The Truth About Olympic Karate [Video]

Olympic Karate is reality!olympic_karate

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has approved Karate for the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 with 5 other sports.

(Sport climbing, skateboarding, surfing, baseball & softball.)

But – the Karate world is divided!

  • Some people think Olympic Karate is TERRIFIC! 🙂
  • Others think Olympic Karate is TERRIBLE! 🙁

Many people wonder what I think.

Check it out:

What do YOU think about Karate in the Olympics?

Comment & let me know!


  • -
    Being Olympic was good for Taekwondo and Judo? Sure it draw many more people to the dojos, which means more money.
    • ...and more opportunities for growth and development!
      • Marcel Rodrigue
        First I would like to thank you for sharing your vues. Like you, I think it will be a great platform to present karate and its values and I also think it will be a great opportunity to showcase the benefits of this practice for diverse groups: children, seniors, people living with an disability. As you reminded it, we start the practice with one specific motivation and as the time goes by, we change. Karate is about journey. Cheers from Australia and thanks again.
      • Growth and development are very subjective. While one can say that the Federations moderating the arts have developed, the same can't be said about the arts themselves. I used to be a Shito Ryu Karateka before I became a Taekwondoin and I have to say that Shito Ryu as it was taught to us simply had more content to it. Taekwondo and Judo have deteriorated into purely sports forms. While the latter still has many practitioners who follow the traditional ways and seek to find meaning in the teachings, most schools simply focus on the sports aspect. Taekwondo has practically no school in Korea where they teach it the way you teach Karate. All the focus is on breaking, sparring techniques, styling, and making forms look more beautiful. That's all there is to it. I honestly feel that there is a whole trove of treasure missing from Taekwondo that is buried in its Taegeuk, something which is being modified to dazzle more and more and become less and less practical every passing day. It is also succumbing to a more pop culture to promote itself. It is almost as if it is selling its soul for popularity. While one may call this rise in popularity growth, to me that seems more like a corruption of a martial art meant for self-defence. I just don't see cutting parts off yourself as progress.
  • There is a place for all. I don`t like sport karate ( I teach traditional karate & kobudo), but what we can do? I think it will be two diferent lines...traditional and of those it will be for all your life, and the other it will be only for young people, with an end in time. we can go againt, relax and enjoy your choice ! traditional or sport. Best regards.
    • That's a good approach sensei Mariano. I teach traditional Karate and Kobudo too. But some younger students like to compete, and that's fine as long as they understand that "Sport Karate" is just a small and limited part of the complete art.
      • Some of my students compete too.. and it`s ok for me ( when I was younger I did it too, but in a traditional federation). But I try to teach them that sports is for a short time (and they must proove it, if they want !), and traditional karate is for life. Thanks for your reply, I enjoy your work. Best regards from Argentina.
      • Aloha Enkamp Sensei, I agree with your comments above. Our main focus within our dojo isn't about's on the traditional aspects of karate. However, competition has it's place and is used to supplement what we do within our curriculum. We strive to strike "a balance" that works for us within our dojo between tradition and sport. Thanks for all that you do to promote karate in a positive light!
      • Dod
        Jesse said: "“Sport Karate” is just a small and limited part of the complete art." Agreed. This is the key part, and it is already difficult to get people to understand it. I like to train some "sports karate" sparring as part of the mix to gain some competency and some cross-over skills. But to me the essence of karate is smart but simple and brutal response to unwanted violence, not as a match against another martial artist, when the kata principles don't really work. Competition is fine but the tail often wags the dog.
    • Anika
      Sensei Mariano. Its good to read that there are other traditional dojos around. We train good, old, hard traditional karate. And after 23 years of doing it I just keep loving it more. Sport karate can be trained all around, I agree, but it feels so wrong to change the kata from the bunkai to suit the competition style. However I believe that sport karate will be more appealing to watch for those who dont understand the essence of karate. Oss.
      • Anika san, I agree, but we must understand, that sport karate it`s now part of the karate, I think it`s better to accept that, and teach our students the real difference between sport and traditional karate and Kobudo. The choice will become from them. But I think ( and I hope) real traditional karate and kobudo will never die. best regards from Shidokan Shorin ryu Karate and Matayoshi kobudo.
        • Anika
          Yes Sensei I agree. We train both in our dojo. So kids do learn the difference. And some do prefer the flashy competition style. We practise Kubudo as well. Have a lot of Shorin Ryu friends. Be well. Regards
    • Netta
      The sad part to me is that when you walk into a dojo as a beginner with the goal to learn to defend yourself, they don't tell you "we do sports karate here, perhaps you should try go try a more effective martial art". They (the dojos I experienced) take your money, your time and your passion, force you into their mould, and keep you as deluded as possible, for as long as possible. I was lucky enough to find out from a new sensei that what I had learned from my years of training was ineffective for self defense, but it seems many people find out the hard way; by their karate failing them when they need it most. For the people who love doing it as a sport, this is wonderful news for them (and karate as a whole) but I do hope that the above scenario doesn't become more common.
    • ZZDoc
      Well writ! The Taekwondo ChungDoKwan I trained in 50 years ago had its roots in Shotokan which had its roots in the Shuri-te of Okinawan. I had trained in Shobayashi Shorin-ryu for a year before that. The Korean purpose was to remove every shred of its Japanese martial art's influences, and build a totally Korean system. I've moved on from there to Okinawan and Japanese martial arts. If you truly seek an immersion in dentou karate, a pure Okinawan ryu is what you should pursue. Anyone of the Okinawa Shuri-te/Naha-te/Tomari-te ryu should bring you back to what you've been seeking.
  • Frasier
    Why were you shouting the whole time? ;) I'm happy Karate is going to be olympic, even though I practice traditional Karate. And I concur with your reasoning.
    • That's great to hear Frasier-san! Keep listening and I'll keep shouting ;-)
      • Frasier
        Perfect :D
  • Max
    I think this is a good thing in Karate. Some argue that the "true values" of karate get lost in competition, and that can be true for some places. However, where I train, the focus is more on the traditional training and character development than competition. Competition is almost like a side thought in our dojo, just for those who are interested. We don't focus on winning and instead focus on just going out there and doing our best, as cheesy as it sounds, and enjoying it. It's worked well for us. I, personally, love seeing different kinds of styles and people in competition and would love to compete in the Olympics with people who love Karate as much as I do. The experiences and knowledge gained would be invaluable. If someone doesn't want Karate in the Olympics, it's not like they have to participate.
