With Tokyo 2020 coming up, USA Karate prepares for the sport’s debut | ParkRecord.com

With Tokyo 2020 coming up, USA Karate prepares for the sport’s debut

After creating guidelines for the new sport, raising funds is the organization’s top job

Three years ago, Douglas Jepperson, head instructor at Park City Karate, was elected to the USA Karate board of directors. The board was formed after karate was selected as an Olympic sport for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, and since then, it has been creating a scaffold for a national team which, with any luck, will represent the United States in Karate's Olympic debut.

Jepperson said he was nominated because of his contribution to the U.S. Olympic Committee's technical committee on karate, which sought to nail down competition rules and account for varying styles. Jepperson contributed his expertise in Wado, a traditional Japanese style of karate.

Since then, the newly formed USA Karate board has been busy writing policy for the new Olympic sport, including best practices and standards for gyms and competitions, creating bylaws and ensuring they are compatible with other Olympic organizations. But Jepperson said the most surprising part of joining the board has been finding funding for the U.S. national team.

"Because we're not alone," he said.

As a point of reference, he said Park City, a relatively small city, has more than 150 nonprofit organizations all trying to raise money for other causes.

"And they're all noble," he said.

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Jepperson said he was surprised by how little funding the U.S. national team gets from the government, considering most other countries' teams are state-funded.

As a result, Jepperson spends his time "with hat in hand" seeking out money for the team, soliciting cities and nonprofits, wealthy donors and others.

Despite the financial challenge, he said the upcoming games have helped galvanize karate's inchoate governing body.

"In the past, like any board, there have been a lot of arguments, but the last year the arguments have almost all vanished," he said. "Everybody is pretty focused on what we can do to help the athletes and what we can do to spring our standard of sport up."

Jepperson pointed out the posters hanging around Park City Karate, which read "Karate, Olympic Spirit, Tokyo 2020," and said his biggest hope now is that the team he and others are trying to fund will get a chance to compete in Tokyo.

"And that's not a given," he said. "Because, like all new sports, we have a very limited amount of people we can put there."

He said only 80 karate athletes from the entire world will compete in Tokyo, so only those with the highest aggregate points in international competition will be allowed to compete.

Currently, Jepperson said, the U.S. is fortunate in that it has athletes that have earned places at the top of the sport's leaderboard, including Joseph Martinez and Sakura Kokumai, the national team's leading Kata (form) athletes. With any luck, they will hold their positions until the Olympics.

"I would say the board is (excited)," he said. "We are not the ones that are (competing), but we get to be at the front of the bus, and it's very exciting."