sensei rich

Takashi Sasagawa, the Japanese billionaire, is urging the Tokyo 2020 organisers to include WKF karate in the 2020 Olympic Games. If the WKF is successful, it will be devastating for the millions of Squash and Baseball athletes world-wide, who will be excluded from participating in their respective sports, as WKF karate is not nearly as popular as Squash, Baseball or even Kyukushin and Shotokan karate.

Generally speaking, karate is suffering from great disunity which dates  from 1983 when the IOC identified Sport and Traditional Karate as the two distinct disciplines of karate….

Recently we were in Canada with Mr Richard Jorgensen, the President of the International Traditional Karate Federation and we asked him to elaborate on past and current issues. We were grateful for the opportunity of this interview and we put the following questions to him:
Mr Jorgensen, why did the IOC president Mr Samaranch declare unilateral recognition of the WKF in December 1998, based on a meeting of the executive board? 

First of all, I am not certain that his decision was based on an Executive Board meeting or decision.  I had met with some members of the Executive Board at the time of their meeting and had been assured that there had been no change in the position of the IOC – that is, there could not be recognition of WKF without unification with ITKF.  I was very surprised to see a letter from the IOC President Samaranch that fundamentally changed that position.  When I re-connected with some of the Executive Board members that I had met at this meeting, it was indicated to me that this subject was not part of the Board discussion.  So the situation is very confusing.  What can be confirmed fact is that the subject was before CAS at the time he took this decision and previously the 101st Session of the IOC had removed WKF recognition and required unification with ITKF before it would consider any further recognition.  This makes the action of President Samaranch completely unilateral and outside the normal process of IOC.
Who gave authority to President Samaranch to recognise the WKF as a world-governing body?

This is the confusing point.  I cannot answer the question of who gave him the authority to take this action.  In the IOC Congress that followed his unilateral decision – which was in June, 1999 (he took his decision in December, 1998), the issue was still before CAS – but he still proceeded to ask the IOC Congress to adopt his position.  I believe this is contrary to the rules of the IOC itself, as CAS had not rendered its decision.  One has to question why he took this action because the whole matter was before the Court of Arbitration.  It makes a mockery out of CAS and its authority.  None-the-less, these are the facts that have been ignored by the IOC.

Did the ITKF protest about this action with Mr Samaranch and every subsequent new IOC President? 
Of course.  But, if the President of the IOC is going to ignore his organization’s own rules and processes – why would he listen to the ITKF? The entire situation is unacceptable – not just to ITKF and all of the Karate practitioners – but to all sport.  Such behaviour creates the opportunity for whimsical decisions.  It creates an environment where we are expected to follow a very strict protocol to participate in the IOC guided sport structure around the world – but the IOC can ignore that protocol at any moment, based on a single President’s own thought.  This is not how a fair structure operates.  Can you imagine the outcry from the IOC if one of its recognized sports published its rules of competition and then during the competition arbitrarily changed its entire competition.  Let’s say the rules are basketball – but the actual competition is held under volleyball rules.  While that may seem a ludicrous example – that is what has happened here.

Each time we protest, we are referred to the WKF for satisfaction.  That is like a prisoner being referred to his jailer to listen to an appeal.  It doesn’t make any sense.  WKF has sent out warnings to its National Federation members not to cooperate with ITKF or face suspension.  How can unification happen in such an environment?

At the 101st session of the IOC, the IOC outlined a process for unification to take place. Do you remember the date of 101st session? And what happened next?

The 101st Session was held in Monaco in 1993.  I was in Monaco lobbying for unification.  It was at that session that WKF (WUKO) had its recognition removed and the requirement of unification with ITKF was instilled.  The IOC Judicial Commission sent a set of principles with the requirement that they be included in a unification constitution.  The IOC Judicial Committee suggested a new name for the new organization be used.  That name was World Karate Federation. At a subsequent meeting with ITKF hosted by the IOC at IOC headquarters, WUKO announced that it had changed its name to World Karate Federation (WKF).  I was at that meeting and was incredulous as it usurped the entire process of unification.  As a result, the IOC approved the formation of a Joint Working Committee with two representatives from each of ITKF and WUKO.

