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Karate’s four factions agree on reunification

Date Posted: 2007-02-01

After decades of feuding over rules, regulations and operations, four karate organizations have chosen to unite.

This week’s decision by the leaders of Okinawa Prefecture Karate Do Union, All Okinawa Karate Do Union, Okinawa Karate Kobudo Union and Okinawa Prefecture Karate Do Association to operate with a single set of policies is being hailed as a breakthrough for Okinawa’s international karate reputation.

It’s been 26 years since factionalism caused Okinawa’s world karate program to splinter into multiple groups.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima is the catalyst for the agreement. Chairman Yoshio Hichiya of Okinawa Prefecture Karate Do Union, Chairman Masatsume Chinen of All Okinawa Karate Do Union, Chairman Isao Shima of Okinawa Karate Do Union, and Chairman Hidenobu Goya of Okinawa Prefecture Karate Do Association, asked the governor to set up and lead a new Unification Committee. Nakaima called it “a good idea” and promised to “do my best to promote unification.”

Disagreements within the karate world in 1981, during the nationwide Japan Sports Athletic Games, led to the breakup. Mainland Japan had established a karate group, All Japan Karate Do Union, based in Tokyo, which conflicted with Okinawa’s Okinawa Nationwide Karate Do Union. Organizers had different perceptions as to what the rules should be, and how they were implemented.

The question of who should join who, Okinawa follow Japan, or Japan follow Okinawa’s lead, led to fighting through the years. It became worse in 1987, when the Okinawa organization itself began infighting that led to separation into three groups. Still, none was interested in banding together with Tokyo, leaving the karate world adrift in varying rules depending upon disciplines.

The first World Uchinanchu Festival in 1993 started sportsmen thinking there needed to be a single karate leadership and rules for the sport. Okinawa Prefecture Education Division Director Hitoshi Kamekawa says “karate is today spreading over all the world, but the parent side of Okinawa continued to fight. We needed to end the shameful thing and be together in one group united, not in four groups.”

The discussions lead to conversations among the four groups, with the four leaders finally understanding there had to be a single voice for the karate world. That unanimity led to the breakthrough agreement.

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