The interview with Wlodzimierz Kwiecinski, the Chairman of Traditional Karate Federation of Poland by Jadwiga Skurska.
Jadwiga Skurska: The year 2001 will make its name in the history of Polish traditional karate as an inauguration of Polish Traditional Karate League. What motivated you to organise such acompetitin?
Wlodzimierz Kwiecinski: We have been thinking about creating Polish Traditional Karate League since 1994. The competitions were assumed to be exclusive to some extend, and prepared for the best competitors. Entering this group was to become the aim for next karate fighters. We also wanted to present our best competitors, who have already been successful in the international arena, to a wide publicity to make traditional karate popular in Poland.
After the period of preparations we started to realise our plans. The year 2001 is theinauguration of Polish Traditional Karate League competition. Seven title- holders took part in it. They are, in alphabetic order, Kaminski Wojciech, Maciejewski Andrzej, Neugebauer Krzysztof, Olczyk Radoslaw, Szczachor Jerzy, Wierzbicki Jacek, Zarzeczny Andrzej. Krzysztof Neugebauer, who is our most experienced fighter and has got the greatest number of titles, was the winner of this year’s League.
J.S. What makes the competition of Polish Traditional Karate League different from other competitions, except they are organised only for a small group of best traditional karate fighters?
W.K. The most crucial idea is that competitors take part only in one competition, which consists of kata and kumite. It is true to the idea of karate fighting. Practising kata or kumite separately is anegation of the idea of karate fighting. We can find the techniques of traditional karate in kata. It arose from fighting experience. While learning kata we also learn how to use movements and sequences coming from kata in our fighting.
The next crucial idea of the League is its professionalism. It does not solely consist in paying our fighters and judges for their work or funding a car for a winner by our sponsor. League’s professionalism lies mainly in our attitude to it. All league competitions have their particular standards. Best competitors and best international judges are selected. Competitions are being monitored by a special committee. They are also carefully recorded to make the base of current and latter analyses and studies. Their aim is to improve the level of training for fighters, instructors and judges.
J.S. The year 2001 is also the inauguration, here in Poland, of a new series of events titled The World Cup of Traditional Karate. What do these two events have in common?
W.K. Essentially the assumptions of both events are the same. However, The World Cup of Traditional Karate, as its name suggests, is the international event. The best fighters in the world take part in it. The Polish Traditional Karate Association have worked on it for a long time. Poland has the privilege to organise the first edition of this world event. The World Cup will not be just a copy of the Polish League’s system but each competitor will take part both in kata and in kumite fights during the event.
It is our privilege, as the organiser, to put up two competitors. This year the Polish League has had the second aim: to select two best fighters for the World Cup. Radoslaw Olczyk proved to be our second best fighter. That is why Krzysztof Neugebauer and Radoslaw Olczyk will fight against the best ones in the world on October 14, in Warsaw.
J.S. Do events of this sort guarantee the future to Far East fighting?
W.K. I think, that the future of all styles of fighting, karate among them, lies in mastery. Mastery is inse- parably connected with art. Art is infinite and only some can achieve the point of understanding it. That is why we should promote those who have best skills and can present this wonderful style of fighting traditional karate in their activities. There are many kinds of such activities. They are connected with being competitors, instructors, judges and organisers.
J.S. Sport competition cannot exist without an audience. The audience is an integral part of all sport events. What do we want to offer organising our events?
W.K. First of all, we want to present the highest world level of karate. World champions and Europe champions fight in the Polish League. We want to show an individual character of traditional karate, of true genuine Japanese karate. We want to show a gap between our competitions and those that are also called karate competitions but can show you fights, which are lacking in body control and ideas of karate fighting. Such fights are just hitting and kicking which lead to heavy injuries.
We have been dealing with karate for 30 years now. At the beginning, when karate was getting popular in Poland, halls where contents were carried on were full of people. As the time was passing I could notice that the audience was getting smaller and smaller as the level of the competitions degraded and the number of injuries grew. People did not want to watch brawling, broken noses, brutal hitting or kicking. We must ask about the aim of such competitions. When we watch competitions in different sports we know their aims. In a 100- meters run we check who is the fastest runner, in long jump who can jump farthest of all, in boxing who knocks out his opponent. What about karate, then? Traditional karate defines this aim. It is the finishing blow and the competitors do their best to present it, it is their aim. This aim is now getting to be clear for everybody. Trivial techniques based on fouls are not awarded and this is very important. When we prepare ourselves for the competition we also prepare our audience. We organise shows and meetings before the competitions, we encourage young people and adults to take part in training and to look on during the competitions. That is why our audience usually consists of people who practise karate themselves. Only a small number of people feels the spirit of sport rivalry. Most of them are just spectators, but such spectators who want to be in this company, watch and support their competitors. We are very proud of such audience. Our audience’s reactions are very professional. There is no senseless whistling, tumult.
If the fighter presents a beautiful action, everybody clap their hands, does not matter whether he is Polish, Rumanian or German. If anything bad happens, everybody also reacts in an explicit and obvious way. This is the kind of audience we care for. This is the kind of audience we must strive for.
J.S. Each young man looks for an idol at a certain moment in his life. Famous musicians and sportsmen usually are such idols. What about traditional karate?
W.K. There are stars in all sports. There are names, which are obviously connected with particular sports. It is similar with karate. Young people understand ideas of fighting and contents unlike we, grown up people, do. I think, they need their heroes to have the aim to reach. The way they can reach it depends on the level of understanding karate. Fascination with a favourite hero releases the need of imitation, the need of action. The mechanism is simple – when you like someone, you like his personality, his behaviour he becomes your idol. I remember how I started my karate.
I was cutting out photos from newspapers such as "Sport for everybody", I was watching and showing first karate positions. I was fascinated with mystery connected with karate and with skills of karate fighters. Such were the beginnings. Later I was interested in people who were dealing with it and who came to us as instructors. Their coming was always a great challenge for me. It was a trial to become as good as they were or even better. This is the way our dreams come true. But they change, of course. Karate is a great art. It is an infinite area of knowledge, because in practice traditional karate deals with a human being and there are no limits of studying. There is no limit of our development and there is no limit to what we are occupied with in karate. It is so, because a human being is in its centre. That is why our field of activity is unlimited, although it must start somewhere. It must start with a fascination and we make our best to wake up this fascination.
There are many suggestions of physical activities for young people on our market that are based on different forms of fighting. Their organisers invite young people to their sessions. Such is the law of the free market. There is a strong rivalry here as on all other markets. If we treat our offer as a product, although it sounds unpleasant, we have to take care of our image and of the image of traditional karate and its reputation.
J.S.Why are we so intent on having young people practising traditional karate?
W.K. Young people come to join us not because they have to but because such is their choice. A karate instructor often becomes their first authority, a model or even an idol. We do not mind that young people should busy themselves only with karate.
My son is quite good at about 14 sports. It does not mean he can just kick a ball or throw it to the basket. His skills are on a quite good level. As I could observe, karate is the most important sport for him. I think, that he can practise different sports now, because in the past he started from karate training and is still doing it. Practising karate has given him solid basis, because it is a manysided training. It helps physical development, develops coordination, discipline, selfdiscipline and strong will. Not everybody knows that sportsmen who are very successful in different sports, for example in tennis, often look for other possibilities of overcoming new barriers and find them in complementary karate training. Some of very well known singers also base part of their psychophysical training on karate. In karate there is a great amount of bravery, honour, selfdetermination – all these features of character, which cannot be developed over and above the average without fighting and which are very important in our everyday life. In our civilised world we need brave men of honour. Such people are necessary today as they have been necessary in all our history.
Observations of the development of young people who practise karate confirm that practising has a great influence on symmetrical development of their bodies, on their dynamics, speed, nimbleness, flexibility and positive psychical attitude. If each training is treated as a challenge and gives reason to feel satisfaction when leaving it, such attitude helps in everyday life because it makes a man develop, look forward, look at his life in a dynamic and optimistic way.
J.S. We have two fighters, winners of the Polish Traditional Karate League, who will take part in the World Cup. Radek Olczyk and Krzysiek Neugebauer are very modest and kind. They do not behave as stars and can be models for young people. I think, having such masters is inspiring.
W.K. Their names promote traditional karate not only in Poland but also in the world. Thank to their results, bravery, their wonderful physical condition during league games, thank to taking part in European Championships and training camps they reached the point when they will take part in the World Cup. They are at the top among eight other best fighters selected from a great number of competitors. It is a prestige to belong to this eight. I think, that Radek and Krzysiek collected best experiences of many people: instructors, judges, friends, other club fighters, people they fought against in the league, in the Championships of Poland, European and World Championships. Their teachers, coaches of the representation and judges gave them a possibility to collect a huge number of experiences, advises and instructions which they could use in their training. Both Radek and Krzysiek have been training for many years basing on the experiences of many people who tried to direct them in some way. This unusual achievement belongs to those two and to us.
Both Radek and Krzysiek are really very nice people. If we tried to check who has the greatest achievements we would notice that they are just like Radek and Krzysiek. They are extremely friendly, good-natured but there is a great power in their good nature. There is power but there is not aggression in them. There is modesty but not buffoonery. There is kindness and nothing of a star. Such people have a great chance to become idols of young people who search for models.
Translator: Ewa Wiszniewska