The history of the World Karate Federation WKF
The first constituted organization was the European Karate Union (UEK). To understand the World Karate general organisation, it is necessary to start with this Union. Karate, on technical plan, was introduced in many countries, as soon as 1950, by Japanese masters from mainly the JKA (Japan Karate Association). They did teach but they did not care about creating national and international organisations, as in other sports. A French, M. Henry PLEE, was one of the most important promoters, he trained hundreds of black belts. In 1961, in France, a pupil of M. Pleee, working as a jurist, also 4th Dan black belt and Karate Teacher (he used to teach after his work at the famous « Club Franccais ») ; named Jacques DELCOURT, was elected President of French Karate, then associated member of the Judo Federation.
After having organised Karate in France from 1961 to 1963, he invited afterwards the few federations known in Europe (they were 7!) to come to France at the occasion of the 1st International Karate Event of all time : Belgium/ France/ Great Britain. On the 15th of December 1963 (remember this date, it is the departure point of the world karate), he gathers in Paris the representants of 7 known nations, it was the 1st Karate European Congress! Remember also the names of the attending persons, they are the one who began the future WKF. For Italy, M. Augusto BASILE, for Belgium, MM. AARTS Leeo and STAS, for Switzerland, M. CHERIX Bernard, for Germany, M. Karl HEINZ KILTZ for Great Britain, M. BELL, for France, MM DELCOURT et SEBBAN.
The representative for Spain, M. P. GARCIA was excused. An inventory of the establishment of Karate, then very disorganised not to say not organised at all was done. It was decided to contact the different Judo federations, which, in many countries, headed up Karate. The question of different styles and techniques was approached and the delegates noted - already! - That the unification of techniques was impossible. The question of refereeing unification, which differed significantly from a country to another, was approached and put on the agenda for next meeting. An inventory of the practitioners was done: Germany 5 to 7000, Belgium, 1200 to 1500, Great Britain around 5000, France, 4000. M. DELCOURT was in charge of coordinating actions and to prepare the next meeting.
On May 24th 1964, the 2nd Karate European Congress was held in Paris. Were attending, for Germany, M. BRIEF, for Belgium, MM. GOETZ and FANNOY, for Switzerland, M. CHERIX, for France, MM. DELCOURT and SEBBAN. Were excused, M. BELL (England), M. PAANEN (Netherlands), and the representants for Italy and Spain (their names do not appear on the minutes). After a general survey on karate in each country, the delegates decided that they had to elect an executive body and so a Directing Board was elected : President Jacques DELCOURT (France), he was to remain President until 1997, i.e. 34 years !, vice-president, MM. BRIEF (Germany), CHERIX (Switzerland), FANNOY (Belgium), General Secretary M. SEBBAN (France), assistant General-Secretary : M. GOETZ (Belgium).
These directors, of which M. Delcourt is the only one remaining on duty, are the ones who started the organization of World Karate. The 1964 Congress studied others issues such as the implementation of an international referee course, the issue of a newsletter, international matches, courses given by Japanese experts and for the first time, the delegates wished the organisation of European Championships. The 3rd European Congress took place on the 21st of November 1965, still in Paris. Ten nations were members then with 3 new members : Austria, who's President, M. Karl NEVECERAL will remain on duty until 1998 (and retire only for health problems), Yugoslavia and Portugal.
The Technical adviser, M. Henry PLEE attended the Congress thus 4 Japanese experts: MM. KONO, YAMASHIMA, TOYAMA and SUZUKI. The most important issue on the agenda is the adoption of statutes which will definitely achieve the European Karate Union : they are agreed unanimously and M. DELCOURT, deeply moved, tells the assembly that the European Union is now created. Applying the statutes which were just agreed, elections for the Directing Committee take place. Unanimously, M. DELCOURT is elected EKU President, M. FANNOY (Belgium), 1st vice-president ; M. CHERIX (Switzerland), 2nd vice president, M. SEBBAN (France), General Secretary, with the function of Treasurer, and M. GOETZ (Belgium), assistant general secretary.
In fact, no change compared to the 1964 committee (except M. BRIEF disparition). The Congress decides budget, refereeing rules, an International Cup in Cannes and ...the 1st European Championships. They are set to May 7th, 1966 in Paris, Categories: team: 5 competitors + 1 reserve, and individuals: 4 competitors per nation, without weight category and only on pools (the female competitors will compete only 10 years later). They decided that the Directing Committee will meet one month before the Championships to settle all the details.
To note: the 4 th. European Congress took place in 1963 and the 1st European Championships in 1966, what explains the 3 years gap between the Congress and European Championships numbers. For example, in 1998, was held the 36th EKF Congress, and the 33d European Championships.
