Dear Branch Chiefs and Contacts,
It is already a month and a half into the year, but I believe that all of you are busy with your daily activities in your country and region. In Japan, we are still experiencing cold weather, but based on the calendar, we have already entered spring.
Looking back, in February 2020, I was invited to the Guam Camp, enjoyed our training together in the beautiful nature and scenery, was blessed with warm hospitality, and just after my return to Japan, the COVID-19 problem started to surface in the world. It has passed so quickly, but we have been battling this problem for about 1 year. The battle is being prolonged due to the new variant, and in Japan, from early January, a state of emergency has been declared again for the main city areas, and we are strengthening our caution. Due to such circumstances, we promptly canceled the annual Kagami Biraki training that was planned just after the date of declaration. It is regretful that we could not carry out our training with strong kiai in front of Sosai Oyama’s grave, but this was a moment to be patient, so we sent our thought and prayers to Sosai Oyama, who is watching over us from heaven.
As for the COVID-19 crisis, due to the hard efforts of the medical staff, and the vaccine process, we are starting to see advancements in this battle. It is important for us to always have a sense of appreciation and respect towards such efforts, and while following the infection prevention measures announced by the cabinet and local governments, we need to continue our training, maintain our dojos, organize competitions, and carry out our activities in a safe and secure manner. In March, the above-mentioned state of emergency is projected to be lifted, so we plan to organize the annual Dan Grading Exam for the Japan Region, and the Karate Dream Festival National Championship 2020 as scheduled. For the Dan Grading Exam, Kembu Iriki, who won the All Japan Championship last year, will also take the exam. Many strong non-WKO competitors participated in this tournament, and even in the unnatural conditions due to the COVID-19 crisis, he continued his hard training and gained a valuable victory. The fact that he is continuing his training and accepting new challenges, gives us hope for his further development. Including Iriki, a total of approximately 30 examinees will take part, and I hope that they will train hard until the day of the exam, and carry out a deep conversation with their current mind and body.
For the Karate Dream Festival National Championship, many participants who are in need of a competition, will take part. I sincerely hope that you will train hard until tournament day, and demonstrate the results of your training in this difficult time with the COVID-19 crisis. As the organizers, including the above-mentioned Dan Grading Exam, in addition to carrying out basic measures such as monitoring the health of the competitors, to disinfect and ventilate, and to not allow spectators, we will also rotate the participants in groups, so that we can control the number of people in the tournament venue at every hour, and maintain a level that is well within the safety guidelines. We will make sure to secure safety, minimize the risk of infection, and do our best to meet the expectations and needs of the competitors. At the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, our sacred place, the competitors and related people will gather, and in strong unity, set an example for the world, by evolving the competition format in a way that can coexist with the current COVID-19 times. I hope that such efforts by the Japan Region will encourage our comrades around the world, and also demonstrate the role of Budo, and the clear direction for our activities, in this current society where we have to coexist with COVID-19. I sincerely request for the kind cooperation of all involved in this process.
On the other hand, there are still many problems that need to be solved to organize an international tournament. The travel to and from Japan is still under strict restrictions, and it is difficult to project when this will be eased. Due to such conditions, it was decided to postpone the 1st WFKO World Championship scheduled for this May, to September. For details, please confirm the official JFKO website. For this tournament, I can understand that it may be difficult for the selected competitors to maintain their mental and physical condition, but as the basic duty of a budoka, it is important for us to continue our hard training, so that we can fight at any time, regardless of the circumstances. All competitors will be taking part under the same condition, so how you adjust to this environment, will strongly influence your performance and result at the tournament. In this tournament that will test your strength as a human being, I will be expecting to see the result of your maximum efforts.
As for the Branch Chiefs and Contacts around the world, aside from a selected few, I have not seen most of you for a long time, since the World Championship in November 2019, and I hope that everything is going well with you. Due to the advancements in IT and technology, I am able to follow your events on social media, and please know that I enjoy your posts, and that such activities give me courage. Due to the prolonged COVID-19 crisis, I can understand the anxiety and concern you may have, but we are a big family that is connected by a strong Kyokushin spirit. Even in this unstable time, it is important for us to keep in mind our fellow family members, and with a kind heart, wear our pure white dogis, and continue our training around the world.