The recent development of the sport of karate for disabled is having a positive impact on the enhancement of the performance for people with disabilities and on their social integration.
This development has been taken by the World Karate federation as an opportunity to review its internal structures in order to identify possible alternatives as competitive sport. This project is the first of this kind in the WKF and is going to build the base for making possible the WKF karatekas to compete and contrast their quality both at national and international level. The implementation and success of this project will depend on its general acceptance within the WKF and its member Federations, starting with the athletes, and following with the relevant departments of the National Federations.
2. HISTORY OF KARATE COMPETITION FOR DISABLED
The German Karate Federation (DKV) has been the first WKF member to have a separate department of "Karate for Disabled". This year already a local competition for this target group took place. In 2007 the German National Championships are planned.
The Karate Federation of Montenegro has as well created a separate department for "Karate for Disabled". The Karate Federations of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia and Luxemburg have shown strong interest. They also have persons of this target group in their clubs and are interested to create this department.
A circular letter of the WKF to the National Federations would stimulate their interest for "Karate for Disabled".
3. STRUCTURE OF KARATE AS A SPORT FOR DISABLED WITHIN THE WKF
The athletes and coaches have realized that the training know-how for karate competition can be also implemented in the case of persons with moderate disabilities when this know-how is adapted to their needs and possibilities. This requires an intensive collaboration with the coaches.
The specific systems developed by the WKF should consequently undergo a fundamental reorganization for their application to the disabled, both for general practice and for competition. The recognition of these systems should be nowadays the basis for the development the karate competition for disabled at national and international level. For this purpose, the WKF has created the Commission "Karate for Disabled".
The general structure should comprise the following levels:
1. The WKF-Commission
2. Competition level Panel:
• WKF World Championships
• Continental Championships
• National Championships
• Rehabilitation Sport
• Prevention Sport
• Mass Sport
4. Medical Commission
The WKF should give to rehabilitators, prevention specialists, practitioners and competitors the appropriate atmosphere and offer the possibility to build up a "sense of belonging".
Mutual respect and esteem is the basis for a constructive cooperation. There is a need for an open and efficient communication in all domains to built the proper atmosphere.
The WKF, as the world governing body, should have an open dialogue with all participants in order to have a large support among its member federations, which is essential to the structure. The position paper states: „Sports for disabled relies on the cooperation of all, the Federations, the Regions, the National Federations and the governing body". This statement has to be also applied to competitive sports.
The international competition corresponds to the WKF, whereas the National Federations are mainly responsible for finding and supporting talents.
Competitive sports for disabled do not differ from competitive sports for able-bodied in many areas, such as training or competition. Consequently the disabled should benefit from the expertise of training sciences for sports for able-bodied and use them for the structures of competitive sports thus creating synergies.
The WKF intends to adapt the competition for disabled to valid criteria recognized by the International Paralympics Committee. The WKF will establish the relative competition categories.
9. PUBLIC RELATIONS
Successful athletes in Championships are always a model for others. This is not exclusively the case in sports for disabled, whereupon it is especially so in these cases. For this reason, the WKF needs extensive public relations during its Championships to present its best athletes to the media, in order to call the attention on the competition for disabled.
The athlete's health is the basis for an ideal, human and successful sport competition. They have to be provided through an appropriate medical advice, care and maintenance from the search for talents up to the Paralympics.
Generally speaking there are two different types of disabilities for the classification:
1. Depending on the type of the disability (amputated, blind and people with visual impairment, cerebral palsy, wheelchair persons, etc.) following the medical diagnosis:
• Amputations 9
• Blind and visual impaired 3
• Cerebral Palsy 8
• Intellectual Impairment 1
• Wheelchair 8
2. According to their level of impairment and to the sport discipline as well as the ability of the individual to practice this sport discipline despite the disability. This integrative system involves different disabilities in one group. The functional classification system is done through specific tests by sport and is supervised during the competition. The asset of this functional classification is to allow athletes with different disabilities to compete together.
11.a Disability Specific Classification
• A1 double leg above knee amputation
• A2 single leg above knee amputation
• A3 double leg below knee amputation
• A4 single leg below knee amputation
• A5 double arm above elbow amputation
• A6 single arm above elbow amputation
• A7 double arm below elbow amputation
• A8 single arm below elbow amputation
• A9 combined upper and lower limb amputations (unilateral or diagonal)
11.a.2 Blind and Visual Impaired
• B1 Total Blindness: Total absence of perception of the light in both eyes or some perception of the light but with inability to recognize the form of a hand at any distance or direction. Athletes must wear opaque glasses!
