Karate Unification Update

Karate Unification

Karate is still the most popular Martial Art in England according to Sport England figures for participants over 16. Including juniors the figures would give a total of around 150,000 practising Karateka. Yet this apparently healthy situation should not make us complacent; there are a number of challenges faced by Karate. These include:

  • Competition from Mixed Martial Arts which is a fast growing activity and from Taekwondo in this Olympic year.
  • The pressure of Karate instructors who are not members of major groups and who often provide poor quality instruction at exorbitant prices.
  • Disunity, which means that we do not speak with one voice and do not have a Governing Body recognised by Sport England.
  • A consequence of disunity is that our influence is reduced and Karate has no lottery funding from Sport England (unlike Judo and Taekwondo for example).

In order to address these challenges a Karate Unification process was instigated last year by the Sport and Recreation Alliance (formerly CCPR); the author is a Board Director of the SRA and worked with the Chief Executive of the S+RA. An initial meeting in October 2011 was attended by four S+RA members: AMA, EKF, FEKO and KE. NAKMAS, the fifth member did not attend but were supportive of the process. A second meeting took place in December 2011 which whilst supportive of the principle of unification, identified a key difficulty for the EKF: the rules of the World Karate Federation (WKF). This obstacle could not be overcome and it was therefore decide by the other three groups (AMA, FEKO, KE) to go ahead with unification. NAKMAS have now decided to join the process, which is described in detail in the paper entitled, ‘Proposal for a unified Karate Body for English Karate’.

The structure proposed is for an umbrella body formed from the major groups who are operating at the moment. Smaller groups who wish to remain independent are included but not single clubs. This is because one of the problems faced by establishing a united governing body is the fragmentation of Karate. Also the major groups do not wish to duplicate what is being offered by those groups. The aim is rather to consolidate what we already have and create a set of Portfolios, operating standards supported by all which can be used to give confidence to sports bodies, venue owners and the public.

Work has already commenced on these Portfolios and the meeting of the English Karate Council held on the 15th March considered the following topics;

  • A draft constitution for the new body
  • The consolidation of Instruction guidelines
  • Protocols for gradings
  • Child protection
  • Insurance

The meeting was fortunate to have expert advisors present for the last two topics. Hamish Telfer delivers child protection seminars for SportscoachUK and was a co-author of the UK Sport guidance on the subject. Mike Cowburn and Clive Baker have huge experience in Karate insurance issues. The EKC Board are determined to produce the best possible advice and guidance on these important topics. Our aim is to demonstrate that this new body can add value at low cost and be a real benefit to Karateka everywhere. We also need to convince Sport England that we have put in place appropriate governance arrangements if we are to succeed in gaining Sport England recognition. To this end we have adopted the Voluntary Code of Good Governance for the Sport & Recreation sector published by the S &RA. This code has been endorsed by the Government and Sport England as a guide to effective governance in the sport sector.

All involved in the EKC want it to be a success, and support has also been given by the large majority of the most senior experienced and successful Karateka in the country. The EKC now comprises the largest Karate group in the country with over 50,000 members. We aim to serve, not to dictate, and to be guided by what is best for Karate to develop and grow.


John Bell

Chairman, Karate England

Director, Sport and Recreation Alliance


March 2012.

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