On May 7th, 1966, the first European Championships were held in Paris. Surprisingly, it was a success: 300 spectators, live TV : the Italian team came with a very famous movie star: Elsa MARTINELLI. For the team competition, 5 nations entered Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Italy, France, and 6 countries for the individual competition (same ones + Austria On semi-finals, Switzerland beats Italy, France beats Great Britain. For the 3rd place, Italy beats Great Britain. In finals, France beats Switzerland. Please note that the Swiss team never competed, not even clubs competition.
On individual competition, semi-finals, BAROUX (France), beats GERONEMA (Italy); SAUVIN (France) beats SETROUK (France). In finals, BAROUX beats SAUVIN. 'The matches were very hard, many face injuries were deplored. The directors decided to discuss the problem ... which was not solved 33 years later! Great Britain (President M. SOMMERS), 69 clubs, 1000 licensed, 3 Japanese experts teach on full time: MM. SUZUKI, SHIOMITSU and TAKAMIZAWA Great Britain applies for the organization Of the 2nu European Championships. Austria (President M. Karl NEVECERAL), 4 clubs and 800 licensed. Germany (President M. BRAND): 27 clubs and 1300 licensed.
The first German championships took place in Schweinfurt, refereed entirely by MM. Delcourt and Sauvin. Switzerland (M. CHERIX): 12 clubs and 500 members, because of a lack of means, they cannot hire a Japanese expert and M. CHERIX does the courses. France (M. DELCOURT): 200 clubs and 3000 licences. (NOTA: to have an idea of the increase, in 1998, 3600 clubs and 204.000 licences !) Italy (M. BASILE): Two Federations ask to enter EKU, the KIAI and the FIK The KIAI gathers 23 clubs and 950 licensees. The FIK (M. PORZIO DI BORGO) gathers 23 clubs and 700 licensees. Both Federations agreed to unify. Netherlands (M. BLADT): several existing organizations try to make a confederation - the NKA (1000 practitioners), the NKF (300 members), the FNJB (1500 members), where the Japanese KONO teaches, and the group of M. KASE (300 members).
The Congress analyses the results of the European Championships. The opinions differed: M. BRAND (Germany) tells that the fights are too hard, M. CHEERIX (Switzerland) thinks that the rules were violated several times, M. BASILE (Italy) insist on control, M. SOMMERS (Great Britain) does not agree regarding the toughness of the fights, he thinks Karate is not dancing and that virility must prevail. M. DELCOURT thinks that a fight is tough only if the referee tolerates R. M. CHERIX (Switzerland) asks M. SUZUKI why competitors who face injured their opponent, were declared winners , M. SUZUKI answers that many competitors injured themselves moving towards their, opponent uncautionely and «impaling » on his guard, in this case, they are responsible for their injuries.
He also thinks that many competitors suffer a lack of physical condition and collapse on light attacks, others do not know how to block or dodge the attacks. The Congress goes to others issues : the Referee Committee created, M. SOMMERS (GB) is elected assistant General Secretary, the1966/1967 calendar is studied, the candidature of Great Britain is agreed, the 2nd European Championships will be held in London in May 1967. Italy applies for 1968 and Germany for 1969. The Cannes International Cup is set to July 16th, 1966. Two technical advisers are nominated: MM. SUZUKI and MOCHIZUKI. Finally, the Congress votes the accounts which are: incomes: 1023.64FF and expenditures : 524.04 FF (i.e. would mean today around 100 USD!).
That is to say a 499.60 FF positive balance. The President then closes the Congress. Among the competitors of the 1st European Championships, some athletes will become famous : T. MORRIS, who will become Chairman of the WKF and EKF Referee Councils, P.SPANTON, who will be charged of the WKF and EKF computer system and GUY SAUVIN, to become WKF (WUKO) and EKF Technical Director and Dominique VALERA, whose name is known by all karatekas. In 1967, the first referee course in history is held in Rome (Italy). The applicants will remember it : the accommodation and the courses were inside a sports centre surrounded by a double barrier where ferocious dogs (compared to them, pit-bulls were just nice sheep's!) were circulating.
During the 8 days of the course, no one could get out from the complex. The main task was to harmonise the refereeing rules, on the basis of JKA rules. The 2nd European Championships are held on 5th and 6th May 1967 at the Cristal Palace of London. There were perfectly organised by MM. Sommers and Palmer, the Chairs of British Federation. In individuals, (the weight categories did not exist yet), Baroux (FRA) beats Desnoes (FRA), thirds Jordan (SWI) and Spanton (GB). In teams, Greta Britain beats France, thirds: Germany and Italy.
