High-Flyin’ Karate Spectacle Comes to the Athletic Centre

This article was originally published in The Varsity (page 12) on Jan 27, 1994

by Ray Deonandan

This Sunday at the Athletic Centre, the University of Toronto Karate Club will host Karate Ontario’s third Grand Prix tournament of the season.

It will allow local spectators to see potential members of a future Olympic squad.

The tournament, which starts at 10 a.m., will follow the rules of WUKO (World Union of Karate-Do Organizations), the large international body that will probably bring Karate to the Olympics.

The tournament is separated into two event categories — kata and kumite.

Kata, imprecisely translated from the Japanese to mean “forms,” are pre-arranged, choreographed blocks and attacks, the merits of which are appraised by a panel of judges, much like in figure skating or gymnastics. Scores are based on the rectitude and the rhythm of the movements and on the individual’s interpretation of their meaning.

“Tournaments like this one are a great opportunity to test your skills in a safe environment,” said Steven Watanabe, the club’s president. “It doesn’t matter if you are an expert or a beginner.”

Traditionally, kata served as the memory of a given style of Karate. Developed centuries ago to depict martial concepts and philosophies, kata defines direction and ideology. Often brandishing Hashy names like Bassai (“fortress”) or Tekki (“iron horse”), the kata contain all the basic techniques a student must learn.

Kumite is the sparring spectacle that most people readily associate with the manial arts. In the tournament, a non-contact point system will be used, in which striking the arms and legs does not count, and in which hard contact to the head is forbidden.

“I think new spectators will be impressed by the sport’s lack of violence,” said Watanabe. “People find it surprising that you can hit each other and not be malicious about it.”

The matches may be short (two or three minutes each by stop-watch time), but their intensity and aerobic challenge cannot be doubted.

The U of T club has consistently fielded excellent teams, having earned first place in medal totals at all of this season’s Grand Prix tournaments thus far. The club is headed by Shihan Suenori Tominaga, a seventh degree Black Bell and the winner of the 1992 Ross Rumbell award for lifetime contribution to Karate in Canada.