Vladimir Sloutsker: “Russia is the second home of Kyokushin karate”
Russia is the second home of Kyokushin karate.
New Year’s day is a time for reflections and resolutions for upcoming months. Therefore I thought this would be a good time to share my thoughts and ideas about the new international karate organization – World Fighting Kyokushin Organization (WFKO), which celebrated its first anniversary this December.
Some people call our organization “Professional Kyokushinkai Fighting League“, even though these words are not present in the name of our organization. Yes, we do organize and conduct fights with the participation of elite professional fighters.
However, as the president of WFKO, I want people to have a different vision of this organization, the concept of which is – to transform an ancient oriental martial art into a massive modern sports movement.
Sports Kyokushin or karate-do
Although contact karate Kyokushin was born in the middle of the past century in Japan, the history of this martial art goes back thousands of years to the Shaolin Monks. And there’s absolutely no surprise that Kyokushin Karate is filled with the spirit and essence of their studies.
Two hypostases – the spiritual and physical development of the monks later transformed into a martial art, which allowed them to handle any and sometimes several enemies with their bare hands. The ways the monks handled their enemies were quite brutal – attacks which knocked down their enemies and sometimes resulted in death.
When Masutatsu Oyama invented the rules for Kyokushin fights – he made the first important step for the transformation of karate as a martial art to be accessible for the masses.
Some say that Oyama in the beginning of his career allowed his students to practice Kyokushin fighting techniques without any rules. Soon one of his students came up to him and said, that if there won’t be any rules in Kyokushin – there won’t be any fighters left, because all of them are just going kill each other. So Oyama invented rules, which made contact karate as safe ,as for common sports. And statistics show that sportsmen have much more injuries in soccer and hockey (including serious injuries) than in karate.
The next step in this direction was made in the 90’s in Russia. At that point contact karate was practiced by members of various organized criminal groups, soldiers and law enforcement agencies. And at the same time sportsmen were trained so they could participate and win in different championships (Russian, European, World) etc.
I think that without any doubts Russia can be counted as the second home of contact karate.
As soon as the situation in the country became more stable, Kyokushin as a sport gained its popularity. Personally, I would say, that after the death of Oyama in 1994 and the disorder in the world of contact karate, Russia took a difficult role of the leader in Kyokushin. But thanks to the Russian sportsmen and coaches, Kyokushin became a sport of high achievements as well as the traditional martial art.
I think that without any doubts Russia can be counted as the second home of contact karate.
According to the statistics in 2011 more than 12 million people all across the globe practiced Kyokushin contact karate, in 140 countries official Kyokushin schools were opened. However, in most of the countries and national federations the education was carried out in traditional ways – karate as a system of self defense without using weapons, or the way of Bushido, or as a spiritual and physical self-improvement.
In many modern Kyokushin schools, only 10-15% of training time is being spent on the pure sports component – contact kumite (fights) by the rules of Masutatsu Oyama. Most of the time is spent on kihon (basic striking techniques, protection and movements) and formal complexes – kata, or fighting techniques for self-defense in real life.
But that is not the biggest problem. As the popularity of Kyokushin as a sport began growing, coaches started working with their sportsmen for the result. Out of the richest arsenal of techniques fighters work on 2-3 moves, mainly which gave good results in a short period of time. Many difficult techniques – such as jumping techniques, attacks with a combination of 4-5 moves, the most famous moves of Kyokushin – mavashi and uro-mavashi, which are used from various distances and from different angles – sportsmen forgot about the existence of such techniques . Practicality took over the beauty of the fight. Today 80-90% of the techniques used by low and middle class sportsmen (we’re not talking about elite fighters) are low kicks and short distance hand combat.
We can say that there is a big separation between the traditional Kyokushin (with an enormous arsenal of moves and techniques) and sports Kyokushin, which uses a limited amount of techniques. Kyokushin today began to degrade and it ceased to look like the popular and spectacular sport it used to be.
Russian sportsmen – Kyokushin elite.