The 5th Congress opens on 7th May 1967 at the Cristal Palace. 8 countries are members of the EKU : Great-Britain, Belgium, Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Netherlands, France, Italy, and Switzerland. Two countries asked for affiliation: Yugoslavia (MM. Bilbija and Jorga) and Ireland (M. Conway). Among the guests can be seen: MM. T. Morris, Kono, Toyama, Kanazawa, Mochizuki, Sagimura, and Suzuki. Netherlands are represented by their new president, M. Bontje and Italy by M. Ceracchini. After the opening of Congress by President Delcourt and the welcoming speeches, the first issue on the agenda is discussed: Treasury.
The Congress decides to nominate 2 controllers in charge to verify the accounts before each Congress (the day before or on the morning if the Congress is set on the afternoon). The Congress will only approve the accounts after the report of the controllers. As M. Leo Arts (Belgium) is an accountant, the President asks him to accept the position of Treasurer. The Congress modifies the article 19 of the statutes in order to allow a Directing Committee Member to be treasurer. The financial year is set from 1st January to 31st December. The sheets will stick to this period.
The Congress votes the two controllers: M. Paanen (Netherlands) and Plee (France). Analyzing the 2nd European Championships, President Delcourt submits two remarks to the Congress: 1) It was set that each team shall be composed of 5 fighters plus 1 reserve. But one country had two injured competitors and had to fight on with only 4 fighters what put them in inferiority. The proposal to have 5 competitors and 3 reserves was rejected as it would favour the organising country, which can always get as many reserves it wants. M. Sommers (GB) propose that the decision to change a competitor comes out from the doctor, what is rejected.
Finally, the decision is to compose teams of 5 competitors plus 2 reserves. This system has never been changed and remains today. 1) Second remark, the individual fights are the hardest and the competitors come out exhausted, what makes the Team competition less interesting while it is the most prestigious title. President Delcourt suggests starting with the Teams, the competitors will be less tired to start the Individuals and it will give each nation the possibility to choose for Individuals according to Team results. It will also be stimulating.
The Congress approves unanimously both proposals and goes to the following issue: new affiliations. Yugoslavia declares 15 clubs and 2000 members and is accepted. Regarding, Ireland, M. Sommers is charged to inquiry the real importance of the federation. The decision is delayed. So is the affiliation of Scotland which wants a separate affiliation. An inquiry will be made among the other sports before making any decision. The elections for the free seats are held : M. Plee (FRA) is elected at general secretary, M. Ceracchini (ITA), as vice-president and M. Leo Arts as Treasurer. The 1967/1968 calendar is reviewed. Italy informs it cannot organize the 1968 European Championships. France proposes to replace it what is accepted.
The Championships will be held on May 4th 1968 in Paris and the 6th Congress, on May 5th 1968. The 2nd referee course will be held in Yugoslavia, in Split. The International Cup in Cannes is confirmed on July 15th 1967. Precision: Teams will be Club teams and not national teams. A Technical Committee is created; it is in charge of technical issues and refereeing. Each federation shall send the secretary the name of one applicant to seat in the Committee. M. Suzuki is nominated Technical Adviser for Wado-Ryu style. For Shotokan , the seat is proposed to M. Kanazawa who asks to consult his federation. The fees are up to 100 USD per year.
A European Championships entry fee is set to 1USD per competitor, individual and team. The Directing Committee members will be taken in charge by the EKU. The EKU members, founders of the Union are given the title "Founder member of European Karate Union". This award gives them the right to attend, during their whole life, EKU Meetings and Congress and have a consultative voice. Are concerned: MM. Delcourt (FRA), Aarts (BEL), Cherix (SWI), Basile (ITA). M. Paanen (NED) asks for the organization of European Kata Championships.
The issue will be studied and the Japanese experts will be consulted. On January 28, 1968, EKU first technical meeting was held in Paris. It is actually the first ever technical meeting. Are attending : MM. Delcourt (FRA), Aarts (BEL), Arneil (GB), Baroux (FRA), Basile (ITA), Luiten (HOL), Jordan (SUI), Plee (representing Yugoslavia); was absent M. Feucht (GER), invited, M. Morris (SCO). The main issue of the meeting was the organisation of the refereeing. The decision taken is to draft an exam programme in order to appoint international referees. The exam will take place once a year during an international course. The jury will be nominated by the Directing Committee.
