The European Championship 2019 was held in great success. The series of events were organized by the Lithuania Branch, which is well-known around Europe and the world, for developing many strong competitors. The branch is led by Country Representative & Branch Chief Romas Vitkauskas. Branch Chief Romas is the Vice President of the Europe Region, and also the Board Member of WKO and WFKO. This is due to the international recognition of his strong foundation in business, and his overall capability and human character.
Ambassador Shiro Yamasaki of the Embassy of Japan in Lithuania attended the tournament as a special guest.
Lithuania has built a special system within its organization to develop its youth competitors from 14 to 21 years old, and the result of such efforts were seen in the prizewinners of this tournament. Paulius Zimantas, who placed 2nd in the Men Heavyweight Category, is a symbol of such development and progress. He is 18 years old, and still in the process of being formed, but his explosive power drew much attention. Valeri Dimitrov, who participated in the Men Middleweight Category and won the European Championship for the 19th time, also praised their development by commenting “It was a tough battle, and there are many promising young competitors in Lithuania”. The report of the tournament will be posted separately, but it seemed as though the European organization has entered a period of transition.
In the Final, Maciej Mazur accepted the challenge by the young and energetic Paulius Zimantas, and although he seemed to have difficulty in adjusting to the pace of Zimantas in the early stages of the bout, he gradually demonstrated his overall advantage, and achieved an ippon-victory.
The election for the Europe Region was held at the timing of this tournament, and Shihan Koen Scharrenberg was reelected as President. Shihan Koen has a history of training at the Sohonbu in Ikebukuro during the Sosai Oyama era, and also participated in the All Japan Championship. He also performed very well at the World Championship, representing the Netherlands. Such Budo spirit, and his respect and understanding towards Japan, the mother country of Karate, made him a natural selection to become the Vice President in the world federations, WKO and WFKO.
Based on the members that were elected, there seems to be a stronger emphasis on the Budo spirit and the Japan-Europe friendship. The election (reelection) of senior members such as Shihan Michael Soderkvist and Shihan Jan Bulow, and Shihan Remigiusz Karpinski, who is the Country Representative of Poland, which has 7,500 registered members. The election of Shihan Alexander Goncharenko of Ukraine and Shihan Boris Nikolov of Bulgaria is also promising. Shihan Martin Michel, who is a very capable lawyer, was reelected as WKO Board Member of Europe (along with Shihan Koen and Shihan Romas). He is expected to promote the Japan-Europe friendship, while also guiding and representing the logical thinking of Europe.
There was a special consideration by the organizers in the seats for officials and awarding ceremony, toward senior members such as Shihan Howard Collins, Shihan Brian Fitkin, and Shihan Furko Kalman for their long-term contribution to the organization. To learn from their wisdom. The subtle demonstration of such respect, was heartwarming and symbolic. The seat for Yuji Shimamoto, the current World Champion, was also prepared next to the senior Shihans. The deep generosity by the organizers toward the current generation, for him to sense and understand the history of Kyokushin and the teachings of Sosai Oyama.
The worldwide development and progress of Full Contact Karate is expected for this year. The establishment of the international federation that will organize the 1st World Fullcontact Karate Championship in 2020, and the active holding of regional selection tournaments. It is expected for each region to carry out active cooperation with various Full Contact groups. In Japan, as evident in the 6-year competition history (JFKO) and path taken, the cooperation between more than 300 different groups and organizations was not an easy task.
Such difficult process, will enter its main phase in Europe. President Midori, Vice President Isao Kobayashi, and Secretary General Kazuo Miyoshi attended the Europe Region Country Representative meeting held during the tournament, where constructive and future-oriented discussions about the expected activities of WFKO and the regional selection process were carried out. To listen to other people’s ideas, and to make the best effort to understand them. This is the foundation of the unity within Full Contact Karate. It seems easy, but in reality, quite difficult. To listen to concerns and questions with an open mind, and to form a good solution together. This is the organizational approach of WKO, led by President Midori.
At the meeting, President Midori expressed his strong expectations for Shihan Koen Spitaels to carry out the actual work for the Europe Region selection tournament, based on his past efforts of organizing the European Full Contact Camp, which was started in response to the activities of JFKO in Japan. Shihan Spitaels, who was appointed as a Board Member of the WFKO, has been given a stage in which he can utilize his international network and organization skills. In any case, since the competitor application deadline is set for the end of February 2020, the coordination and exchange between the various groups and organizations will be an important task for not only Europe, but the various regions in the world as well.
Officials from the KWU (Kyokushin World Union), which WKO maintains a partnership with for the international promotion of Kyokushin Karate, were present as guests, and talks were held to further develop the relationship. Shihan Sergey Suvorov (General Director of KWU World Championship 2019), and Shihan Aleksandr Pichkunov (KWU Secretary General) attended the event. The positive relationship was confirmed by both sides in the discussions, such as the sending of competitors to each other’s World Championships.
On the other hand, while WKO has developed and expanded, there have been cases of problems at the national level. From the Sosai Oyama era, due to the worldwide introduction of the branch chief system, many branch chiefs have been appointed, and the organization expanded worldwide with Japan maintaining its influence. With the passing of Sosai Oyama in 1994 as an opportunity, the activities of the national and regional federations intensified in the late 1990s. The holding of the World Championship in Weight Categories in different regions, and the selection of the competitors in various regions is due to such trend. Due to the balance between the branch chief system and the activities of the national federation, there have been cases in recent years, of disharmony in certain countries, and efforts were made during the tournament to mediate in such cases. In any case, the satisfaction of branch chiefs, who contribute to the organization greatly, is very important.
The holding of the 12th World Open Karate Championship, which is expected to be the largest scale event in its history, is only several months away. The European Championship 2019 was held in great success, due to the strong unity of the related members led by Shihan Romas Vitkauskas. Such success is expected to carry on to the World Championship this year, and lead to positive developments for the 1st World Fullcontact Karate Championship. WKO Shinkyokushinkai, which is very close to achieving 100 affiliated countries, will continue its further progress.
WKO Executive Director Yasukazu Koi
*Translation: Hiroshi Tanaka