    • That's a great attitude Max-san, my dojo is the same. Keep it up!
  • karate girl
    I agree with your opinion and I am happy Karate is going to be on Oljmpic games...but I am sad because I think I will not go on this Olypic because Japan is very far for me...I will be very happy if i will be on this Olypics but I must satisfy with watching this Olympics games on TV.
    • If you start saving now, you might be able to go! ;-) Never say never!
  • John
    Seeing Judo in the Olympics did get me started in Judo as a teenager. But the experienced sucked. Excuse the sport element was so pervasive. It was all about winning trophies at tournaments. It wasn't like a martial art but rather a sport no different to me than wrestling. So I lost interest fast. I think karate in the Olynoics will be bad over all because people might be intrigued but all they will see is sport karate. Sparring. They won't know or care about kata and many dojos to make money will emphasize fighting over kata. In other words, what makes karate interesting to me is kata and that won't be shown in the Olympics. And will viewers really know the difference between karate and TKD? They'll be looking for those head kicks. The average person won't be able to differentiate. It will end up watering down and diluting karate like TKD is all about the art today. And who wants to watch TKD poomsae? They are boring and lack the esthetic of karate kata. But that's ok because TKD is all about sparring, not really forms practice. Olympic karate will be dull and hide what is truly unique about karate and it's various styles.
    • Kata will be a part of the Olympics as well, John-san. By the way, you write that seeing Judo in the Olympics got you started in Judo. That's exactly why I think Olympic Karate can be good for all forms of Karate, even the traditional ones. Too bad your dojo sucked. There are tons of sucky dojos in Karate too, both traditional and modern ones. We call them McDojos ;-)
  • Ian A Leonard
    Karate is a way of life,to get to Olympic standard will require those karate ka who decide to get there to live the karate way of life, therefore they will be as much karate ka as those who choose not to go to the Olympics. I look forward to watching it and reminding myself i should have started Karate in my 20's :-)
    • Great Ian-san! Well, like the Chinese say: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now".
      • Ian A Leonard
        Thank you Jesse-San! I planted the tree thirty years ago, i just didn't pay attention to feeding and watering it until four years ago :-) All the best, Ian
      • Hilary
        And I can confirm that the saying still holds true when you replace 20 with 50!
  • Rex Roman
    Karate in the Olympics an opportunity for all and a stage for the young that must prove themselves, and after the youth and competitive aspect,after the body starts to loose strength and vigor they will realize their true endeavor. The way
    • Indeed, the art of Karate changes as you progress through the natural stages of life.
    • Izzy
      I see what you're saying, but I feel that one can still follow the Way while competing. The key is that the goal of competition is not to win, win, win no matter what. If one only thinks of winning a trophy or medal, then the Way is not being followed. Old practitioners often will still compete if they are physically able and enjoy doing so. However, they don't tend to focus on winning and just do what they do regardless of the outcome. Competitions are an excellent opportunity to learn, positively and negatively, from other practitioners and enthusiasts in the community, and many who do compete know this. It helps us improve our Karate and reach new perspectives from people outside of our dojo bubbles. If you do not heat your karate constantly, it will cool.
  • Chantal Denise
    I have mixed feelings about it, too. When it is true, that there will be no Kata at the Olympics, then, what's the point? Karate isn't just Kumite and I think Kata could have been included easily since there are competitions on varions Karate championships on a national and international level showcasing Kata. It is quite funny you were talking about the 70s and 80s when all of the MA movies came out. I discussed with a friend that Karate has been a trend sport as well but that this is decades ago already and that this is something I actually like about it. I didn't start because it's a current trend (I probably would have started with Krav Maga instead ;)). I did start because my brother practiced Karate as a young boy and to be honest, also because I love the movies from the 80s or early 90s like Sidekicks, No Retreat, No Surrender and of course, Karate Kid (the original, not the crap with Will Smith's offspring actually showing Kung Fu...). To me, Karate was always pretty badass (and it still is). And I just wanted to figure out if I can do it, too. I think Karate is better off without being a trend. I believe this way, it attracts the right people. I doubt that the Olympic Games can highlight the real spirit of Karate. To be respectful, decent and humble.
    • Kata is included Chantal-san. A total of 60 Karate athletes will compete in six kumite divisions and two kata categories.
  • I agree with you to a point. But what about knockdown karate. This will not be represented in the Olympics. I'm flexible but hoping that it won't make things worse with regards to the rules. Etc.
    • The rules will be according to WKF. They have stated that all styles of Karate will be included, so it will be interesting to see how Kyokushin/knockdown Karate will be represented (if at all).
  • Erik
    Osu! Too bad Full Contact karate is not included too. It would have shown two very different aspects of karate and could potentially have attracted even more attention with Full Contact fights as well as tameshiwari.
  • Mark
    I am new to your very interesting forum Jesse-San but have mixed feelings too, look what happened to TaeKwonDo. They pushed the Olympic thing too far and it really changed their art, even though it was a major promotional success. We, the keepers of tradition as handed down by our Masters, must keep the competitive aspect in it's place, as the icing and not the cake. Your excellent forum will help!
  • I have only one question, Why is widespread so important? It's an MA and not a political party. This looks like selling that Karate is a superior MA to others, well is it?? Or does it depend on what is what and how you practice it. The fact is it does not matter to me because I am a Karateka and not a Karate fanatic, if people practice any MA or not , it won't matter to me. It only matters for people who compete or make money of teaching.
  • This will be gteat for all karate! It will also be good for other martial arts.
  • Goran
    Not my cup of tea,and I will continue to promote traditional approach to karatedo, but I wish all the beast for olympic karateka's.
    • Goran
      *all the best :-))))))))))))))
  • Elizabeth Denby
    There is a thriving scene in Traditional Karate Kata Competitions in the U.K. which several members of the club I attend enjoy taking part in but our focus is on the traditional Shukokai/Shitoryu Karate including Bunkai so we understand the meaning of the moves. There tends to be sports karate at competitions too including their version of weapons both with and without music which is, I suppose, good if it helps keep kids fitter and occupied but I know some of these kids in Sheffield and they would have no idea how to use their karate in self defence even though they call themselves black belts. If karate in the olympics encourages people to start karate it can only be a good thing, let's hope most join the traditional route and avoid the McDojos. I started karate 9 years ago, at 38 years old and the only adult student in the class, to try to keep my son interested, he dropped out after his 2nd belt but I'd got the bug, I'd seen katas I wanted to learn and understand and one of my proudest achievements was earning my black belt last year. Hopefully karate in the olympics will encourage adults to start as well as kids.
  • Srecko Vernot
    I see that a lot of You comes from "traditional karate" that comments this thing. Ok for me exsists only KARATE whit a numerous of styles (shotokan, wado, goyu....) and on my practice i also do oi zukis and gyako zukis and mae geris and mawashis...yes i train karate an i was competiting in wkf and "traditional" competitions but i saw one thing. On traditional competition i was doing katas only like they should be done on traditional way but on wkf competitions i could perform traditional way or so called "sport". What i want to say that wkf is more opend like "traditional" karate on competitions. So don't talk that the "sport" karate is bad...both of them have good and bad sides. After 26 years of practice when someone asks me which karate do i train i say for mi is only one karate...there so diference all zukis and geris are the same in "traditional" or "sport"
  • Oss! I am teaching budo not sport. I will be happy if the local federations elect the best karateka for Olympics without playing any political games, i will be happy if students learn to compete with a solid budo attitude and treat the opponent in a good way. If everything happens in this way it will be healthy. But chances are less... The current world really really needs of peacemakers and good people not successful people. Budo is the only thing that can create good qualities inside you. That will make you a great human being for sure. Budo is a need. But Olympics especially sport comes under the "wants" category. There's a huge difference between "needs and wants". Peace and harmony Sensei M.Maharaj
  • ashley conlan
    nice video Jesse, but not sure where you get only 1O% compete. True WKF members are 1O% of the 1OO million but I would say the number of Karate clubs that compete in some way or form, is far higher my guess 8O%. What do you and others think?
  • ashley conlan
    sorry for the extra comment, forgot to add I completely agree with you Jesse, anything that raises the profile of Karate is good for all. May I make a suggestion in a follow up article go and talk to some old TKD folk who were around when they got their art into the Olympics. I was and to put things into perspective did it make a difference? Yes, did it make a huge difference? No! so I hope Karate-ka who are against the Olympics will chillax this is not the end of the world.
  • Wendell Goins MD FACS
    I think that it was inevitable that it would eventually get into the Olympics. I agree that there will always be those who will teach what they were taught and traditional Karate will continue. I do believe that much more than 10 % of practitioners compete atleast once . It is a money maker for some and a motivator for others to keep the young interested. Also , i do believe that there will be politics involved in the process and there will be exceptional practitioners that will be ignored .Overall, it will continue the evolution that Funakoshi started when he took his art to Japan ( and thus to the world) by increasing its exposure and hopefully its popularity. On the downside , it will emphasize the importance of winning and not being a better person.
  • Humberto Paz
    Honestamente pienso que el karate como deporte olimpico es una execelente manera de diseminar lo que es el karate en si, motivando a los expectadores a investigar mas con respecto a sus origenes, estilos y otros aspectos del mismo. El karate para mi no es un deporte, nunca lo fue en sus inicios, y quizas sea la forma que los acontecimientos llevaron al karate en convertirse en deporte que lograron que este sobreviviera en el tiempo, en vez de ser un asunto de tradicion familiar en una remota isla de asia. Karate en las olimpiadas es mas propaganda para el karate en si, lo que no se puede negar es el hecho de que sea la propanganda adecuada y fidedigna con respecto al arte marcial y los principios que rigen a la misma.
  • Richard
    Well Jesse-san, I also have different feelings about this whole thing. First place, we all know, what happened to Kodokan Judo. It has lost all the traditions, all the original, self-defense intention (I mean, Judo-techniques are rocks, but honestly, the same strategy, which helps you earn the gold metal, on the other hand will literally kill you in a street fight), and today it pretty sucks. However, I would suggest, that Judo was already focused too much on the competition, way before it was introduced to the Olympics - so maybe we can say that, it was suck already (even in Kano Jigoros last years). I've heard the stuff about Taekwondo, and I admit it. However, don't forget that, the lame (?) Olympic Taekwondo is just the WTF Taekwondo, and still, on the traditional side, there's ITF Taekwondo. I would also wonder, how regular people will distinguish Karate to Taekwondo tough... In the Karate itself, being Olympic, does not make too much for me - since I'm training Kyokushinkai, which not became also Olympic of course. In other words, I could just say, it's not my business. I could, but I wouldn't. First, despite, I find the WKF-style competition is very far from the "real karate" (ok, I admit that, any form of competition, or sparring, is way too far from the real street violence, but it does matter if you train full-contact, to give and receive real, hard punches and kicks, or punching the air before your opponent due to no-contact), but I've to say that, even I wouldn't even take a part in this kind of competition, I actually enjoy watching it. I mean, if we try see it not like form of actual fighting, but as a sport (which is!), where individuals are show their skills, condition, and competitive spirit (just like to the fencing, boxing, tennis, swimming, athletics or any other competitive sport does) than it's pretty fun, enjoyable, and I'd love to watch it, and cheer for my national team at the Olympics. So I think, in this aspect, the Olympic introduce is good for Karate. Just as you said, Karate will be popular again, and who like to watch it (like me) will be pleased to see Karate at the Olympics. I feel, with became an Olympic sport, Karate will finally get the place what deserves - I mean come on, most of the people, when hear about martial arts in general, or just see ass-kicking dudes in white pyjamas, will think about "Karate" at first, so how Karate not to be at the Olympics yet?! And of course, those karatekas, who do compete, are really working hard, and put their heart in this whole thing. In this way, they'll eventually get that respect, and support (since Olympic is a kinda political thing also, government supports rather the Olympic-sports) what they've already earned and deserve. And for last, I just cant understand, how everyone's panicking about that Karate will only focus on winning, trophies and money. Why is the big surprise? I mean, the competition aspect of WKF Karate, already does that! Even till this point, Karate already had that kind of dojos, where the competition and winning is everything. The whole WKF stuff just set up it rules, system, and whole point of view in the favour of this competition stuff. In the favour of the Olympics, right? They already had this kind of competition Karate, where "nothing matters", just the trophies, medals and money. Even they set up this whole thing for the Olympics, and finally, they just get it now. So honestly, that competition Karate will not change in the "wrong way", but will just improve in this way. And even, there's already had those "heartless" competition Karate-dojos, on the other hand, the other, the full-contact karate, traditional karate, okinawan karate, self-defense karate, mcdojo karate, budo karate etc. dojos were still here. And they'll, because competition Karate was already was just part of the Karate world, but not itself. And that's won't change I think. So I would say, we should just happy about that. Competition Karate did a long way, to get to the Olympics, and it finally have, what it deserved.