What were the aims of forming the Joint Working Committee? Who was in the Joint Working Committee? Do you remember their names?

The Joint Working Committee had, as its task, the creation of a draft Unification Constitution.  The Working Committee included the General Secretary of ITKF, Mr. Michael Crowe; the General Secretary of WUKO, Mr. Mano; and, a member at large from each of ITKF and WUKO.  The ITKF selection was Mr. Sinha from India who was an ITKF Board member and the WUKO selection was Mr. Abdulla from South Africa who was a Vice President of WUKO at the time.

I was the Chairman of the Unification Committee for ITKF and worked behind the scenes with the ITKF President, Sensei Nishiyama and the General Secretary, Mr. Michael Crowe.  We met with WUKO President Jacques Delcourt many times.

The Joint Working Committee completed its task in 1996.  The agreement was to present the draft unification Constitution to the respective World Congress of ITKF and WUKO.  I presented it to the World Congress of ITKF in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1996.  It was accepted as a Constitution of unification unanimously by ITKF members.  Mr. Abdulla was to submit it to the WUKO Congress – he never did.  The President of WUKO, Jacques Delcourt, forbid its appearance or discussion claiming that Mr. Abdulla had no authority to negotiate this work.  Indeed, he tried to have Mr. Abdulla suspended from WUKO.  It was at this Congress that Mr. Antonio Espinos became President of WKF (ex-WUKO). Mr. Espinos is from Spain as was President Samaranch.

The unification matter was put to CAS in 1998. Please tell us more about what resulted from this.

The process of CAS was derailed because of the unilateral decision of President Samaranch.  However, ITKF had asked for clarification from CAS as to whether or not they had authority over this matter.  It did so because the CAS decision rendered previously had never been implemented (unification) and ITKF was concerned that the same thing would happen again.  That is, any decision of CAS would never be enforced.  Within ten days following the IOC Congress support of the unilateral decision taken by President Samaranch to recognize WKF, CAS rendered its decision that it did indeed have the authority over this matter.  Was this coincidence?

The question that has never been adequately answered for me concerning this decision is whether the NOC members who voted at the IOC Congress were confused by the information.  Did the fact that WUKO changed its name to WKF confuse the vote?  The name WKF was synonymous with the unification document circulated by the IOC Judicial Commission.  It was the name proposed by the IOC Judicial Commission for a new unified world federation for karate.  It would have been the name that IOC President Samaranch used in his proposal to Congress.  One has to ask the question as to whether using the name WUKO would have made a difference.  Regardless, it was outside of the normal procedure of IOC.

The unification of karate has become a particularly urgent and important issue, because the IOC may now consider whether to include the WKF in the Olympics. Have you tried to open new negotiations with Antonio Espinos, WKF’s president?

ITKF has always negotiated unification in good faith.  However, history and evidence shows that the same is not true for WKF.  I was part of the first delegation to the IOC Court of Arbitration for Sport in 1986.  I was an active participant in every negotiation and meeting with WUKO’s President, Mr. Delcourt and, I have written continuously to WKF President, Mr. Espinos.  I have never received a single response from Mr. Espinos.  To me, this shows he has no regard for unification – he only has regard for his own power.  In 2013, representatives of Kyokushin approached me as the President of ITKF.  They had a similar story of discrimination as WKF refused to support their bid for inclusion in the Combat Games in Sochi.

It was at that moment that I realized unification was possible without WKF and I began the work to contact others to form United World Karate (UWK).  Now, we are going to hold our first United World Karate Championships in Koper, Slovenia October 12 – 18.  It will be the first time that the distinct disciplines of Traditional Karate, General Karate and Contact Karate will be presented as part of the same Competition platform.  It will be an outstanding and historic event and proves that unification is possible with open minds and determined people.  “United As One” is the theme of our competition and I think that is a good summary of what is possible.

