We must never forget what history tells us, which is that in almost all cases the tolerance of “harmless” political corruption of people in pursuit of more power lays the foundation for eventual financial corruption “as a way of doing business”. In other words corruption that does not involve money but mere “power-grabbing” eventually graduates to becoming corruption that does involve money and more “power-grabbing” (History-Sociology-Politics of World Karate Federation and Euro kumite -Chapter 11)
It was alleged recently that Lamin Diack (an IOC member) was involved in financial corruption within the IOC. There is also evidence that extremely corrupt sports organizations are affiliated to the IOC. We recently talked to Dr Ravee Raghavan – Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers the State University of New Jersey – about these allegations. Thanks Dr. Raghavan for this interview
As you may have heard in the news, WKF’s Karate has been listed by Tokyo 2020 organizers as one of the five proposed sports. A final choice will need to be approved by IOC. What is the likelihood of the WKF representing the sport in these Olympics?
The whole history of our 3 failed efforts to get into the Olympics is detailed in Chapter 9 of my 2009 book. Where rival sports presented a united strategy with the bigger picture of recognition in mind, the WKF leadership had more narrow agendas of personal gratification. Poor and corrupt leadership played into the hands of those in the IOC who needed the excuse of “disunity” to keep us out. Unfortunately in the crucial years for us, Un Yong Kim of the WTF was also #2 man in the IOC-Executive Committee/EC. As an international federation we were divided (a legacy of the Nishiyama era when the WUKO-WKF vs AIKF-ITKF struggle for control of the world karate movement was a crucial setback) facing a powerful enemy in Un Yong Kim from within the IOC, every time the issue of Olympic recognition came up. So we were doomed by insider manipulation and disunity within the world karate movement. At this point in time it does not matter who controls the WKF. It is more important that we get into the Olympics, but of course a united front will help the campaign. A lot will depend on the extent to which the JOC (Japan Olympic Committee), and behind the scene billionaire Sasagawa Jr. are willing to push for karate. There is much talk that the old men of Japanese martial art circles prefer that judo carries the lone torch of Japanese arts in the Olympics, but their power has waned and Sasagawa money will win the day if he chooses to fight tooth and nail for us. My hope that we will get in is essentially cautious optimism. I want that we get in so badly that I am willing to forget all past failures and engage in a new dream for all of us. For too long karate has been unfairly kept out, even though by IOC admission we are a top 10 sport that caters to youth (an IOC focus that brought us the Youth Olympic Games). My main concern is that I do not see evidence of the WKF leadership engaged in a world-wide campaign to get us past the finishing line successfully.
In your book, you said; Antonio Espinos became a president of WKF in 1998, because there was an agreement between two Antonios, one Antonio Samaranch, the president of IOC at that time and another, one Antonio Espinos, current president of WKF, both from Spain. What is the story behind of these personal guarantees which you have mentioned in your book?
On page 256 of my book I say clearly that in the final analysis a common name and nationality (Antonio Samaranch/IOC and Antonio Espinos/WKF) was not enough to help us through the recognition game. The story was that Samaranch found Delcourt too arrogant in his “demand” for IOC recognition of the WKF, and that entry into the IOC for the WKF as the sole international federation for sports karate will depend on a change in leadership (of course there was some truth to Delcourt’s arrogance but to be fair to him, he was tired after years of trying, plus this story gave a big boost to Espinos’ presidential aspirations, and so some suspect that he may have spread the rumor). Whatever one may say of the long years of Delcourt’s reign, he was the man who internationalized karate by wresting it away from “suffocating”Japanese controls.
Dr Raghavan, the IOC is no stranger to discrimination: there is documented evidence of the official correspondence between the International Taekwondo Federation and the International Olympic Committee which clearly shows how the ITF never stood a chance of gaining IOC recognition when its opponent was the World Taekwondo Federation. How did the International Taekwondo Federation lose that battle?