Contact karate is being displaced by other kinds of professional martial arts – MMA, K-1, professional boxing. The iconic sport – Kyokushinkai began losing losing its fans and entertainment. The first people to understand this were leading Russian specialists. With the initiative of the head of the Russian Karate Federation shihan Alexander Tanushkin and with the help of the presidents of USA and Swiss Kyokushin federations the World Fighting Kyoushin Organization was created in December 2013.
In Russia and in different countries as well in the past 15-20 years grew up high class sportsmen, the participation of which makes the fights thrilling and very entertaining. However there is no calendar with constant competitions, which means that the best sportsmen don’t have an opportunity to practice and work on themselves. Lack of tournaments make Kyokushin uninteresting for TV companies, which makes this sport incomprehensible for mass spectators.
Not to mention that there is almost no funding from the government for the development of this sport. And the help of sponsors who are willing to invest in the organization of contact karate tournaments – well, you have to be very lucky to earn a thing like that. Everything I said above concerns Russia as much as the other 140 countries, which officially practice Kyokushin. However the situation in Russia is quite unique, because recently most of the European and World championships were won by Russian fighters. During the last World Championship in the version of KWU – Russian sportsmen took 11 out of possible 14 golden medals.
The results were similar at the last big international tournament – Open European championship in Bulgaria 30 November, 2014. 5 out of 6 gold medals, and in addition – in all of the men’s finals there were two Russian fighters competing against each other for the gold medals.
What does this statistic mean for the development of karate as popular type of sports? In my opinion, there are only 2 ways: slow stagnation or even degradation, if everything will remain unchanged. Russian European and World champions are going to be on their own, fighters from different are going to be competing with each other, somewhere way behind the Russian champions with a big handicap. So pretty much both sides won’t really see a reason in improving their skills.
Another way, the way of progressing sports Kyokushin – the work of WFKO.
This organization is trying to create a maximum amount of opportunities for Russian sportsmen and sportsmen from other countries. A calendar with regular events, exchanges of sportsmen and coaches between different federations and countries, reorganization of the whole international structure of contact karate – these are the goals and objectives of WFKO. Yes, they might seem a bit too ambitious. But when Oyama after the First World War started to build the foundation of a new contact karate style, not a single person could have thought that less than in 100 years the amount of followers of this style in going to be more than 12 million.
WFKO and professional Kyokushin
We want to develop contact karate as a popular type of sports. All of the sports literature and experience of other types of sports show – the foundation of any popular sport is its mass (the foundation of pyramid). At the top of this pyramid stand elite sportsmen, which attract new enthusiasts. And those people who come – they expand the foundation of our pyramid. This “geometric figure” is backed up with the help if TV companies and financial investors who usually work closely together.
The organization of professional WFKO tournaments can allow us to solve one more important problem. If karate as a martial art traditionally was a “closed” fight club, we decided to take a different path in this question.
We think that today’s situation in international contact karate is harmful and unacceptable, when big international Kyokushin federations not only do not cooperate with each other, or help each other in the development of sports karate, but they also forbid their sportsmen to compete in tournaments of other federations.
Professional WFKO tournaments are open for all schools and directions of contact karate. Elite sportsmen, which are invited to compete in tournaments like this already won all imaginable and unimaginable titles in amateur Kyokushinkai fights. We can offer such sportsmen their second sports youth – professional fights. For such sportsmen there won’t be any limitations and restrictions from international amateur federations.
The fragmentation of international contact karate in stylistic directions and countries, lack of professional financing and media work with TV companies and other mass media, the absence of a calendar of international and national competitions – these are the three whales on which “shakes” todays Kyokushinkai. An interesting and entertaining sport, which could have been and should be an Olympic sport is stagnating, although there all preconditions for its rapid progression.
Created a year ago, on New Year’s day eve, the World Fighting Kyokushin Organization is sure, that it’s program goals and objectives are the same as common senses of most Kyokushin fans. We want to give maximum opportunities for self-expression in Kyokushin fights both for beginners and already famous world champions. Professional sport always takes amateur sport with it. So we reasonably think that the upcoming year 2015 is going to be the year of the development of professional contact karate and a breakthrough in the development of Kyokushinkai as a sport in general.
The President of WFKO, 4th Dan Kyokushinkai,