Some people are upset whenever art becomes sport on a scale as grand as the Olympics. Others are pleased. In the case of karate, Black Belt Hall of Famer Tokey Hill is among those who are happy. Here's why.

For decades, officials in numerous karate organizations, both international and domestic, have labored to get karate added to the Olympics. Many martial artists thought it would never happen, in part because of redundancy. After all, the Games already have two striking sports (boxing and taekwondo) and a kicking sport (taekwondo). Adding karate sparring, they argued, wouldn’t bring anything new to the event.


Then on August 3, 2016, the International Olympic Committee voted to add karate, along with baseball, skateboarding, surfing and climbing, all in an effort to attract more young people to the Games. Yahoo! Sports reported that the inclusion of karate will bring approximately 80 martial artists from around the world to Tokyo to vie for medals.

Presented here is an interview we did with Black Belt Hall of Famer Tokey Hill, the man at the forefront of the U.S. effort to have karate added to the Olympics. It was conducted several months before the IOC's announcement.

— Editors

Tokey Hill

ART: KARATE

ADDED TO THE OLYMPICS: 2020

EXPERT: Tokey Hill, Black Belt Hall of Famer, former karate world champion

QUESTION: Are you optimistic that karate will become an Olympic event? If it does, will it change the art?

TOKEY HILL: Yes, I think it will be in the Olympics, and that will really change the art. But I like to look at the positive side of the issue. If the Olympic rings are on display at any karate training center, it’s going to have a positive impact and great advertising value. Programs will need to have Olympic accreditation to maintain the highest standards.

This way, it will ensure that an instructor and a dojo have the right technical background and knowledge. I talk with a lot of Olympic Committee members from this country and others, and they all agree on these issues.

QUESTION: If karate becomes part of the 2020 Olympics, will it change from a martial art to a martial sport?

TOKEY HILL: For sure. However, the World Karate Federation, which is recognized by the IOC, is trying to keep the philosophical content of karate as a martial art in its purest form, which means maintaining its traditional background.

QUESTION: Many martial artists are against arts becoming sports, but you seem to be in favor.

TOKEY HILL: As long as we preserve as much tradition as possible — respect, discipline and the core values — it can be a good thing.

QUESTION: Do you think being in the Olympics would boost the popularity of karate overall?

TOKEY HILL: Absolutely. If a country’s national governing body for karate strategically puts in place a public-relations and marketing campaign, it will directly affect karate at the grass-roots level. Of course, that will require proper instructor education.

QUESTION: Would the transformation from art to sport cause karate to lose its lethal fighting techniques?

TOKEY HILL: Yes and no. However, even people who compete in karate now focus on major strikes that can immobilize an opponent as well as an attacker, and those strikes are not necessarily lethal ones. Most parents take their children to the dojo to learn discipline, self-confidence, character building and self-esteem, all of which makes them pillars in society. And they would still be able to do that.

The small percentage who want their children to become sports champions would have what they want, too. Karate can serve as a self-defense system with or without lethal techniques. All forms of karate are great as long as they’re taught with the right values.

SPECIAL POST-ANNOUNCEMENT UPDATE!

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on yesterday's announcement from the International Olympic Committee?

TOKEY HILL: It is a historic moment. Our sport has finally achieved acceptance into the 2020 Olympic Games. This is a victory for all the past generation’s leaders, sensei, athletes, officials, organizers and volunteers who worked endlessly for this dream to become a reality. Now, this victory belongs to athletes and future generations — and how they will honor the opportunities that lay before them.

QUESTION: Which international karate organization will be running the show?

TOKEY HILL: The World Karate Federation.

QUESTION: Which organization will oversee things in America?

TOKEY HILL: The USA National Karate-do Federation.

QUESTION: Will the karate competition at the 2020 Games include kumite, kata and weapons?

TOKEY HILL: Kumite and kata only.

QUESTION: Do you know what your role in all this will be?

TOKEY HILL: For sure, developing athletes as a coach within Team USA. Also, possibly in a technical capacity.

As we get closer to 2020, Black Belt will publish more in-depth looks at Olympic karate, as well as additional comments from karate leaders.

SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Talks About Being a Smaller Fighter in a Combat Sport Ruled by Giants

At first glance, most people — most martial artists, even — will zero in on the smaller person in any fight and deem him or her to be at a distinct disadvantage. It's a natural tendency to draw this conclusion based on obvious attributes such as height, weight and reach. However, that tendency does not always lead to accurate conclusions.

Keep Reading Show less
Dana Abbott LIVE Seminar

Black Belt presents this LIVE training seminar with Shihan Dana Abbot 7th degree black belt in Kenjutsu training in Japanese Swordsmanship.

The Chinese Wushu Association, the primary governing body for Chinese-style martial arts in that nation, has released a statement declaring martial arts practitioners should refrain from calling themselves "masters" or the head of a style. The organization also seemed to indicate that practitioners should not participate in staged public fights.

The decrees apparently come in response to a series of public humiliations alleged traditional Chinese martial arts masters have suffered in challenge matches against mixed martial artist Xu Xiaodong and other modern trained combat sports fighters. Xu ignited a firestorm of controversy when video of his 2017 demolition of "thunder style" tai chi exponent Wei Lei in an MMA fight went viral on Youtube.

If you're a Bruce Lee fan and or want to learn about his philosophy and liniage, these 3 books are a must have!

Out of many of Bruce Lee's amazing published books that are out there, we have chosen to narrow it down to these 3.

The Tao of Jeet Kune Do Expanded Edition

Compiled from Bruce Lee's notes and essays and originally published in 1975, this iconic volume is one of the seminal martial arts guides of its time. The science and philosophy behind the fighting system Lee pioneered himself—jeet kune do—is explained in detail, depicted through hundreds of Lee's own illustrations. With the collaboration of Lee's daughter, Shannon, and Bruce Lee Enterprises, this new edition is expanded, updated, and remastered, covering topics such as Zen and enlightenment, kicking, striking, grappling, and footwork. Featuring an introduction by Linda Lee, this is essential reading for any practitioner, offering a brief glimpse into the mind of one of the world's greatest martial artists.

Keep Reading Show less
Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter