Karate Gets Its Own Showcase at the Tokyo Games
Karate made its debut as an official Olympic sport at the Tokyo Games on Thursday as 120 men and women from around the world competed for medals.
Japanese organizers were successful in pushing for karate to be included as a medal-winning sport, an improvement over the cameo it made as a demonstration sport at the Tokyo Games in 1964.
Two-thirds of the athletes participate in the kumite portion of the program, where two fighters compete against each other and attempt to punch and kick their opponents to score points.
The other third will compete in kata, which includes the building blocks of karate performed against an imaginary opponent, traditional aspects of the martial art that purists relish. In kata, athletes perform alone, demonstrating a series of offensive and defensive movements. Karateka chooses from 102 katas, or techniques, approved by the World Karate Federation.
Karate originated in Okinawa hundreds of years ago, but became truly global in the 1970s. This was evident with the introduction of the 11 male fighters under 67 kilograms. They came from Azerbaijan, Jordan, Turkey, France, Italy, Latvia, Venezuela and Japan. There was also a fighter from the Refugee Olympic team.
The fighters wore red or blue belts and matching gloves and foot guards. The fighting lasted three minutes. In the opening bout, Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Almasatfa and Latvia’s Kalvis Kalnins got off to a quick start, landing two back-to-back punches, or yuko, in the first minute. Each was worth a point.
But Almasatfa responded with a yuko to reduce the score to 2-1.
He landed three ippons, including a kick to the head of Kalnins.
In the next match, between Steven da Costa of France and Hamoon Derafshipour of the Refugee team, the tournament had its first video review, and it seemed to last almost as long as the fight.
Unfortunately for karate fans, karate will not be included in the Paris Games in 2024. But at least for a few days, it will share the biggest stage in world sport.
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