  • Paulo Almeida
    The fact that karate is finally being accepted into the olimpics is the best thing to ever happen to our sport, not only because we will have a new stage to compete, but most because it is a new world we will be able to enter and see. inovation is all about new ppl and new experiences.
  • ZZDoc
    I reject the idea outright for a host of reasons, too numerous to set down here, for which having watched the commercial evolution of the discipline from the mid-1960's to the present day cast my opinion in stone. I won't watch it!
  • Andrew Payne
    Jesse your right on the money with this. I was there and started karate because, first the Japanese show the "Samurai' and then Billy Jack and the social issues around the movies. After that it was Chuck Norris who kept me inspired that anyone could be a master if he could.
  • Emily
    Oh my, so much steam under the collar. I am young to Karate and not so young at life. I am excited about this news. I have such passion for my journey in karate. This gives me butterflies of what great conversations we will have at the dojo. Changes in training that I can be a part off. I will yell and jump and cheer and feel a part of something new and great and old and worthy. Bring it on. I am too old to compete, I think, but I am all in. Let your opinions fly. Change is good. Tradition is good. There is room for all of it. All things change with time. It doesn't mean it is all bad. Fluidity in our moves, our bodies, mind and spirit is what we do. I find your passion and energy in your video contagious. Continue the great work. Your side kick strengthening routine has added great flexibility to my hips and new heights to my kicks. I am a 50 year old woman with 6 months to my goal of black belt. Your admiring fan always. Emily
  • I have mixed feelings for the reasons already mentioned - the rules that will be adopted is the KEY...... no contact, full contact or somewhere in between and the variations therein....... we are in a sport where even the so-called national ranks adopted in some countries like where I am reflects the best fighters in the country.....
  • Hej Jesse-san! I've been going between two thoughts on this for quite a while. I agree with your reasoning: this is great pr for our shrinking karate world. We do not get as much exposure on TV or other media as judo for instance. So we kinda need this one badly! My only concern is this: aspiring students will come to the dojo with this image of amazing sparring and (kata) competition, but we don't empathise on that at all... (I don't see a lot of Wado Ryu practitioners in competition at all because the style is very sober.) Aren't the Olympics selling a misleading image? (At least for the dojo that do not or barely compete) I'm not opposing the idea. I'm just a little worried that I cannot offer students that come to me the things they see on TV. Kind regards, Tirza
    • Ashley Conlan
      In Europe Wado-Ryu do very well at competition, there is an old joke Wado wins all the Kumite medals while Shotokan win all the Kata medals! From when I did TKD I would not worry, there will be no flood of new members and there is one thing to be inspired by the olympics another to actually be of a standard to compete! people even kids know the difference. The main thing their inspired to start Karate!
  • Melissa La Cour
    I would just love a shot at being in the Olympics. What an amazing experience! I'll be thirty that year! D:
  • Ashley Conlan
    Have a chat with some TKD people what difference it made. You maybe surprised, being in the Olympics will not be the Berlin Wall falling down. It will trickle into more new members but the biggest difference in my opinion, a small number of TKD people were able to go full time, sponsored by local companies. I guess maybe a dozen in the UK, we are not talking 1OO's. Anyway if this translates to some Karate-ka being able to make a living from Karate, practice full time, its a good thing for their students and a good thing for Karate!
  • Augusto Cancela
    Hello Jesse, you can say whatever you want, but with Olympic Karate the focus will be sports. It is true that dojos can choose between traditional or sport karate, but I think most of them will be forced to choose the second one. I think the main problem here is about the philosophy of karate and what it represents. Many times we talk about the gap between kata and kumite because we have been "forgetting" the meanings of kata movements, and that is because we have been focusing on sports' aspects of karate. We forgot that kata is a collection of self-defense systems to use in real life situations (with real life attacks, not tsukis or mae geri). If we think that this gap is huge, with Olympic Karate kata will become only a dance performance for most of the karateca. The karate pathway is not about sports, but self-defense. I train karate as a philosophy of self-defense, as budo, not only as a competitive point-system combat. Look at what Olympics have done to taekwondo or judo; the competition philosophy overwhelmed the martial philosophy, and I don't think that those guys know how to handle a real fight... and martial arts are about this, handle with real situations. Olympic Karate is marketing, and that goes against one of the main ideas of Funakoshi when he said that karate is not about competition, but self-preservation. However, I agree with you when you say that the way each one of us practice karate is all that matters.
  • Akshat
    Yes actually i think it would be a great chance for motivated karate practioners to show to world what they got And u r right about the popularity thing , olympics is clearly a great way to spread karate Any way where is the seishen logo on your gi or u r not wearing one ?
    • Of course I'm wearing my Seishin gi :-) The logo is on the jacket label and back of neck. You can see pics here:
  • Zach
    Both my dad and i are shodan, me in Shotokan and my dad in Wado ryu, anyway I'm not a massive fan of sport karate - I'm more of a "traditional" guy, there again I think it's good to be able to publicise and show karate to the world, regardless of whether it's "sport karate" or traditional. To be able to influence people is the main thing. And like Jesse said, to get them in the dojo, wearing a gi, training themselves. That's the main thing!
  • Salima
    Jesse-san, I simply adore you! Your videos are always amazing and I always walk away with a new respect for you. I 100% agree with your opinion on Olympic karate. I was so excited when I first heard about it. We do not participate in competitions at my dojo. We study Okinawan Karate and Kobudo to better ourselves and preserve the art. If someone wants to compete, well that's a personal decision and none of my business. I'm doing this for myself and don't have the desire to compete. I do however, enjoy watching and learning from other styles and look forward to seeing karate on the Olympics. I also look forward to seeing what effect having karate in the Olympics will have on the dojos out there.
