Ryutaro Araga earns a bronze medal in the men’s kumite over-75 kg division, with other matches also providing excitement for fans worldwide.

Paul Martin, for JAPAN Forward

It is often said that, “The samurai haven’t existed for over a hundred and fifty years,” but the samurai existence still permeates Japan to this day. Japan’s baseball team is called Samurai Japan, the soccer team, Samurai Blue, and the rugby team a little more abstract, the Brave Blossoms, referring to the cherry blossoms often associated with the ephemeral life of the samurai.

This year for the first time, the world’s samurai gathered on center stage at the Nippon Budokan to battle it out in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. After two days of exciting displays of kata (forms) and combat, Saturday, August 7 was the final day of events featuring the men’s and women’s heavyweight kumite (fighting) categories.

Unfortunately, karate will not be included in the 2024 Paris Olympics, and its future as an Olympic sport is uncertain. However, on this occasion, it certainly did not look out of place. Although, there is obviously room for improvement. The men’s and women’s team kumite and kata events were noticeably absent and probably took away a large element of excitement and appeal of the overall event.

Additionally, the changes in rules in order to gain inclusion into the Olympics have changed the face of karate. Some of the changes were for the better promotion/understanding of the sport, but some were not.

The merging of the lower weight categories was an obvious disadvantage to the competitors from the lowest weight category. There are other aspects of the rules that have tried to keep the action going for the viewers, but actually seems to have detracted from the spirit and technical aspects of karate.

Egypt’s Feryal Abdelaziz (left) and Azerbaijan’s Iryna Zaretska compete in their women’s over-61 kg gold-medal bout. (AP/Vincent Thian) / courtesy of © JAPAN Forward

Highlights of Women’s Over-61 Kg Kumite (Heavyweight) Division

The preliminary rounds of both pools were very hotly contested.

From Pool A, Asian Karate Championships silver medalist Sofya Berultseva of Kazakhstan (5-5, 5-1, 5-4, 1-5) and reigning European and world kumite champion at under-68 kg Iryna Zaretska of Azerbaijan (4-1, 3-2, 4-5, 4-0) emerged as the victors of the group.

From Pool B, China’s Li Gong (0-4, 4-0, 1-1, 8-4), and Egypt’s Feryal Abdelaziz, the 2020 African Karate Championships’ U-68 kg gold medalist, (0-4, 3-3, 7-9, 0-0) won through to the semifinals.


By - grape Japan editorial staff.