The programme is composed of 8 points : be a national referee, presented by one's federation, be up to date with the fees, be at least 1st Dan, be at least 21 years old, compulsorily participate to the course, pass the exam before the practice, with an average mark of 5 points out of 10; the general average mark cannot be less than 11 out of 20. M. Basile is elected Secretary of the EKU Technical Committee by 5 voices for against 2 for M. Aarts. Existing EKU refereeing rules are kept. A study will be made by the committee concerning the various rules throughout the world. The 4 corner judge with 1 central referee is maintained. On May 5, 1968, The 6th EKU Congress was held in Paris. Seven countries are attending : Austria (power give to M. Brand), Belgium (Collyn), Germany (Brand), Great Britain (Sommers), Netherlands (Van Hellemond), Yugoslavia (Yorga), France (Delourt), invited : Spain (Lazaro). Switzerland (Cherix) is absent. The results of the 3rd European Championships are the following: in team, France beats Belgium. Semi-finalists: Italy and Yugoslavia. In individuals, Sauvin (FRA) beats Valera (FRA°, semi-finalists Kosakowitch (BEL) and Grossetete (SUI). M. Collyn protests against the fact that France and Yugoslavia agreed on the name of a referee concerning the match opposing them.
But, until this day, it was not forbidden. After long talks, the Congress decides that no country will have a veto right and will have the right to object to a referee, no country will have the right to agree on a referee's name, the list of the referees will be drafted every year and conveyed to the Director of the competition who, with the help of the Technical Committee Secretary will appoint the referees for each competition. The central referee shall be neutral, regarding the corner judges, the equality shall be respected, for example, 2 neutrals and one of each competing countries. The Congress, on the basis of the Technical Committee proposal ratifies the results of refereeing exams : 18 international referees and 14 trainee international referees (among whom, MM. Morris and Spanton, who will both go a long way).
Talks are starting regarding women who attend the exam, the case will be submitted to the Technical Committee. A seat in the Directing Committee must be re-elected, M. Cherix is re-elected unanimously. The organisation of year 1968-1969 is set : the Technical Committee will meet in January 1969 at an International event. The meeting of the Directing Committee is set end February 1969 in Brussels. Yugoslavia proposes to organise the 2nd refereeing course in Opatija from 3rd to 6th April 1969. M. Collyn proposes the organisation of the 3rd course in 1970 in Ostende. It is agreed in principle. The 7th European Championships will take place in London on May 10, 1969, the 7th EKU Congress will be held the following day, May 11. For 1970 Championships, 3 countries apply: Italy, Germany and Netherlands. The 7th Congress will take the decision. MM. Kase and Mochizuki are unanimously re-elected as technical counsellors.
M. Delcourt says he is in touch with Africa, that an African Union is creating and that the General Secretary is in contact with Australia. President Delcourt believes these are encouraging information and that an International Karate Union may be created swiftly. Four federations requested information to enter EKU: Spain, Israel, Finland and Ireland. A badge (drawn by Mrs Delcourt) is studied then adopted. M. Sommers is in charge for the making. International referees shall wear an identical suit defined as : dark navy blue blazer (straight with 3 silver buttons), light grey trousers, white shirt, dark tie (black or navy blue), black shoes with supple soles. M. Aarts asks that the name of M. Plee be added to the list of the EKU funding members, in regards to his contribution to the launching of Karate on Technical plan in Europe.
The proposal is unanimously accepted. VII EKF Congress opens in London in May, 11th 1969. The results of the IV European Championships were ratified: In individual, Valera beat Gruss (Fra). The bronze medal winners were: Jorga I (YOU), Sherer (West Germany). In team modality, France beat Great Britain, and Belgium and Yugoslavia shared the third place. There were 10 participating countries. The Technical Counsellor T Kase, considers that the level of competitors has increased, however referees have not made much of a progress. President Delcourt answers that only two referee courses have taken place, the basis are good but holding just an international referee course every year it is not possible to unify refereeing basis, experience can not be acquired only through National Federations. Travelling and meals of referees are criticized.
M. Palmer answers that only a few countries informed on the number of attendees and consequently it is difficult to satisfy them if the countries do not report on the needs that must be satisfied during the Championships. The Congress decide that the activity will be held at UEK Headquarters and any DC member will have permanent access to files. M. Aarts (BEL) comments that Technical Committee meet just once and for half of a day and finds that it is not enough, he asks for a two-day meeting. M. Basile says that he is going to study that possibility. It is decided that the Organizing country is not responsible for the competition itself, but the Directing Committee. A report is forwarded on the referee course in Split (YOU).
