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English Karate Still Alive and Kicking In 2008

Posted December 16th 2008

As 2008 draws to a close I will try to assess what changes I noted in the karate world over the past year. Sport England is still playing the waiting game as it withholds its recognition from the EKF and the other groups in the idealistic hope that one day the two main groups will amalgamate. This suits the present poor economic situation as SE doesn’t have to give any grants from its already depleted funds which allows other Gov’t bodies such as UK Sport to also deny granting any form of funding to karate. Before I am accused of being too narrow minded, what do the following sports have in common?

Shooting, table tennis, handball, volley ball, water polo, fencing, weightlifting , wrestling and karate; all of them have been told by UK Sport that they won’t get a lollipop when the latest Gov’t funds are handed out over the next few weeks. So English Karate will continue to stagger from one financial crisis to another, hoping that some white knight will bail it out. I think the next step forward should be for a multi-sport meeting to coordinate action in a class action to show the public how many athletes in England will benefit from the Gov’t funds and how many first rank sportsman from 15 sports will not get a penny of help. I understand that the Times, Daily Mail and Evening Standard are working along these lines to collate all the information to produce a damming article(s) to expose the “fogging of the issue” in the early part of 2009.

On the domestic scene a lot was promised by the Karate England group but as in 2007 very little was delivered, we now have had time (2 years) to objectively compare the 2 main groups, the EKF with 73 registered associations and Karate England consisting of 5 main associations, both groups claiming superior numbers yet neither independently verifiable so lets compare the tangibles; websites first, KE site has hardly changed over the past year and mentions very little about “karate”, it outlines its political position and then has a few paragraphs on services such as CRB, Risk assessment, Child policy and one line on insurance. The events section reports on one event last August with no mention of the entry figures ? Also with the EKF having GB, European and World recognition via the WKF, the stage for meaningful competition for KE continues to diminish with their students barred from competing in WKF (and/ or its affiliates ) events.The KE website is very, very shoddy compared to the EKF with its provable 500,000 hits against the 18,000 plus for KE.

If you compare events, the EKF has sent teams to:

Whereas the KE website records only one event (in August), The 2008 NNGBEK (KE) English National Championships.

If you consider the EKF team to Tokyo in Nov 2008, the EKF sent a team of 21 staff & students team to Tokyo and in all 111 people (team & supporters) traveled to Japan this was an excellent example of tangible achievement compared to the KE efforts over the past year. The result was not satisfactory from the medals point of view and showed that more application and competition training will be needed if England is once more to climb back to the premier league. This event also saw the the final coaching for the perennial National coach Ticky Donovan OBE before he hands over to sensei Wayne Otto.

Earlier this year the whole English karate scene was rocked by the tragic demise of Brian Philcox, the chairman of FEKO, a major component of KE, and his children in such high profile circumstances which produced an unfortunate fallout and English karate was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Phone calls and e-mails were vitriolic in condemning karate ethics as some sort of catalyst in the deaths of Brian and the children.

On the international scene I attended the WKF Championships in Tokyo and was very disappointed with the Japanese organisation of this event, from poor accommodation for the athletes to little or no administration, security, facilities etc at the Budokan. I could not believe this was the same organisation and venue that I had worked at in 1970 to organise the 1st World Championships which was light years better than this poor showing according to a number of “old timers” who met together in Tokyo for this event. On the positive side the WKF seems to have the ear of the IOC (where it is the only International karate body recognised by IOC) and the rumours on karate getting into the Olympics very soon have once again come to the fore.

Finally as the year draws to a close it seems that after only 3 years WUKO the organisation that was formed in 2005 from WKF dissidents has fell apart with its top officials at each others throats. A new breakaway is being formed called the WUKF. It is never good to see any group fractionalising without the support of a majority of the members and can only mean more complications on the international scene as English karate students have a multitude of titles to compete for that are just diluted from the real world and give a false sense of achievement to many aspiring youngsters.

At the moment a lot of instructors are complaining of diminishing classes although I think that with the bad economic times that there maybe a revival of karate training if people have a lot of time on their hands and the cost of training is pegged in a realistic way.

My wish for 2009 is that karate gets a fair hearing from the English authorities to enable it to go forward in a pro-active way.

The seasons greetings to everyone,

Terry Wingrove

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