Para-karate is the newest evolution of the martial art discipline that evolved in Japan. The new class of karate is an attempt to bring on board people with mental and physical handicaps so they can enjoy the great benefits that can be got from karate.
The World Karate Federation (WKF) has been at the forefront in trying to have the world recognize karate for the disabled. The most recent success was the adoption of the sport in the Paralympics that happened in 2016.
But just how are para-karate athletes grouped?
Basically, grouping is done to ensure athletes are subjected to training conditions that their bodies can withstand and fair competitive match-ups. The aim of categorization is to ensure that the demanding nature of karate is retained for each relative group so as to ensure they reap the benefits of the discipline such as self-control and perseverance.
Grouping is done according to the severity of the athletes’ disability. The creation of categories is done by medical experts in collaboration with karate coaches who understand the tenacity required for specific training regimes.
The three major categories for impaired kata athletes are:
- Blind and visually impaired
- Wheelchair users
- People with intellectual learning difficulties
The medical classification elements look at the listings given by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Specifically, karate para-athletes are classified using ICD_10 grading which looks at the level of injuries in nerves, spinal cord at various levels (Pelvis, lower back, abdomen etc) and traumatic amputation of the limbs and other body parts.
For visual impairment, blindness is measured from monocular (one eye) to binocular (both eyes) and moderate impairment to severe impairment and complete blindness. Classification is divided into visual disturbances ( H53, visual acuity in distance) and Blindness (H54).
Mental disability has a far wider classification spectrum as there can be numerous disorders each with specific unique limitations. Impairment ranges from moderate to hyperkinetic and Downs Syndrome. Categories are determined according to problems in body functioning, structure, participation and attention, coordination, and reaction to the environment. Athletes ability in actions like watching, listening, copying, learning, focus, and calculation is considered.
Once they are checked under this criteria, athletes may be classified into:
- Red- Level: Severe disability
- Yellow-Level: moderate disability
- Green- level: minor disability
- Blue-level: lowest disability
Competition and recassification
The above classification is used to test athletes’eligibility for participation in karate practice and competition. During actual competitions, there is further check-up, reclassification, and application of rules.
This is done to ensure that athletes with similar disability severeness are pitted against each other in competitions for fairness purposes. At WKF competitions, for instance, there is a team of accredited WKF-ICD experts who carry out tests. The tests also involve
doping regulations compliance checks.
Classification is usually done for athletes over the age of 18 who are not undergoing recovery rehabilitation. It is important to note that the level of disability may be so severe that an interested person is advised not to delve into karate.
Athletes also undergo annual tests meant for reclassification depending on any changes in severeness of disability within that period.