also not a threat of karate taking away their revenue or one of their spots in the Olympics, so it was easier for them to vote on.”
Kraig Devlin, an assistant coach with the Canadian National Team, said karate’s newfound recognition as an Olympic sport legitimizes the martial art as a world-class competition. He said Canada has already been getting ready for the Olympics prior to the vote, anticipating its acceptance into Tokyo 2020.
“We’ve already been planning how to restructure our national system and starting to identify athlete profiles,” said Devlin. “When we’re four years out or eight years out, you have to think very strategically and look for the potential in the athletes, not necessarily the results that they’re posting in the moment.
“Our structure will change within Karate Canada. We don’t have the luxury of a centralized training centre, so until we get a little more of an increase in revenue, it’ll be a more decentralized structure.”
Both Devlin and Mosdell said karate provides an alternative for young kids to train outside of traditional team sports while pursuing the peak of athletic competition.
“When people have a dream of going to the Olympics, there’s a pathway – it’s not just a pathway to go for your black belt but to train for the Olympics,” said Mosdell. “For people on the Island that now want to go to the Olympics, this is a good launching pad for them to get there and we’ll help them any way we can.”