Mr. Espinos recently bragged that there are 100 million karate practitioners world-wide and that 10 million of them were members of WKF.  To me that says that WKF only represents 10% of the karate practiced.  They have no right to claim they represent ALL karate!  They only represent a small sliver of karate world-wide.  It is time the IOC wakes up and supports other equally important karate sport.
In one word, do you think you have been discriminated against by the IOC?

If I have to choose one word – I would say greed.  But there are really three words.  Greed, power and intolerance.

Sensei Richard, thanks again for talking with SportsEmic


SportsEmic editorial team – Canada 22.Sep.2015


2 Responses

  1. I have read the article from Mr. Jorgensen and I can state that although I agree with much of the content, I don;t agree with all the facts, there are issued that have not been stated in this article that are crucial to why the ITKF is not part of the unity and why the IOC accepted the WKF unilaterally, but as we are united in setting the record straight it is imperative that karate is included in the Olympics only once all karate is included in the unity process and have the ability to be part of the initiative that is unilaterally pursued by the WKF. Also the Kyokushinkai group (the majority) is still left out of the karate fraternity and are not included properly in any group but rather have decided to move on their own in the Kyokushinkai World Union which is actually representing Kyokushinkai krate world-wide. I guess the we (myself and Mr. Sinha) will publish the truth in a very days time. Imtiaz Abdulla Executive Chairman of the United World Karate Federation (UWKF)

  2. Imtiaz Abdulla

    I have seen and read the contents of this article and I must say that not everything is entirely correct from the submission given by Mr. Rick Jorgenssen. I was the person that was resposnible for this unity and I wish to make this submission for the sake of clarity and to get the karate world to understand what happened.
    After numerous attempts by both the ITKF and the WKF (then WUKO) before my appearing on the scene in 1989 and taking the lead after being appointed into the WKF Directing Committee in Cairo Egypt in 1992 it was really unimaginable to me that these two organiozations could not come to an agreement. What I heard and researched was clearly for me a clsh of personalities and especially those of Europe and any other part of the World. In 1992 at the WUKO congress in Granada, Spian there was already a mini revolt brewing spear-heaed by a very ambitious Spanish Karate President Antonio Espinos, at this Congress Mr. Sasagawa Senior gave all power to Jacques delcourt, previous to this Delcourt was Chairman and Sasagawa President. This put power into the hands of the Europeans, and Decourt was appointed President. At this time the WUKO now WKF was working fine and the harmoney and comradery without the organization was phenomental. It is this undercurrent in 1992 that started the power fight for the control of the World Karate Federation as we know it today. in 1993 anextra Ordinary Congress was called during the World Cup in Algiers, Algeria and the Congress was informed of the changing of the name from World Union of Karate Organization (WUKO) to World Karate Federation(WKF) without the inclusion of the ITKF, the reasons given was that the ITKF had rejected unity and was invited to attend this Congress but refused, this is the second manipulation from the Espinos group which included removed General Secretray George Yerolimpos, at this event ceertain unethical things happened whereby the Algerian Karate Federation accused Mr. Yerolimpos of certain acts, that were not proven and they asked for him to be suspened pending a full investigation, but this did not transpire as Yerolimpos and his friends fought to dismiss these allegation, these allegations was of a personal nature. It was clear from this event that there was developingf two distinct groups within the WKF, one wanting unification and another resisting unification. The arguement of the group not wanting unity was that the ITKF must diband and join the WUKOP) and not a unification on an equal basis. Now remember in 1989 karate lost its recognition from the IOC, it had provisional recognition and the IOC resolved that beacause two karate organization existed that because unity had failed that they will remove karate’a recognition, but gave karate a chnace to reconsider their postion and they drafted:-
    WITH A VIEW TO ITS RECOGNITION United Karate which will coined World Karate Federation . At the 101st Session of the IOC in Monte Carle in 1991 this unification document was produced a s a road map for this unification.
    The IOC then directed both bodies to dtart the unification negotaiation again and a veryexperienced IOC member and jurist Judge Keba Mbaye a Senegalese lawyer and jurist was asked to formulate a suggested statutes as a base document for the unification to be achieved.

