The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are just six months away. Are you getting excited about Karate’s Olympic debut? We are!
And it looks like we’re not alone. The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has created an outreach program called Let’s 55 to get people more invested in the games, and Karate has become a popular attraction at their events.
What is Let’s 55?
Let’s 55, aka Let’s Go Go (“go” is “five” in Japanese) is an initiative designed to introduce people to the 55 competitions that will take playing during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Their events involve a combination of demonstrations, athlete meet and greets, and hands-on opportunities for aspiring athletes to try out various sports.
“Let’s 55 not only gives people the chance to meet Olympians and Paralympians, but to also feel like world-class athletes by experiencing the sports themselves,” the official website for the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games promises. “People can become familiar with the rules, as well as the competitors, for each sport. Let’s 55 will further foment interest in the Tokyo 2020 Games.”
Karate has been a key component of some of Let’s 55’s biggest events. Olympic mascot Miraitowa has even been spotted in a Karate gi during them!
Karate at Let’s 55
According to a recent article from the World Karate Federation, Karate has been featured in at least three high profile Let’s 55 events so far and has played a “significant role” in the activities.
Last March, Karate was one of sixteen sports represented during a visit to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Some of the country’s top Karate participants and representatives from Japanese Karate clubs put on demonstrations at this event.
Karate was also featured at the Tokyo 2020 Let’s 55 Olympic One Year to Go, which attracted over 15,000 participants at the Tokyo International Forum last July. “In addition to collective classes with hundreds of youngsters involved, demonstrations of Kata and Kumite were staged. A Kata performance was presented live during the broadcast of the Olympic Channel thus showcasing the tremendous appeal of Karate,” the WFK reports.
Most recently, Let’s 55 brought Karate and thirteen other sports to a Mirsui shopping park. The 27,500 visitors who attended this event were treated to a main stage kata performance. Mats were also set up to allow children to try out a lesson with some of the martial art’s top instructors.
And there’s more to come! “Karate will continue making the most of ‘Let’s 55’ activities thus demonstrating its interest to maximize opportunities to showcase the sport in the months ahead to the debut of the discipline in Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” the WKF report concludes.
Karate at the 2020 Olympics
Efforts to make Karate an Olympic event have been in the works since the 1970s. There have been a few close calls over the decades, but it wasn’t until recently that Karate made its major breakthrough. In 2015, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee made a proposal to add Karate, baseball/softball, skateboard, climbing, and surfing to the 2020 edition of the games. In 2016, the International Olympic Committee voted to approve the inclusion of all five sports.
“We want to take sport to the youth,” IOC President Thomas Bach said of the decision. “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them. Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfils all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it. Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
For more information on the announcement and how it inspired the Karate community, check out our blog post, AWMA Sponsored Athletes Destiny Vergara and Kieran Tamondong on Karate’s Inclusion in the 2020 Olympics and Their Own Olympic Dreams.
According to the official Tokyo 2020 website, the Karate component of the Tokyo 2020 Games will feature both kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) competitions. 80 athletes will compete in eight divisions. There will be one division each for Men’s and Women’s Kata and three weight divisions each for Men’s Kumite (-67kg, -75kg, +75kg) and Women’s Kumite (-55kg, -61kg, +61kg). Ten Karateka will compete in each field. The International Federation involved with Olympic Karate is the World Karate Federation and eligibility is currently being determined by international rankings. You can follow the latest developments in Tokyo 2020 standings here.
The lucky ten athletes who will qualify for each division will get to compete at the legendary Nippon Budokan. The venue, which was originally built for Judo at the 1964 Tokyo Games and regularly hosts Judo, Kendo, Karate, and Aikido competitions, is considered “the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts.”