COMPARED to its prime a decade back, karate in Cebu today is slowly becoming stagnant due to a divided organization marred by controversy and politics, said a local instructor yesterday.
But Shihan Jesus “Jess” Paredes Jr., of the Sports Karate Organization (SKO) in Mandaue City and a renowned coach,is optimistic that a new and better leadership in the sport’s national organization and more activity within the grassroots level will bring back the glory of karate in Cebu and the rest of the Visayas.
Paredes, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu last Saturday, said compared to the previous years, membership within karate dojos or clubs in Cebu is getting smaller as people are slowly losing interest in the sport.
The 51-year-old fifth dan black belt said when he started his club in 1993, his dojo’s membership reached 187 students—mostly college, secondary and elementary students.
Since 1993 until the present, Paredes trained more than 500 students, with 32 of them becoming black belts.
But while he was able to train more students, only 40 students remained active, with 14 black belt karatekas still serving his dojo as of now.
Paredes said from 1986 to 1995, karate dojos in Cebu had an increasing membership. He credited it to the Philippine Karatedo Federation (PKF)’s active role in developing potential karatekas for national and international athletic events such as the Karate World Cup by the now-defunct World Union of Karate Organizations (WUKO), now the World Karate Organization (WKO).
He said during that period, Cebu was able to produce black-belt karatekas who were able to qualify for the RP team, particularly during the 1994 National Karate Competition in Baguio City.
But at the end of that period, karate in Cebu slowly stagnated and national and local competitions were rarely held, forcing dojos to focus more within their own groups rather than to spread the sport.
Local karatekas who were fortunate enough to qualify for the Philippine team were forced to return to their dojos due to the lack of support from a slowly-stagnating organization.
Paredes said he blamed the stagnation of karate in Cebu to the growing conflict between factions in the organization.
Aside from political fighting, controversies had also cropped up within the organization that also worsened the situation.
Another controversy shook the karate community in Cebu—the alleged sexual molestation of female karatekas by Advocacy for the Strengthening of Karate (ASK) coach Democrito Macaldo.
Macaldo, who is still at large, is facing charges of acts of lasciviousness, rape, child abuse and sexual harassment.
Paredes said while the incident involving Macaldo was considered an isolated case, it worsened the situation for the sport in Cebu as some concerned parents changed their minds enrolling their kids in karate.
Despite all that, Paredes said karate in Cebu is not a “hopeless case.”
He said as of now, more instructors from clubs in Cebu are accepting the fact the welfare and improvement of their students are more important and should be prioritized, not politics.
“Sa estudyante man gud makita kung maayo ba gyud ka nga instructor. Kung ang imung pagpaningkamot sa pag-train niya, nakita ba gyud sa imung estudyante,” said Paredes.
Paredes added some groups, such as the Central Visayas Union of Karate Organizations (Cevuko), are now improving themselves by coordinating with world-class clubs in Manila such as the Association for the Advancement of Karate (AAK) led by Shihan Pocholo Veguillas.
By coordinating with clubs that have greater exposure in international and local meets, Cevuko hopes to improve on event organization, athlete skills and competition officiating.
But aside from his hopes within the grass roots, Paredes also wishes the new leaders of the PKF will focus on their demands for quality competitions for athletes who aspire to serve their country through karate.
He is also hoping the new PKF leaders will base its selection of members of the Philippine team on skill and talent, and not on affiliation.