  • ZZDoc
    A follow up comment after reading the foregoing subsequent to my first: This will go forward notwithstanding the views of those who look askance at it. Theres's too much political, personal, and commercial gain to be had by a world so motivated by same. The discipline has been rife with that for decades. Why should it any be different going forward? The neo-phytes hopefully will not be swayed by stylized kumite and kata which depart from traditional teachings. Boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling are not watered down for the Olympics. Nor should kata be. Kata should be demonstrated and competed in as traditionally taught... not as flamboyant creations with idiotic senseless, needless screamings and outlandish movements. Include Uchinaguchi competition if you really want to give the uninitiated a sense of what karate is all about. Without koryu, what will be offered will never be karate. It will be taekwondo. There is nothing in the discussions to suggest otherwise or that the world wiil be educated as to what differentiates karate from the former. It will trash everything which came from Okinawa where karate evolved.
  • Luke
    Truth is that karate is not a perfect self-defense system. If I really want to learn how to defend myself I can spend my time much better than doing basics and kata 4 to 5 hours per week. I love the physical and neuro-motor challenges imbedded in karate. Competition karate accentuate the challenge. In kata you've got to get your stances right and increase your power and speed. Not even to mention the timing. In kumite it's all about timing, speed and distance. I often see so called 'traditionalist' with poor stances, poor timing and no feel for distance and space. The challenge of the competition motivates you to work harder. You get feedback, sometimes in the form of knock in the face because your defense and timing of your attack was poor. I've never seen a world champ in kata with poor stances and lifting his/her heels while transitioning through stances. Kids that go to competitions get these things (stances, transitions, speed, power, feel for space and distance) right. Those that don't progress a lot slower, in my experience. To do a kata well; so well that you become a world champ require an amount of work that some of the so-called 'traditionalist' I've encountered have never put into their training. I'm 54, still competing because it motivates me to work harder. It's competition karate that got me back in the gym and back on the treadmill. I love traditional karate as much as the next guy but its the challenge of competition that get me to put the mats up on a Sunday afternoon and train for 3 hours.
    • Dod
      Luke said: "Truth is that karate is not a perfect self-defense system. If I really want to learn how to defend myself I can spend my time much better than doing basics and kata 4 to 5 hours per week" True that karate training was never supposed to be just solo kihon and kata. That would be like learning to ride a bike then never using to go anywhere. Kata techniques and principles do need to be drilled with compliant then not-so-compliant partners to be useful. But although rules bound sports kumite may add some value to the mix, it is not nearly enough because it is a different context to the violence that the katas address. Karate can be an excellent self-defense system when trained fully, but "sports karate" is not essential
      • Luke
        Hi Dod, we're in agreement. Karate techniques -mastered- can be lethal in a self-defense situation. My point is if my main objective is to learn to defend myself then learning karate will take me 5 years to learn to kick and punch properly. You don't need to spend that much time learning karate to know how to defend yourself. Some of us might have started karate with self-defense being the objective. I think for most self-defense becomes sort of a secondary reason why we keep going. I find that I sometimes have to remind myself that the objective is really self-defense. I do karate because I just love the motor-neuron challenges imbedded in virtually every aspect of karate (basics, kata, kihon, bunkai, sparring, kumite). I don't see it as one or the other (sport versus traditional karate). I see it on a continuum with sport karate on the left pole and traditional karate on the right pole. When you you're young you spend more time on the left pole as you get older you move more to the right pole. In training I believe you should spend your time sort of in the middle moving either right or left depending on time of the year and whether you prepare for grading and/or competition. Even if you are never going to be a top competitor I do think its good for your karate development to spend some time on the left of the continuum and to compete. Kids that prepare for competition work harder at their karate and look better at grading. I think the big concern here is that some clubs will just focus on sport karate because it has marketing and status value. Typically the senior members of such clubs also tend to end up in national and international management positions and start dictating terms. Rogue styles is historical issue; if I don't like or agree with the old guys I form a new style and do my own thing. Academic institutions have internal and external audit and review systems to ensure compliance to standards. Can something similar can be enforced in karate; I don't know? I just think it will be wrong to split the continuum in two because then we end up with two new continuums. I think the solution is that the self-proclaimed traditionalists should become more involved with sport karate. If you really care about your sport then you should embrace its evolution by making sure you're involved and part of the decision making groups.
  • Ron Rogers
    I have been in martial arts for 54 years. I saw a viable combative art of judo dumbed down to being little more than "wrestling with handles." All aspects of Tae Kwon Do that were actually usable and based on real life were changed into a (bad) game of tag. Olympic karate will destroy karate as we know it, but it will be great for the instructors! Always follow the money.
    • i tend too fear that you are rigth!! I consider competition karate as a teaching tool ,not as a goal in itself ,unfortunately many people confound the tools with the goal ,and olympic karate may reinforce this. I was a bouncer for 20 years ,and nobody behaves in a street or bar figth as in a karate tournament..!! I teach competition techniques ,but also teach my students that these are the means to improve yourself and in a real brawl you do something else
  • ZZDoc
    Kids that go to competition, e.g. AAU...are trained, bound by the dictates of their style. They are, hopefully, judged impartially by criteria for performance set established and agreed upon by the officials of the sponsoring organization. If the JKA championships are any mirror of how kata in the Olympics will fare, the departure from the traditional execution of same is self evident. The suggestion that training for competition sharpens the neuromuscular and kinesiological skills sets implies that trainees who would eschew such competition are less well trained. The converse should be true for any training program worth it's salt. Standards and criteria for ranking may vary among styles and even within dojo of the same style, however, any potential competitor should be competition ready. What the lack in terms of your argument is lies in what might be referred to as the so-called 'tricks' inherent in the execution of the limited number of was permitted in these events. The success or failure in the execution of same, as with any other sport endeavor, will be limited by the inherent physiological gifts of the competitor. That does not mean that a less gifted karateka will be a less formidable adversary in the purpose for which karate evolved in the first place.....that of self preservation.
  • Carlos de la Rosa
    Agree 100% . Even thou I practice Budo Karate. And yes, , some shining to my Karate could help. Haha..