    See re-producted doument which is self explanatory from IOC in 1985

    215 32 71 172/73 24024 CID CIO LAUSANNE

    Mr. Hidetaka NISHIYAMA
    Executive Director
    International Amateur Karate Federation
    1930 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1208
    LOS ANGELES / California 90057, United States
    Lausanne, 29th March 1985

    Ref. no.4066/85

    Re : IOC recognition of Karate

    Dear Mr. Nishiyama,
    As you are aware, a meeting of the IOC Commission for the Programme was held on 25th-26th March 1985 in Lausanne.

    May I remind you that the task of the Commission for the Programme with regard to IOC recognition is purely technical: the Commission considers whether an international federation complies with IOC standards and criteria as laid down by the “Olympic Charter”.

    The Commission for the Programme acknowledges that the sport of Karate complies with IOC criteria and the federations with IOC standards, and therefore maintains its positive recommendation to the recognition of Karate. However, IOC rules stipulate that there can be only one governing body in the world per sport, a strict condition of IOC recognition.

    The existence of two international federations, each with different technical rules, is therefore a question beyond the further consideration of the Commission for the Programme, which has decided not to include the recognition of Karate on its agenda until there is only one International Federation governing the sport.

    The Commission is of course willing to be of assistance should you require further advice.

    Yours sincerely,

    Vitaly SMIRNOV
    Commission for the Programme

    It was this document that was discussed at the 11th (WUKO) World Karate Championships in Granada Spain and it was this document that started the shinenigans in the WUKO and ITKF.
    After much debate and after the 1st World championships under the new name World Karate Federation (previously WUKO) the 12th World Karate Championships was hosted by Malaysia in Kota Kinabalu, wher for the first time the statues of the IOC as developed in 1991 was used to elect a new Diercting Committee of the World Karate Federation it took into consideration all the dictates of the Notes of unification and the statues were adopted 1 year ago in Algiers, Algeria ion its entirety. The statutes obvious called for:-

    1. Principles concerning the name, vocation, legal status, seat, objects, official and subsidiary languages, certain definitions and the settlement of disputes

    1.1. Name:
    World Karate Federation (WKF); in French: Federation Mondiale du Karate (F.M.K.).
    The WKF is the result of the merger of the WUKO and the ITKF.
    Its statutes, although based on those of the WUKO, shall respect the principles set out in the present note which duly takes into account the rules of justice which must prevail in the above-mentioned merger of the two federations.

    1.2. Vocation:
    To administer on a world scale all forms of karate. The WKF must be apolitical and permit no discrimination.

    1.3. Legal status:
    Non-profit-making international non-governmental organization of unlimited duration, in the form of an association endowed with a juridical personality.

    1.4. Seat:
    Paris. Transfer possible upon decision of the Executive Committee of the WKF. (EC).

    1.5. Objects:
    The mission of the WKF is to train athletes and develop their mental and physical health throughout the world by securing their participation in international karate activities. The WKF seeks to encourage good relations between its member federations and their athletes around the world.

    Inter alias, the objects of the WKF are:

    1. To promote cordial and friendly relations between its members and to supervise karate activities all over the world;

    2. To protect the interests of karate throughout the world;

    3. To organize karate throughout the world and to develop and promulgate the techniques and spirit of the karatedo (way of karate) ;

    4. To establish the international technical rules of karate;

    5. To organize world karate championships in collaboration with the member federations and continental unions. The right to organize world championships and other international meetings shall be granted only to such countries as are able to receive all the participants on their territory;

    6. To get karate accepted in the Olympic Games and all other continental Games.

    1.6. Official and subsidiary languages:

    The official languages of the WKF are French and English.

    In the case of divergence between the English and French texts, the French text shall prevail; if the subject of such divergence refers to the sport or technique of karate, reference shall be made to the original Japanese text.

    The subsidiary languages are Spanish, German, Arabic and Japanese.

    At Congresses, simultaneous translation shall be provided in French, English and Spanish.

    1.7. Definitions:
    Karate: all sports activities governed by the WKF; within the WKF, those sports activities which were practised under the control of the former ITKF are more specifically designated as “traditional karate”.

