TOKYO — We’ve seen the debut of several new sports in the Tokyo Olympics such as skateboarding and surfing.
Another new sport will begin competition soon, but while the sport is new to the Olympics, it’s not new to Japan.
Karate originated in Japan, and the Tokyo Olympics is where karate will debut on the world stage. It’s a milestone that’s not lost on athletes.
For a sport that’s all about precision, karate’s Olympic debut is perfectly timed.
“It’s something that we all love doing as karate athletes, and we just never had the chance to show it to the world and have a bigger audience. And what better place than the Olympics?” said Sakura Kokumai, an Olympic athlete.
Kokumai is one of three U.S. athletes competing in karate. For her, it’s special because she’s in the land of her ancestors.
“I’m really grateful for this experience of representing the U.S., a country where I was born and raised in. But I’m also excited to represent Japan,” she said.
Karate originated in Okinawa, Japan, and spread throughout the country during the 1920s. The Olympic competition will take place in Nippon Budokan, known as the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts.
The sport has also spread worldwide, especially in the U.S.
“I was very surprised, wherever you got that’s a small shopping center, it’s always, karate, lessons, like a place,” said Minori Marken, professor of Japanese at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Marken is happy about the Japanese cultural display at the games.
“It’s time to officially show off Japanese culture,” Marken said.
That showcase of karate will begin Aug. 5.