• B2 Severe visual impairment: From ability to recognize the shape of a hand up to visual acuity of 2/60 and a visual field of less than 5 degrees (in the best eye with the best practical eye correction).
• B3 Visual Impaired: From visual acuity above 2/60 up to 6/60 and/or a visual field of more than 5 degrees and less than 20 degrees (in the best eye with the best practical eye correction).
11.a.3 Cerebral Palsy (CP)
• C1 severe quadriplegia = tetraplegia, dependent on electric wheelchair for mobility
• C2 severe spastic quadriplegia, self propulsion in wheelchair is possible with hands and feet for short distances
• C3 Leg paralysis, arms have sufficient, but limited, trunk control is unstable, use of manual wheelchair without any problems
• C4 Minimal limitations in upper limbs, poor or no walking ability, fair trunk control.
• C5 Leg paralysis = diplegia, dependent on assistive devices in walking
• C6 St. Vitus' Dance, uncontrolled movements in upper limbs and face = athetosis
• C7 right or left paralysis = hemiplegia, mostly severe limping
• C8 Minimal paralysis, minimally affected diplegia, hemiplegia or athetosis, mostly incoordination
Tetraplegia, paraplegia, Spina Bifida and poliomyelitis are the most common forms. The classification depends on the parts of the spinal cord below the affected area.
According to the sport discipline there are from 4 up to max. 8 categories. The classification is done according to the specific requirements of the sports discipline.
Following are differenciated
- paralysis of the cervical spine (C5-C8), whereas arms and hands are also always affected (tetraplegia)
- paralysis of the thoracic spine (TH1-TH12) with different instability of the trunk, but with normal arm functions (paraplegia)
- paralysis in the lumbar area with deficits in the legs, but fair trunk control (L1-S2) (paraplegia)
11.a.5 Intellectual Impairment
Persons with intellectual impairment, Down syndrome, learning disorders, behavioural disorder, etc. having an IQ below 75, are authorized to participate in this group.
Currently there is only one group despite the broad spectrum of impairments, but there is work in progress to create new and more equitable classification systems. So far, athletes with intellectual impairment were only allowed to participate as demonstration disciplines at the Paralympics.
11.a.6 Hearing Disorders
Deafness with a hearing loss of at least 55 Decibels in the best ear. The athletes are not allowed to use any hearing aids during the competition. This group of disabled is organized separately world wide through the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (CISS Comité International des Sports des Sourds) and performs its own World Games. For this reason this group is not integrated at the Paralympics.
The quality of the karate specific and functional classification of the athletes is the basis for equal opportunities, fairness, repeatability and verifiability in sport competition for disabled. The system has to be arranged internationally in this sense All Regional, National and International levels should be consistent with the international standard. The term `Disability Group´ is substituted by `Competition Group´.
12. ORGANIZATIONAL MEASURES
High performance in sport can only be achieved by impaired and able-bodied if the personal environment is adequate.
13. MEDICAL AND PHYSIOTHERAPEUTICAL CARE
Athletes with impairment already rely on medical and physiotherapeutic care because of their impairment and possible due to overloading. The annual medical checkups by a doctor of the Medical Commission of the WKF are a premise for the admission to any international event by the doctor of the Federation.
14. CLASSIFICATION OF THE DISCIPLINES
The sport disciplines of the WKF are classified as follows:
Kata: According to the official WKF Rules
1. Kata for Wheelchair athletes
2. Kata for Intellectually Impaired
3. Karate for Amputees
a) Group 1: A2 + A4
b) Group 2: A6 + A7 + A8
c) Group 3: A9
4. Cerebral palsy: C7 + C8
Political Objectives - Karate as a Paralympics sport:
The short and medium term objective is to consolidate Karate for Disabled in the WKF and of the National Federations on a personal, institutional and constitutional level.
The long term political objective is that karate gets the status of a Paralympics sport. This status has had a wide range of consequences for all the sports which had been considered marginal before becoming Paralympics. A fundamental effect would mean a greater presence on media. Since nowadays the „market value" of a sport is mainly measured by its presence in the media, this would have great consequences on all the other objectives. It can be expected that the creation of „Karate for Disabled" in the WKF will enhance the acceptance of karate in the society as a whole, this being an asset to become Paralympics.