  • Ramsés Hernández
    Dear Sensei Enkamp: First of all I apologize if my English is not the best and moreover I wish you success in all aspects of his life and continue to urge them to continue their great apaortes this wonderful art. What you think in your video is good for the advertising field and for further expansion and distribution of information about Karate. But that information would be in the majority for Sport Karate and not so Traditional Karate, for the way of the empty hand as such (Karate-DO). That "second boom", to put a name, which will facilitate abusively profit more than what is already being done by many federations and unscrupulous people. I give two examples: I once took a seminar with one of the most recognized referees in my country Panama, who explained us that the WKF only accept certain brands of uniforms and protective equipment. Other than that, the lifetime of an equipment is limited. That is, a breastplate worth $ 150.00 (not cheap), it is only in validity between 2012 and 2015 (it is a date of example only). For very new and careful to keep my breastplate, it will not be accepted beyond that date and I'll be forced to spend another fortune just because WKF wants. That is unacceptable for many people. The other example is that many national team coaches will only teach fighting techniques and strategies. They do not care with the etiquete or Budo. They come and greet and informal friends. No seiza, or mokuso, or any other formal protocol or discipline measures to maintain order if necessary as in traditional dojos. Even they say that it is for the dojo and not for the selected athletes. It is a serious situation. This does not happen only here, I have conversed with instructors from other countries and it is exactly the same. Therefore, I conclude that it is a bad influence from sporting bodies worldwide, and many traditional karate have come to accept belief in a false "progress". I want to clarify that I am not against the tournaments or the sport part of Karate, as long as it do not run in a mere Jutsu, but practice as DO. I personally have competed many times when I was kyu, and some in dan. The competitions promote art and encourage practitioners and instructors to improve and give the best of themselves. But as long as they are made in the traditional environment, whether that abusive profit there today. So I never interested me to be national team and the Olympic trend integrate because of what I have mentioned above. I have much more to say, but this is a forum of opinion, not a place to write long articles. It is my personal opinion, not the absolute truth. Master Funakoshi was quite right about the double-edged that representing tournaments. I leave you with a pleasant greeting. Again, congratulations for their great contributions.
    • ZZDoc
      Bien dicho Ramses
  • Ian A Leonard
    "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing" Edmund Burke We are all passionate karate ka, if we wish to preserve the traditions of our art then we should do so. All the very best, Ian
  • Simon Weaver
    Osu! Jesse I am on the fence about this and have been for all my karate journey. I think ultimately, it is both good and bad. I train and teach traditional kyokushin karate and by traditional I mean I follow the old ways in terms of being as close to the origional teachings of the art's founder and adhere to dojo etiquette and Japanese customs and values. The focus of my training and teaching is on pragmatic self defence. My kata and kumite is aimed at learning fighting principles and strategies, not scoring points and winning trophies etc. However, sport karate is good for friendly competition. It teaches good sportsmanship and of course encourages exercise. But aside from that, sport karate offers little more if anything. It makes people become too materialistic because their aim of training is only to win something material like medals or even titles - everyone wants to be a champion! It all seems a bit too egotistical to me, which is actually contrary to proper karate philosophy. The concern with karate training should be about improving yourself, for yourself and being able to effectively protect yourself or others should you need to in a violent situation. Being a new sport in the Olympics would bring karate back into the public eye, so in terms of making karate more popular therefore bringing more students into dojo and cubs across the world is a good thing - if you are a dojo that emphasises sport karate/kickboxing, which in my personal opinion is not 'true' karate. The issue I have now (and the Olympics will make it a bit worse) is that many of the new students who come to my dojo already have an expectation of karate which is that it's similar to taekwondo, or in other words, a sport. In general, many many people are unaware of what real karate is these days, especially young people who are the most important to get through to. MMA doesn't help either. The Olympics will just create future generations of ignorant people. If it keeps happening, I fear that true karate would become lost for good; the customs, traditional training methods and the kata / bunkai. Don't get me wrong, as I said earlier, sport karate is beneficial. I teach knockdown karate techniques and K-1 kickboxing. It helps students develop judgement of timing, distance and keeps them sharp. But other than that, kumite is for fun and a very good workout in my dojo because people need to realise that sport techniques are limited and competition environments are a world away from a real street fight! They are not the same and that's where people go wrong. Not all, but quite a lot of people think winning a trophy means that can effectively kick a*s in the street. So, Olympic karate: good if you like sport karate, bad if you are all for self defence or Budo karate. I'll just finnish with this quote, or was it an accurate prediction? "To win in a competition has nothing to do with karate. This is the wrong way of thinking. This has no meaning. This is the biggest problem for the future of karate" - Gogen Yamaguchi
    • ZZDoc
      'Friendly' competition is for the dojo, Simon, where everyone is a winner as we learn from each other. The Olympic field hardly engenders that philosophy. It's all about the win and personal/team glory. The dark side of Olympic history is the witness to this and, in that arena, karate will be seduced to it as well.
      • Simon Weaver
        What I meant by friendly competition was that outside of the dojo it's all about winning and finding glory like you say, in a respectful way which, as I said is contrary to karate philosophy. Kumite in the dojo is for learning about and improving yourself and not doing it for a trophy. True karate does not need a reward or recognition from others. Its about seeking perfection of yourself for yourself
        • ZZDoc
          Simon: We are of like mind in that respect.
      • Larry
        It will eventually degenerate into MMA style bloodlust fighting to draw the crowds.
  • Warran
    I don't think Olympic Karate is a good idea, simply because karate is a way of life, and the philosophy behind Karate is much deeper than the acquisition of medals/trophies. In my humble opinion, sport karate takes the essence out of the art, which is Karate itself. Furthermore, sport karate is a slap in the face for all who love the true nature of Karate which is to develop a strong, positive character.
  • alex san
    In my opinion kata and bunkai aspect is pretty good, what about Kumite? Higaonna said in one of his videos(way of the warrior) that karate can never be a sport because in pure karate a punch must always be practiced in full force and power. But I think the word sport karate is in the practitioners mind ,my objective is to develop sufficient power that I can always apply karate techniques with as much power as the best human being. We should also spend time punching sand bags or other heavy punching bags to develop such power
    • ZZDoc
      Alex: My bet is that you're going to find Higaonna up there on the dais with all the other karate world's 'puffed pastries' basking in the limelight of this 'brave new world'. This is too big a happening for any of the major domo powerhouses from Okinawa and Japan to bow out of. And too big a happening for any one of the major renmei not to try to exert major control over the direction in which of Olympic Karate is going to move. I'd bet that JKA is already maneuvering for the inside rail. I happen to know that at one major west coast event, JKA members are limited to their own kata. They are not permitted to enter the open division.
