‘Karate is a sport worth being in the Olympics’
Karate is finally making its debut as a new Olympic sport in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games.
At the helm of the World Karate Federation (WKF) Referee Commission is Chairman Javier Escalante who believes it's a dream come true to get the sport included in next year’s Olympics.
“We've been looking forward to being part of the Olympics for many, many, many years,” Escalante said.
Karate's quest to secure a place on the Olympic programme dates back to the 1970s. It will be one of the five sports added to the original Olympic programme in Tokyo 2020, a decision hailed by karate practitioners and fans worldwide as timely given the global popularity of the sport.
"We were lucky."
“Being in Japan - the country where karate originated from - and also being here at the Nippon Budokan venue is something very special,” he continued.
Journey to the top
Escalante has been engaged in the sport of karate for more than 45 years. He started out as a karate practitioner, a competitor then moved to the other side of the fence as a coach and then a referee.
“It was a long but very exciting journey. From a referee, I became a national referee, continental referee, then a world referee.”
In between, he also dabbled in politics but karate had always had a different pull on him.
“It’s my way of life.”
“Now here I am, after many years. It's a privilege for me to be able to be the Chairman of the Referee Commission in WKF. I am very grateful.”
“I have respect for other martial arts but karate is the one that I do and love.”
"It's a milestone, not only for me personally, but also for my colleagues, especially for the World Karate Federation and for our sport" - Javier Escalante
The role of the referee commission is important particularly as karate will be introduced as an Olympic sport for the very first-time in next year’s Games.
“Of course, we are only part of the team. We have the WKF organisation, the venue and Tokyo 2020 but the refereeing is part of the huge team. Our responsibility is of course, like everybody else, is huge.”
“We have to do things perfectly. And we're going to do it,” Escalante said.
The judges and the referees are a fundamental part of the sport as they help influence the athletes’ overall performance. The quality of the play and the strict compliance of rules make it possible to maintain the highest standards of karate as a sport.
“Our goal is to come to Tokyo and show the public that karate is a sport worth being in the Olympics. We have a very good sport."
“For us this is this is a big step in our life. It's a milestone, not only for me personally, but also for my colleagues, especially for the World Karate Federation and for our sport,” he added.
“The spectator seats are now sold out and that is something special.”
Karate is a martial art that originated in Okinawa during the Ryukyu Dynasty period. It spread throughout Japan during the 1920s and then worldwide following World War II. Karate will make its first appearance on the Games programme at Tokyo 2020, with men and women competing in kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) events at the Nippon Budokan.