    Country: any state, country, territory or part to territory which the WKF considers, at its total discretion as an area of jurisdiction of a National Federation which it recognizes. The name of a National Federation must correspond to its territorial limits and the tradition of its country, and must be approved by the WKF.

    1.8. Disputes:

    Any dispute arising from the application or interpretation of the statutes of the WKF to which the parties cannot reach an amicable settlement shall be settled exclusively and finally by a Panel constituted pursuant to the Statutes and Regulations of arbitration of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The parties undertake to comply with the provisions of the said Statutes and Regulations and to execute in good faith the award pronounced.

    2. Principles relating: to members and affiliations

    2.1. Those National Federations (NF) admitted in such capacity may be members of the WKF.
    2.2. An NF is an organization, endowed with a juridical personality, which in its country governs all forms of karate, namely forms of karate other than traditional karate as well as traditional karate.
    2.3. The admission and exclusion of members of the WKF falls within the jurisdiction of the Congress.
    Provisional admission may be decided by the EC, subject to ratification by the Congress.
    2.4. In those countries where there is an NF governing all forms of karate the WKF will admit a single NF as a member.
    2.5. In those countries where there is no single NF governing all forms of karate, the WKF may recognize a maximum of two NFs, one governing forms of karate other than traditional karate, and the other governing traditional karate.
    2.6. Those NFs governing all forms of karate will be designated as “KT Members”.

    Those NFs governing forms of karate other than traditional karate will be designated as “K Members”.
    Those NFs governing traditional karate will be designated as “T Members” .
    KT members, K members and T members constitute three distinct categories of membership. All the rights and obligations of all KT, K and T members within the WKF are equal, subject solely to the exceptions expressly provided in the statutes of the WKF.
    2.7. All members of the WKF are obliged to comply with its statutes.
    2.8. The NFs may be members of regional or continental unions or associations of NFs in order to participate in and supervise the organization of regional or continental karate competitions, including in the context of regional or continental games. The WKF may recognize such regional or continental unions or associations, such recognition in no way affecting the right of the WKF to deal directly with each NF and vice versa.

    3. Principles relating to World Championships in Karate other international competitions and eligibility
    3.1. The WKF is the sole organization in the world qualified to organize world karate championships which are its exclusive property; world karate championships must include traditional karate events.
    3.2. The WKF may organize other international karate competitions, including traditional karate.
    3.3. The WKF determines the eligibility conditions applicable to the participants in all international karate competitions, including world championships.

    4. Principles relating to organization, the organs of the WKF and decisions.
    4. 1. The organs of the WKF are:

    – The Congress;
    – The Executive Committee (EC);
    – The President.

    It is important to highlight these sections because if you read propoerly you will find that the WKF had to include K – Karate which is what was practiced by WUKO and T- Karate which ws practiced by ITKF, so it is clear that the World Karate Federation had to include Traditional Karate under the ITKF and General Karate which is under WUKO and it was the unification of these to entities that would have formed the World Karate Federation- and this was not done, however what was done by Wuko was to chnage its name to WKF and announce to trhe World that unification was achieved.
    Anyway after the 1993 accep[tance of the IOC statutes by the WUKO in Algiers, Algeria a very important Congress was held in Jota Kinabalu in 1994, it was here that the WKF elected all position as per the 101st Statutes of the WKF, I was elected Vice President together with Antonio Espinos, so we were elected as equals as the Statutues asked for a Vice President from T which I was elected to and one for K which Antonio Espinos as elected to, It was also in this Congress that the purging of Delcourts supporters and those that wanted unity was undertaking by Mr. Espinos and his cronies. Prominent karate politricians we purged from the WKF , Fritz Frendland, President: H.R.H Prince Adan CZARTORYSKI – BORBON, Paul Hoglund, Yamaoka, George Anderson, the “old guard” and the ashering in of a very ambitious and power hungary new guard lead by Espinos. It was also at this Congress that South Africa was asked to take teh 12th World Championships as Algeria could not guarantee security as they were on the brink of a civil war. South Africa has 2 years to prepare and hosting a successful World Championships after 14 years of isolation from World Karate because of Apartheid.
    WUKO had a very cosy relationship with Apartheid South Africa as they supported them taking part in their events, I was instrumental in putting pressure through our political channels in exile in 1992 when the South African team was forced to withdraw and the African lobby pushed to not allow South Africa to take part during the Taiwan World Championships. Taiwan and South Africa had a very good relationships and they were in favour of South Africa participating as n ally country, against the ANC relationship with communist China. But, we prevailed and got South Africa out. What is inetresting in 1996 in Long Beach it was WUKo that allowed South Africa to participate and it was the ITKF that refused South Africa entry but the IOC penalized the ITKF uunderhanddedly.
    n the past fifteen years of IOC President Samaranch’s dictatorial rule of the Olympic organization, the members of the ITKF have suffered a series of injustices including one incident in 1985 that has now repeated itself in 1999.

