Why a sport like karate (and two other martial arts) has lost interest for Olympic status
Farzad Youshanlou
July 9, 2024

The bosses of the karate, muay thai, and kickboxing federations, aiming for Olympic inclusion, must prioritize strategic planning and engage skilled experts. This approach will help prevent disorganization and ensure athletes thrive.

Despite recognition by the Olympic Movement, the federations for karate, muay thai, and kickboxing have not presented comprehensive plans to enhance their quality, resulting in minimal media attention. Instead of focusing on the technical and tactical aspects of these sports, each federation mimics the others, adopting a homogeneous strategy in a bid for Olympic inclusion. This approach has yet to yield positive results.

The World Karate Federation (WKF) exemplifies this issue. By moving away from traditional karate standards and demonstrating managerial inconsistencies, it illustrates how easily the chance of Olympic participation can be lost. Karate, despite its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, was excluded from the 2024 Paris and 2028 Los Angeles Games.


Karate, a sport with a global fan base and various Japanese and Okinawan styles, has not leveraged this diversity for a permanent Olympic spot. Instead, the WKF’s president isolated the federation, creating a brand indistinguishable from Taekwondo. This is evident in the case of Jordan Thomas, a World Karate Champion, who joined the British Taekwondo to pursue Olympic participation after Karate’s exclusion.

Similarly, the resemblance between the competitions of the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) and WKF raises questions about the necessity of having multiple similar martial arts in the Olympics.


Neglecting the technical roots and traditional origins of karate and kickboxing has blurred the distinction between the two for spectators, reducing their appeal.

Muay thai faces similar challenges. If the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) fails to address these issues, it could hinder muay thai’s progress. Unlike karate, muay thai must avoid conflicts with other muay thai organizations. Given its inherent appeal, it should expand opportunities for athletes and increase its global presence. The artistic aspects of muay thai should not be overshadowed by political and commercial interests, or it risks the same decline experienced by the WKF and IBA.

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