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Karate needs wider pool of athletes

KUALA LUMPUR – David Lay concedes that taekwondo is more popular than karate.

“For every 10 Filipinos, eight will go to taekwondo and only two to karate,” said the two-time Southeast Asian Games champion and now national coach.

The PH karate team left Friday after taking three silver and four bronzes in 16 events.

Host Malaysia dominated karate with seven golds followed by Vietnam with five and Indonesia with three.

Philippine karate needs a wider pool of athletes to choose from, according to Lay.

“But most karate clubs are concentrated in Metro Manila and a few urban cities,” he said.

Lay proposes the inclusion of karate in the Palarong Pambansa and in major school leagues.

“Karate is safer than basketball because unlike in other martial arts forms, a knockout means disqualification,” Lay said.

Lay said karatekas are taught to throw controlled punches.

“In fact, kids can earn points even if the punch lands five inches before the target,” he explained.

Karate has been around longer than taekwondo, but may have mistakenly earned its reputation as a violent sport. Blame it on Chuck Norris movies.

The challenge, according to Lay, is how to convince Filipinos to take up the sport.

The second challenge is how to unify the different karate organizations around the country under one umbrella.

In fairness to the recognized national sports association, it has opened its tryouts to all karatekas of various affiliations.

Until such time comes, the country will have to rely on a small bunch of karate athletes to bring honors from overseas.

The karate medallists in the Games are Jayson Ramil Macaalay and Rexor Tacay, silver; and Orencio James delos Santos, Junna Tsukii, Mae Soriano, and the women’s kumite team, bronze.