    In 1985, IOC President Samaranch promoted the recommendation of the WKF (formerly called WUKO) at the Berlin, Germany IOC General Session. The IOC was influenced by an act of deliberate disinformation, in fact, a criminal act, involving a document, which called for action against another karate organization for its support of apartheid in South Africa. The Association of National Olympic Committees in Africa lodged a complaint, which was switched around to accuse the IAKF/ITKF when in fact the ITKF had been praised for its support of the anti-apartheid movement through its athletes.

    These acts have caused tens of millions of dollars in damages to the IAKF.

    So again there was an injustice against the ITKF who stick by their convictions.

    In 1995 a Congress was held in Germany and at this Congress two distant Technical Commission were created one for General Karate and one for Traditional Karate undder the newly announced World Karate Federation fresh from its Malaysian election.
    What must be noted that Antonio Espinos was a coopted members of the Diercting Committee in 1991 like myslf but he assumed leadership in malaysia and administered the whole elections on behalf of Delcourt who did not attaend and allowed Espinos to cult his old allies, and the excuse given was Decourt was sick and Espinos had his mandate, this was a serious mistake by the other members who were much more senior than Espinos and they should have taken the leadership but they failed to do this and Espinos used thisopportunity to take control and he has held it ver since.
    His methodology is very simple he eliminates all opposition, installs “YES” men in his Directing Committee and majority are there without the support of their National Federations. Dome of them are even unemployed individuals who get their income from the WKF, and so does Espinos he is now retired from Dragados a construction company where was an ordinary manager. So karate is a business for these inidivudals and they will fight anyone to retain this “JOB”.
    In 1995 a Congress was held and at this Congress Espinos presented a position that WUKo must stop all unification discussion with ITKF and that the new WKF must go it alone, I opposed this position and I made this clear to him. This was the start of our conflcit. Before this I ws very close Espinos visisted him in Spain and he can to South Africa and our families were also close, with his 1st wife Vicky and my wife quite good friends.
    It was at this time that Soke Kunio Tatsuno appeared on the scene, I was fortunate to accompnay President Delcourt to the ASOIF meeting in Laussane and was a delegate for the WKF at this meeting and met many IOC memberds and asked them why karate was not a full members and why is it that we are not getting the support from the IOC President. I was told by many IOC members that the problems with between Samaranch and Delcourt and if we wanted to get any progress we must look at changiing this situation, I was very taken aback, but did not realize that this was a strategy to get a Spaniard into this poistion. I met Samarch in Gabon in 1997, just befor the Rio WKF Elections at the ANOCA Congress in Gabon, he informed me that he had heard that I was contesting the Presidency of the WKF in RIo, and informed me that he had a meeting with Espinos and Espinos cried in the meeting asking him to please assist him in becoming President of the WKF. You see Spain had no Inetrnational Federation headquarters at that time and it was important that start taking headquarters again and they wanted to pick the low lying fruit and karate was a good target. The problem at that time was Un Yong Kim the Vice Presdent of the IOC and the President of Taekwondo, but the opportunity came after the Salt Lake Winter Olympic scandal which fingered Kim in a serious corruption scandal.

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