The following applicants have been appointed International Referees: MM. Berdekens (BEL), Boutros (FRA), Vichet (FRA), B.Donn (GB), S. Arncil (GB), Pio Gaddi (ITA), Jorga (YOU). Ont ete nommes arbitres Internationaux stagiaires: MM. Faurier, (NED), Ham (NED), Collyn (BEL), Dehacs (BEL), Szkodzinski (FRA), Delcourt (FRA), Jenkins (GB), Grosso (ITA), Notari (ITA), Broggi (ITA), Zarko (YOU), Berislaw (YOU), Topic (YOU), Jorga W (YOU). M. Somers, Assistant Treasurer, was re-elected unanimously. Belgium presents its candidature to host Easter referee course in 1970, in Ostende. The Congress approves it.
Four new countries are definitely accepted: Spain, Ireland, Sweden and Luxembourg. V European Championships were held in Hamburg (Germany) in May 1970. This year is particularly very important for Karate, as WKF statutes are established and the first World Championships are held. As intended, the referee course takes place in Ostende and on 30th May 1970 , VIII EKF Congress is held in Hamburg. First of all, the Congress ratify the decisions taken by Directing Committee at their meeting on 7th March in Florence (ITA). Results of European Championships are: ratify Individuals, Valera beat Gruss (Fra). Bronze medal winners: Baroux (FRA) and Higgins (GB). Team category: West Germany beat France; Great Britain and Yugoslavia share bronze medal.
Mr. Both (Ned) proposes to establish a repechage system. This issue is put to the vote. There are 5 votes for it, 3 votes against it, and 2 abstentions. Consequently, it is decided that repechage system will be used in the following Championships. A discussion arises around refereeing, too much injured, Mr. Franco de Arabia (Esp.) proposes that a date should be settled, before competitions, for a technical meeting once every year. He is answered that is already being held and with Mr. Basile as Chairman. M. Messer's (Sweden) asks for the settlement of a date from that moment on. Mr. Hardwood (GB) does not agree with the draw system, he suggests having fighters with the same nationality in the same pool. Congress has a completely different point of view.
Yugoslavia presents its candidature to host the VI World Championships from 28th to 30th May 1970 in Belgrade. The Congress gives their approval. Elections take place and Mr. Delcourt is re-elected President. For Vice President position, there are three voting rounds showing the same results: 5 votes for Brandt (GER), and 5 votes for Both (NED). According to statutes, the President is asked for his vote to break the tie. Based on his experience and work, Mr. Delcourt votes for Brandt, who is elected. Mr. Joys (FRA) is elected for the General Secretariat. Mr. Franco de Arabia (ESP), proposes that candidatures should be submitted a month before the Congress and forwarded by the corresponding national federation.
The Congress approves it. The candidature of Israel is accepted with 9 votes for it and one abstention (Yugoslavia). The referee course will be held in Ajaccio (Corse) from 6th to 12th April 1971. M. Jorga (YOU) asks for the weight categories to be settled. A first voting round takes place: 7 votes for it, 3 votes against it. This issue will be studied by the Technical Committee and forwarded afterwards to the next Congress.
Mr. Delcourt states that Karate must be organized at world level. In order to make it possible, he creates the International Karate Union, and announces that Paris is a candidate to host the first World Championship in November, 14th 1970. A referee course is planned for November, 13th. The Congress gives their approval and the meeting is closed. From now on, events will happen in all haste in 1970. Mr. Ryoichi Sasakawa, President of the Japanese Federation, travels to Paris to meet again Mr. Delcourt and states his interest in taking part of construction of Karate at a world level but it is not possible, because of prestige reasons, to become a part of a world organization already existing, he proposes to cancel UIK and to found a new organization starting with Japan and UEK. Finally an historic agreement is reached and is signed between the two leaders on 16th June 1970 in Paris, which states that "from that moment on FAJKO and EKF will work together for the development of Karate worldwide". The new organization is called WUKO.
Mr. Sasakawa proposes that Mr.Delcourt should be the President and he will be the Honorary President. Mr. Delcourt does not agree with it, he thinks that for prestige reasons the Presidency must go to Mr. Sasakawa, and he will act as Chairman, and later on the Congress will decide on the Presidency according to statutes. This historic agreement was greatly important for small organizations or clubs, which were not affiliated to UEK. Mr. Sasakawa returns to Paris in August, 9th 1970, accompanied by MM. Eriguchi, Nakayama and Kagawa and organizes an International Karate Conference at the Intercontinental Hotel, where every European organization or from any other part of the world have been invited. The Japanese Embassy is represented by Mr.Hatori.
After listening to all different points of view, Mr. Sasakawa tries to make everybody agree and at the end of the meeting informs that the agreements signed with Mr Delcourt are definitive. First World Championships will be hosted by Tokyo in October, 10th 1970, where the first WUKO Congress will take place.
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