Yes the ITF under General Choi was a larger world organization, but the WTF had better KOC/Govt (Korean Olympic Committee) connections. The fact that the ITF was based in Toronto did not help and General Choi’s North Korean connections were exploited by the KCIA to discredit the ITF. In the end General Choi conceded to the WTF to form a united front for Olympic recognition of TKD, initially as a demo sport and then as an official event. So while the WKF and ITKF fought like there was no tomorrow for sole IOC recognition of their respective organizations, the Koreans united, and with the help of IOC insider Un Yong Kim/WTF, won the struggle. So it was very magnanimous of General Choi to concede a front role for the ITF, unite with the WTF and win IOC recognition.
Karate is a divided sport. At least three other popular Sport Karate Federations are organising events worldwide. There are also many other traditional Japanese Karate style federations such as Shotokan, Kyukushin and Goju-ryu that are excluded from WKF. WKF’s 21.9 statute discriminates within Karate bodies which is in direct opposition to the sport of the Olympics. How can the sport of Karate under WKF be recognized by the IOC in its current form?
Yes karate is a divided sport, thanks largely to international style-karate politics. Remember that the WKF is not a style based organization. It is an organization composed of national federations, an idea new to karate in Japan. Within many national federations there are style-based member national karate organizations. After the death of post WWII style karate heads, there were breakaways such as in Funakoshi’s Shotokan organization (one of which came to be known as JKA under Nakayama’s leadership, which in turn has split into many groups led by JKA seniors, such as Okazaki, Kanazawa etc). In Shito-ryu it is the same story after the death of Kenwa Mabuni in1952, as it was with Goju and Wado ryu after their leaders died. Federation non-style karate is new especially to Japan, as in the initial years the Japanese national federation FAJKO was essentially style-based. The late Manzo Iawata of Shito-kai was very prominent in the Japanese national federation then FAJKO (became JKF). While less of a problem in kumite, judging the katas from different styles was a problem in the early years of international competition. Under the WKF this is not a problem anymore as they have standardized the kata versions for competition. As far as kumite is concerned, style is a thing of the past, largely due to the non-style European kumite competition scene (Dutch Open, Paris Open, Helsinki Open, Madrid Open etc) that have come to dominate world karate competition since WUKO-2 of Paris. Personally even though I am from Shito-ryu karate, style is a thing of the past for me, as we have all learned to learn from each other, especially from the elite fighters. Since I came to study at Sorbonne U in Paris in 1968, I saw a beauty and value in the brotherhood of karatekas from all styles. I have never turned back. Styles tended to divide us with unjustified claims of superiority. When style-karate faded into the background, karate truly became an international sport and not merely a Japanese one. Remember for us to become an Olympic sport we must be an international sport, even though in many cases the process for Olympic recognition has been circumvented by the power of politics and money.
So it is right for a truly international organization to reject style-based organizations. The place for style-based karate is at the national level and even this is dying, including in Japan, where increasingly style karate is limited to the dojos. If the WKF accepts style-based associations, then it will be fraught with many organizations claiming to be the legitimate leader of that style, and this will lead us nowhere. The ego of style-heads must be curtailed for the greater good of a sense of karate brotherhood for all.
The problem with the WKF is not that they prevent entry of style-based international organizations, but that heads of national federations have relinquished their duty of ensuring that democracy prevails in the management of the WKF, and instead they have engaged in power politics in support of the President. The President in true Machiavellian fashion has played some against others and held on to power. For a few small rewards (such as free travel and luxury hotel accommodations) and false “fear” (such as discrimination against their athletes and referees) many presidents of member national federations have colluded to change the WKF constitution for greater Presidential authority. In doing this they have turned the EC of the WKF into a body composed entirely of Presidential picks. Let me remind you that this is a copy of what is permitted in the IOC Charter, that after elections, members of the IOC are employees of the IOC, and do not in any way represent national Olympic Federations(NOCs). Here you have it. Yes the WKF must be democratic in all her structures and processes but heads of national federations have failed in their sacred duty of ensuring this by colluding with Presidential decree, for small rewards thrown their way. I have news for you, every IOC sport is riddled with corrupt practices, financial and otherwise and nothing happens to them except now with the giant of them all FIFA, largely due to an American Justice Department initiative that is geo-politically motivated (and never forgetting the tireless efforts and revelations of Andrew Jennings of IOC/FIFA corruption). Sports is big money and a source of big corruption. Power is accumulated to eventually reap monetary benefits. In the WKF, we who are in national federations are to blame for what happens at the international level. Blame the English Karate Federation and all the others around the world for allowing Espinos to do as he pleases. Look at the EC members, many of whom are from small unknown places, who don’t even practice karate, but serve as excellent YES men and Women.
