†††† Interview with IFK Vice President, Shihan David Pickthall ahead of the 5th IFK World Tournament in Sibiu, Romania, on May 27th & 28th
Q) With two weeks to go before the 5th IFK World Tournament what are your impressions of the preparation for the event?
We are very pleased with work our Romanian Federation run by Sensei Christian Hirsh and his tournament committee are doing.† At this time it appears all on schedule and we hope the event will be a success.
With over 400 participants from 40 counties it should be a very high level. We have 14 different organisations represented within the 70 teams so we expect some exciting fights as there will be some contrasting styles of fighting.
Q) It's certainly a large number of competitors so why do you believe this event is so much bigger than in 2013?
Good question, after 1992 when we left the IKO we were a new organization starting with only a few countries but we still held our first three championships and had good participation numbers but then for various reasons we didn't host a World Championship for eight years focusing more on building a solid organization with good technical levels. I do however believe this was a mistake, of course in one area we became stronger with a respected level but our athletes didn't have the chance to compete for their own World titles.
In 2013 we hosted the 4th edition in the UK and if you look at the actually numbers we had over 230 fighters from 36 countries so yes it appears this event in Romania will have a lot more competitors but previously we had five adult weights and only five U18 weights.
So I would say the addition of U21 plus the extra weights has really made the difference.
Also several countries found it might harder to get a visa to the UK as the immigration conditions are tougher.
Q) So why the inclusion of the -90kg for Men?
Well we used it at the European Championships and it was a success, in the past Menís LW was always the biggest but all our events now seem to be getting higher levels of participation in the heavier categories now.
I think it shows with 38 fighters in the HW and 30 in the SHW we have made the right decision.
World statistics shows that the average weight of humans has risen over the years so it surprises me to see some events actually reducing the weight limits.
With so much media attention on the fact of slimming and eating disorders in both men and women now and concerns in fighting arts that huge weight cutting is detrimental to health it seems particularly strange to lower recognized limits.
Maybe in the future we will discuss adding to the Womenís categories but for this event we decided to keep our two traditional weights.
Q) And do you see the IFK Russian team dominating the event like in 2013?
Of course that Is a possibility they have a very strong team. They are our biggest membership with huge representation all over Russia. The competition to just get selected in Russia is so tough it will take very good performances to stop them but that doesn't mean it wonít happen.
In the past Japan used to dominate events but as time went by the rest of the world caught up and now apart from in a few organizations Japan does not win the majority of events. That is because Japan set a standard everyone had to rise too. Now the challenge is for everyone to improve to match or go above the standard set by Russia.
Q) Do you think the creation of the KWU has helped you attract good athletes to these championships?
Yes I definitely think relationships have grown with not only the other organisations but also within countries. Many IFK countries now actively seek to include other organisations in our event and event and even travel together as a team.
As I mentioned earlier we have representation from 14 organisations, there is no point in having a slogan Ďtime to be unitedí but then we restrict access to our own events.
If we hold closed events its only the athletes that suffer, they miss the opportunity to test themselves against the best from all organisations.
As a fan of Kyokushin I am excited to see the inclusion of the Ukrainian WKB fighter Ismailov in the -90kg. Previously the IKO European Champion at this weight it will be great to see him against fighters like KWU Champions Ryadnov, Lebo and Jacquot to name a few.
Q) So is the aim to still get Kyokushin into the Olympics?
As a main goal this would be amazing but we have to be clear, at this time the KWU chairmen agreed we would not compromise the rules of our events to try for the Olympic dream.
Removing techniques and making some light contact completely alters the conditions of a Kyokushin bout.
Our philosophy is the same now as when we formed the KWU, to maintain the credibility and the ethos of our fighting system that was set out by Sosai Oyama.
There may be small rule alterations on the journey but not to change the conditions of the fights.
We also have to remember WKF Sport Karate has been included into the program of the next Olympiad at the request of Japan but there is no guarantee this will stay in the Olympics for the future.
We should congratulate the WKF on achieving this but it is nothing like our sport.
The conditions for their inclusion are clearly recorded on the internet for people to read so it surprises me to see Kyokushin people putting the Kanku inside the Olympic rings and people writing Kyokushin will be in the Olympics.
According to the conditions of the event a total of 80 athletes will take part from around the world in the 2020 Olympics, 40 Men and 40 women. There will be 3 mens kumite categories and 3 womens plus 2 categories of kata.
Athletes will be chosen through the selection tournaments.
Unless these conditions change it will take a Kyokushin fighter a superhuman effort to move from Kyokushin rules to Sport Karate and get selected.
Q) Any final thoughts on your upcoming championships?
Only that I would like to once again thank the organising committee and our media team for bringing this event to the forefront of peoples attention.
To the Mayors and regional and the local council of Sibiu I wish to thank you for all your support and to all the sponsors who make this event a possibility.
The final two weeks I am sure will be hectic with final details and planning taking place. To the Kyokushin fight fans, if you canít be there in person make sure to you watch in on our online options.