      • alex san
        My great joy will be to attend the Olympic karate event even if I will not participate ,in Africa we don't get a chance to train with great shihans like Higaonna sensei.I love karate katas to the extreme especially Goju ryu katas but I would be afraid to compete with great students of master Higaonna or Inoue sensei. How do you compete with someone like Antonio Diaz if you have never trained with him? I hope the japan Olympic event will be a venue of opportunities to interact with great masters.
        • UM, no it won't be an opportunity to interact with any great masters. Its about competition, and none of the masters will be competiting. Its Olympic sport, comparable to the top gymnasts competing with each other. You don't see any of their coaches competing. If you want to train with any "so called" great master, you simply need to arrange a visit, and if you like the style and instruction consider applying to join that style.
  • kxta
    I don't agree with you, Jesse :P Of course it will draw more people in, but it will create a bias to the ones that prefer kumite. Karate will be seen only as a combat sport, an people who are not especially attracted by this only viewpoint may not even think of starting taking karate lessons, even if in the dojos really exploit both facets. I know so many people that started karate because a friend told them "hey, it's not just about fighting, we do other stuff there". Now the message sent by the Olympics is just the opposite: "hey, we fight and perform fancy kicks, and we only learn an sport by the rules". Rules which, by the way, are really hard to understand if you haven't done any karate before, since the one who connects the punches is not always who gets the points =_=U
  • ashley conlan
    A lot of comments above from those who are traditionalists and anti-Olympics. Please have a look at this and comment. Much appreciate knowing what you think.
  • ashley conlan
    Found a better one, there are a number on YouTube, please watch it all to see the bunkai. I agree from a traditionalist viewpoint there are dramatic effects to impress the judges, look how long they take to enter the tatami, the bow and Kata pauses is excessively long BUT if we look beyond this the skill level is very very high. On the sparring side the big difference traditional Shobu 1 ippon to WKF 3 ippon oh and fancy coloured mitts :) is this big enough of a difference? not in my opinion. As a Shotokan traditionalist myself I think we share more in common with WKF than we might think. The WKF now has a more traditional element to it, last year Masao Kagawa Shihan 8th Dan was appointed WKF Technical Director. I think the Olympics will be a great inspiration for current and future generations of Karate-ka, I for one welcome this evolution of Karate looking forwards!
  • ZZDoc
    Alex San raises the memories of the age group swimming programs, the high schools and college universities of note I recall from my 'yute'. Names like The McBurney 'Y' in NYC, New Trier High School in Illinois, the Santa Clara Swim Club, in CA, and the immortal "Doc" Counsilman at Indiana University. Hence he envisions the birth of Olympic karate dojo where the best of the best from the four corners of the globe will come to eat, sleep, and train. It will be interesting to see how such an endeavor fleshes itself out, and from whence the major domo sensei will arise.
  • Michael Dymond
    Jesse. I agree with you. Depending on the rules and officiating, the Olympic event will be good for my art..: Karate, MDymond 7th Dan
  • Dear Jesse, You can not remember whot's going wrong with judo... In 1968 judo came to Olympic Sport. Every people thinked that now after Olympic Games in Tokio more people will go to judo clubs. But not ! Many judoka refused his worrior way becouse their discipline stay Olympic. I'm afraid (may I say - I'm sure) that with karate will be the some. Sorry for my English and mistakes. I started karate training many years ago in 1978 and in this age in my contry were not possible to lern booth - English and karate. I hope my karate is better than English :) Best regards - Zibi
  • Our world organization (WKKF) has been petitioning the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for Contact Karate for over five decades. All Karate schools will now have to become somehow affiliated with the World Karate Federation (WKF). What does that mean for the dojo owner? More fees to pay out beyond their own organization fees and rent, more politics beyond their own organization politics to deal with, more events to attend in order to qualify. For WKF they gain more $$$ for registration of the over 100 million to support the less than 10% sport participants and even smaller % that will actually qualify for the Olympics. For the Karate dojos, they will have to set up separate classes for the elite sport group and maybe even musical kata if the Olympics wants that over traditional kata. Maybe that will get the dojo some more $$$ or maybe not. For the individual karateka how are they going to pay the extra fees, attend the special elite sport classes, travel and attend qualifying events. Karate has never had any sponsorship to attend regional, national or international events. The $$$ come out of the Karateka's pockets or their parents pockets. Only once you qualify for the Olympic team will you receive some sponsorship $$$. Don't ever forget, the Olympic dream is always about the $$$.
  • keiko nakano
    I would not worry too much Allen. How many students of yours actually could make Olympics? even if some are then I know from Taekwondo you will get local companies to sponsor, dont worry. The point is Karate is moving forwards, progressing, evolving into a professional world recognized activity. My own take on this from traditionalists. Fear. Protectionism. And maybe there is money (ego) in holding your own championships. Also inferiority, as people will compare and expect high standards. I think this is a good thing for Karate. It will sort out those who con the public. I watched one video recently of a New Zealand dojo that should be shut down.That's the blunt truth.
  • Correct me if I am wrong, but I think I have read that the Kumite will be no contact (or maybe light contact to the upper body). We are talking about Karate here, a martial art, a fighting style. The no contact Kumite is only an exercise to gain abbilities like evasion, focus, speed, fast techniques and a light stance. But again, this is only an exercise. To put that up as a representation for Karate is equal to competing in Gohon Kumite, doing some Kihon or even press ups for that matter. All legitmate training exercises but not able to represent the martial arts fighting abilities! Why has the Karate community become so modern and with that weak in accepting real competition? If you want to see two guys competing then let them go full force, no limits. Then you will see if they truely have fighting spirits. Because then you will see one guy getting in a great technique, the other guy dropping like a bag of potatoes and most important of all no attack on the guy who just fell. Now that is a competition, that is respect. I do not encourage violence of any kind but if you truely want to test your fighting skills you should not kid yourself into thinking you accomplished something with jabbing someone on the stomach and screaming your lungs out while you rip your hand back to hikite as if you just fired a Kamehameha. Ah, if you have not gathered it from my short rant: I completely agree with Jesse-sensei concerning the benefit of advertisement but I do not like the public picture of Karate and its future.
