Facing various news that hit the world, such as the spread of the new coronavirus and the crisis in Ukraine, the battle for the best Fullcontact Karate unveils here.
Finally, the long-awaited Kata category starts from this championship.
At the beginning of a new history, President Midori talks about highlights.
――The Karate World Championship, which is held once every four years, is now in its 13th edition.
Midori: Over the past four years, various global issues such as the spread of the novel coronavirus and the Ukraine crisis have arisen. In light of these circumstances, I am delighted that we can host this world championship , which is a celebration of Fullcontact Karate, and that karate practitioners from around the world can gather in its home country, Japan. I believe this championship will reaffirm the bonds of the Shinkyokushinkai,which is the world’s strongest and largest karate organization.
――At the 12th World Championship four years ago, Japan achieved double victories in both the men’s and women’s divisions. Additionally, at last year’s 7th World Championship in Weight Categories held in Poland, Japan got the victories in five out of the eight weight categories. How do you evaluate the current global karate landscape?
Midori: Japan actually produced five champions in Poland, but it’s worth noting that in the heavyweight categories, both men and women, Lithuanian fighters secured the titles. This tournament will be perhaps the most challenging one yet for Japan. However, Team JAPAN’s athletes have high aspirations and a strong sense of unity. They carry the tradition of never allowing champion titles to slip away by their generation. Even if one loses, another aims to leave their mark and pass the baton to the next generation. This history of upholding such traditions over many years includes the current team members, including the men’s team captain, Kembu Iriki. They will approach this championship with the same strong determination as their predecessors did.
――One of the notable foreign competitors is undoubtedly Eventas Guzauskas, who won the men’s heavyweight category at the World Championship in Weight Categories.
Midori: He’s definitely the one who we have to watch out for. He finished in 6th place four years ago and has since gone on to win consecutive European Championships. Given his recent victory in the World Championship in Weight Categories, he’s undoubtedly the athlete who is the closest to the world champion title at the moment. Additionally, competitors like Maciej Mazur, who contested the final of the World Championship in Weight Categories against Guzauskas, and Paulius Zimantas, who has been competing against Guzauskas in Lithuania, are all seeded players and solid possible contenders for victory. I’d also like to highlight Valeri Dimitrov, who is participating in his 6th World Championship. His remarkable achievement of 22 European titles is truly commendable, and he’s an undisputed legendary figure. His demeanor and attitude as a martial artist are something that many athletes should emulate.
――Kazakhstan, a powerhouse in the karate world, has been preparing diligently, including sending its athletes to study karate in Japan before this championship.
Midori: Kazakhstan has been producing a new generation of talents. However, like other countries, the World Championship is a stage where young and relatively unknown athletes can suddenly rise to the occasion, so we should keep an eye out for surprises. Furthermore, some Ukrainian athletes are competing in this tournament despite the ongoing war in their home country. I’ve heard that they continued their training even in the midst of the conflict, and sadly, some dojo members even lost their lives. I believe those events like this championship can serve as a source of strength for them, and during their time in Japan, I hope they can forget about the war and express themselves through karate with all their might.
――What can you tell us about the women’s tournament?
Midori: Brigita Gustaityte, who won the heavyweight category at the World Championship in Weight Categories, and 18-year-old Mihiro Suzuki, Japan’s ace and a first-timer on the world stage, will be likely to be the central figures. However, it’s hard to predict in top-level competition like this. Like the men’s division, there will be fierce competitions for top spots.
――And finally, this championship introduces the kata division for the first time ever.
Midori: It’s the beginning of a new era. Athletes who have been primarily practicing kata have been eagerly awaiting this day, and I myself have been looking forward to it. In kumite, we will witness the world’s strongest battles, while in kata, we will see the most beautiful battles in the world. I believe this will further promote the appeal of Fullcontact Karate. Although this is the first ever kata division at this tournament, I expect to see exciting contests. Especially in Europe, there have been kata competitions for quite some time, so the level is expected to be very high. Japan hopes for both men’s and women’s double victories in both kumite and kata, but it will undoubtedly be a tough competition.
――The children watching this championship may aspire to compete on the world stage one day.
Midori: That’s right. In Japan, we invite young athletes who have achieved recognition at the Karate Dream Festival. Children from overseas who come to Japan to support may remember this top-level competition for the rest of their lives. Someday, these young spectators will become the main players for the competitions. I hope they work hard toward that goal. The athletes competing on this stage will not only embody strength and beauty but also exemplify courtesy and etiquette, as befitting martial artists. Since this event is a sacred martial arts competition, I also hope that the audience refrains from booing or other negative behavior in response to the outcomes and, instead, helps create the best possible stage together with the athletes. I pray for the success of all the competitors.
――It means that both spectators and supporters are partly responsible for the success of the tournaments.
Midori: Shinkyokushinkai is the Budo organization which expands to 103 countries and regions of the world. The championship consists of best Karatekas who their countries are proud of, surviving tough qualifying matches, so I totally hope that fans of karate realize how wonderful budo spirits really is. As there is a saying that“do your best and let the heavens do the rest,” I believe competitors participate, doing everything they must do to get prepared for it. I wish them to go the distance with everything they have and the fair & square attitude so that they do not regret. And there are no boundaries between competitors after competitions, I hope them to grow friendships through budo. I wish them all good luck. Osu.