In the early 1990s, a Yakuza man, Kunio Tatsuno appears to have helped resolve the problem of Karate in favour of WKF. You have also named William Millerson in your book who was acting with Yakuza men. Millerson has been a Vice-President of the WKF for many years. At the same time, the Japan Karate Federation and the WKF had significant financial support from the late Ryochi Sasagawa. His son still remains untouchable as president of JKF and lobbyist for WKF Karate inside Japan. There are also some other mafia-like characters such as Alexei Petrov, the Bulgarian current President of the WKF’s Balkan federation, operating in the sport of Karate. What can one conclude from these dubious, scandalous influences on Karate?
I am sure you have the details of chapter on WKFs “mafia”/WW2 Japanese war criminal connections, starting with WUKOs Hon. President billionaire Ryochi Sasagawa and now his son. Tatsuno suddenly appeared on the scene from nowhere to be the go-between WUKO-WKF/Delcourt and ITKF/Nishiyama. He promised money to certain national and other continental federations to support his program/organization (World Karate Promotion Fund/WKPF). Respectable national federations lined up for his promises of money such as the Pan-American Federation under Millerson as well as others like Switzerland, South Africa, Slovenia and many others. In some cases Tatsuno never paid up in full as his premature yakuza-style execution made sure of this. Yes I am aware of the Bulgarian Petrov and the appointment to the Balkan Karate Federation, and in fact have mentioned it in new material I have added to a postscript chapter around the recent suspension/resignation of long time WKF/EKF Secretary General Yerolimpos. Remember, all Presidents except Greece/Yerolimpos of the Balkan Karate Federation supported shady – Petrov’s election, but then again he was a leading Bulgarian politician. Karate’s association with shady criminal characters is a tradition that goes back to Japan and her right-wing political scene of today. Espinos’ involvement in the karate politics of India for money, is also now emerging. So this association with evil is nothing new, both in Japan and other WKF groups world-wide. Conclusion-that karate attracts both the good, bad and ugly, but mostly the latter two. I have met many and I am sure you have too. They stand in front of unsuspecting students and preach lofty ideals of courage, justice and all, but in their own daily lives are kings and queens of vile deception.
According to the information on CAS website, CAS was created in 1984 and is placed under the administrative and financial authority of the international Council of Arbitration for Sport. Vice president of IOC is John Coates, who is also president of CAS. Don’t you think that CAS ought to be independent of IOC?
Yes this man Coates is a glaring example of the IOCs double-talk. This is a pure conflict of interest situation, being in IOC and CAS at the same time. CAS was set up within the IOC and then set apart from it, precisely to prevent a conflict of interest arising to damage her image of impartiality. CAS is the only international agency of recourse we have for sports related injustices. They have stopped Espinos from a near injustice done to the Slovak Karate Union/SKU (check TAS 2003/A/443) and yet few in karate who have been victimized have resorted to using it thereafter. English karate circles went through a mess, and I recommended they appeal to CAS, but they chose not to. Same for Yerolimpos. I do not understand. The few who stood up to Espinos in Bremen like Italy, Iran,Greece,Singapore, China have all chosen to keep quiet, instead of joining hands and submitting a class action suit to CAS.
Dr Ravee Raghavan, thank you so much again for talking with SportsEmic
SportsEmic editorial team – Puerto Rico – 2015
Tag – IOC