• Kyodo


Japan underlined its dominance of the kata discipline at the opening event of the Karate-1 Premier League season on Sunday, with Ryo Kiyuna taking the men’s gold and Kiyou Shimizu taking the women’s title.

Kiyuna, who became the kata world champion for the third consecutive time in November, earned 26.92 points to defeat European champion Damian Hugo Quintero Capdevila of Spain by almost two points at the Pierre de Coubertin Stadium.

“I had fun. I want to show (the spectators) what Japanese karate and Okinawa karate is about,” said Kiyuna, who performed the Ohan Dai, the latest karate kata for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“It’s a combination of different movements you’ve never seen before. It must be fun to watch,” he said.

In the women’s final, Shimizu was awarded 26.14 points for her Chibana No Kushanku kata performance.

“I lost by a narrow margin (to Spain’s Sandra Sanchez) at the world championships (last year), so it was important for me to seal victory by a wide margin this time,” Shimizu said.

“This is the biggest Premier League event so I’m really happy to have won here,” she said.

Also for Japan, in the men’s kumite 75-kg final, Ken Nishimura beat Rafael Aghayev of Azerbaijan 1-0, and Ayumi Uekusa came from behind to win the women’s kumite over 68-kg title.

The 2019 edition of the Karate-1 Premier League consists of seven events being held in Paris (January), Dubai (February), Rabat, Morocco (April), Shanghai (June), Tokyo (September), Moscow (October) and Madrid (November).

At the end of the season, the champions in each category are presented with the Grand Winners award. Competitors can earn ranking points in every Karate-1 event, and the world rankings play an important role in the Olympic qualification process.

Rule changes, including the new kata judging system and duration of women’s kumite bouts, take effect this year in the Premier League as karate prepares to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games.