  • mike addison-saipe
    From a purely personal perspective I think the inclusion of Karate in the Olympics is a disaster for the art but a victory for the sport. Our dojo focus is on Jutsu rather than Do and most of the techniques we practise are forbidden in sport karate. (To quote Funakoshi Gichin when discussing the throw Taniotoshi " - when facing an opponent of equal or larger size,there are times when the technique just will not work and in order to defend oneself one may have no alternative but to swallow one's tears and resort to using one's head as a mallet." Such technique is generally frowned on in sport. I do think it is likely that the art will be diminished somewhat (I cite the spectacle to Olympic Judo and TaeKwonDo , both of which look nothing like the true art they purport to represent). Sad to think that Karate will follow this - but it's actually all about big money. And big money usually wins. In the meantime I hope there are enough of us left to try and keep the art alive.
    • I see where you're coming from sensei Mike! Personally, I strive to get the very best from both worlds. I'm a "Karate Nerd" after all :-) It doesn't have to be black and white.
  • zzdoc
  • Paulo Roberto Costa Galvão
    Jesse, Oss. You know, from the fifties until the eighties, karate just thrived in Brasil. It was one of the most popular martial arts in the country, along with Brazilian jiujitsu and capoeira. But about twenty or thirty years since, karate has rapidly lost its popularity. Many dojos were closed. ALL Brazilian karate fighters said the same: it is taking quite a long time for karate to become olimpic, that's why we're losing the competition to other sports. In my opinion, the "chairmen" of all karate styles were more interested in competing among themselves, with all sorts of insults and petty attitudes, than in getting together and fighting for our art to become as great as it deserves to be, in the eyes of the common people. Most karate fighters in Brasil say the same, that is, they say karate lost its popularity because most karate people were more interested in political quarrels, and in insulting one another, than in joining forces to make karate into ONE and making it become Olympic as ONE. I don't see any problem in turning karate into an Olympic sport. On the contrary. Purists are always striving against change, but changes are inevitable. True karate will never disappear as long as there are karate nerds to take care of the purest treaditions of our art.
  • Marijn
    Olympic karate will be fatal for the real karate. Karate was never ment to be a sport, never meant to be a "game". Bringing karate to the olympics is just the thing that will kill the real karate. The karate that will be shown on the television will give the whole world the wrong image of real karate. Karate is meant for self defense. which means: Protecting yourself against someone who's intention it is to end your life. Karate is made for the streets, karate has to be effective and life saving! The only thing te WKF is doing, is making a joke of karate. Today it is all about the money and involving a lot of people to pay for lessons and seminars.. Which I find disgusting.. What they show on television is pure "show" karate. (big movements , fancy kicks and fancy incorrect Kata's.) You're constantly talking about involving more people into karate, which I find highly irritating.. Karate has to be teached from "heart to heart" and especially not made commercial like you are doing. To practice karate you only need yourself and commitment. (training partners are welcome!) The real karate can be found in the roots of it, in Okinawa. The sad part is the level of arrogance of some karate practitioners. For me it's heart breaking to watch what some people believe or think what karate really is.. yours sincerely
  • Roland Strong
    Personally I don't agree with this last point about the Olympics killing Karate. As Jesse mentioned, you will get a small minority driven to just win, and you may get some that want to win once or twice, and then want to go deeper into to the heritage and classic style. As for me, I competed hard for two years, but now I am much more interested in the traditional ways. There will always be a place for the traditional dojo....I wouldn't be so afraid of change.
  • Karate was and is ment to be a way of life to keep inside our hearts and live accordingly, we call it the "do" whose English translation means "way". For this reason it is not ment for competition. Above all things, teachings must remain intact, our teachers poured a hard work to grant us the gift we have today. We need no belt, shining stars, or trophies to prove ourselves and others that we are "good". There is no "good" or "bad" inside Karate, what is important is for us to remain firm. Our reactions to daily life situations will let us know where we stand, arranged championships are pointless. A body-to-body confrontation is still the same 6000 years ago and today. We bust build with tradition as a base, not erradicate it. Desire is good and bad at the same time. In one way it pushes us to strive to become better human beings, however, human heart can be easily corrupted in order to satisfy the desire of power, money, and fame at all costs. Many people fall into this trap and this is why there is a lot of degeneration inside Karate. The world needs Karate.
  • Joel Bunche
    I believe that karate in the Olympics is great for athletes to show the art of karate. But the fact that the rules water down karate is discouraging to a lot of karate athletes/practioners and the fact karate has Kata, bunkai , ippon,jiu,and sparring kumite, and weapons it's a complete art. But since they want all people to compete that's were i feel it's a problem. Then every competition is different in different countries. But I think competition is good when there is a good competition but it's a way for athletes like myself to get out there , train ultra hard, gives me the motivation to keep practicing to get better and make a career in the art I love.
  • alistair rae
    Just think. Tekki katas are widely ignored in karate, ten no kata has nearly disappeared. Fudo dachi is rarely used as is tai sabaki. Why? because these things don't look good in competition. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with competitions in karate, but I do see a huge detrimental effect because many many people are training for competition rather than to improve and understand Karate. Instructors should be aware that competitive karate is an extra and should only be considered as something extra rather than the most important part of karate.
  • alistair rae
    Just one more thing. The senseis like kase, shirai kanazawu et all, eventually quit the JKA because they did not like the idea of karate becoming a sport. They felt that the sport side could dictate how karate developed rather than the tradititional art.
  • George
    That's true, when people see karate on tv it will draw more people to the dojos. I'm not against sports karate, but I hate the rules. Competition can teach a practitioner good thing such as anxiety management, courage... but those damn WKF rules SUCK. kumite should be full contact, or at least realistic like it was back in the 70's and 80's. modern silly bouncing kumite is total crap. fighter would do anything just to get points (fake injury....) and strikes such as yoko geri and ura tsuki should be allowed, because the are basic moves that every karate practitioner must know how to use in a fight. and kata tournaments became too much flashy. I say it again, sports karate is good, WKF karate is bad.
  • zzdoc
    You want good old '6o's, feet on the ground kumite????? Fuggeddabouddit!! TKD and the JKA have changed that footprint and the JKA has too much invested in being the Grand Pooh Bah of this effort to relinquish any control. The Japanese began the process of changing karate over 70 years ago and they're not about to stop now. Unfortunately, anyone of note, in any ryu-ha, who deeply needs their egos massaged is going to fall into line and march behind the piper. The ones who don't give a "FF", are the real champions of this art
  • K
    I believe BOTH exist. We are ONE. If we change our mentality. We are ONE. Just different ages, in my opinion. Having studied both. Both ways have merit. So please open your eyes. BOTH, OK.

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