Kyokushin Karate has always been a breeding ground for professional full-contact fighters. Nicholas Pettas, Andy Hug, Francisco Filho, Glaube Feitosa, and Sam Greco, to name a few. Not to mention Georges St. Pierre, former Welterweight Champion of the UFC.
In more recent time, Full-contact karate is beginning to have it’s own “professional” bouts, with organizations like the World Fighting Kyokushin Organization sanctioning professional tournaments for prize. However, it is at the amateur level where these fighters get their start.
Since the passing of Masutatsu (Mas) Oyama in 1994, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, there have been many splinter groups formed by former students of his. While this has been good in some ways for the spread of what is known as the “Strongest Karate”, it has also created infighting amongst groups, and many groups have become siloed within their own organizations. Thus, tournaments are only for practitioners within a specific group. This is not uncommon within martial arts when there is a passing of a founder.
Some groups however, within Kyokushin, are beginning to open its doors. Forming larger tournaments, open to different organizations. The Kyokushin World Union, a non partial organization, with leaders from different organizations, is know for this. And most recently, the WKO Shinkyokushinkai, led by former Champion Kenji Midori, has opened it’s doors to others. This is will undoubtedly help in the push to have Full-Contact Karate be accepted into the Olympic games. A long-time goal of Kenji Midori.
This coming November the WKO will be hosting their 11th World Karate Championships, in Tokyo, Japan. An open weight tournament held once every four years. What makes this one different however is that the WKO has invited fighters from other organizations to participate.
Among those invited were Knockdown fighters from the International Karate Federation (IFK Kyokushin, which is a member of the Kyokushin World Union). The IFK have selected two Russian men and Emma Markwell from the United Kingdom. British fighter Emma Markwell, from the IFK / KWU, is well known in the British Open Championship and is currently the IFK European Champion. Aside from this, Markwell will also be fighting in the KWU World Tournament and the Kyokushinkan All Japan.
Other organization fighter within the female division includes:
- Takayo Kimura - Buritsu Kaikan, Japan
- Yui Kikukawa - Ashihara Kaikan, Japan
- Irina Kriazheva – KWU, Russia
- Momoka Oba – KWU, Japan
The men’s division includes:
- Nikolay Maslennikov – KWU, Russia
- Naoki Morita – KWU, Japan
- Artem Nazaretian – KWU, Russia
- Vasily Samadurov – KWU, Russia
- Masaki Yamaoto – KWU, Japan
- Igor Ryadnov – KWU, Russia
- Alexander Komanov - KWU, Bulgaria
- Yordan Yanev - KWU, Bulgaria
Many people are eager to see fighter Valeri Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Known as the “Prodigy”. Dimitrov is the 3-time World champion in Weight Categories, 3-time European champion in open weight and 12-times European champion in weight categories. Known for his humble and quiet appearance and his extremely dynamic fighting style.
Other fighters to watch include Yuji Shimamoto, 2014 All Japan Champion and Kazufumi Shimamoto, 2010/11 WKO All-Japan weight Champion.
This tournament will prove to be a large event in Japan, with spectators and participants from around the world and will create better exposure for full-contact karate. And who knows. Perhaps it will spawn the next great Professional Full Contact fighter!