The WKF has opened its Olympic qualification process to all karatekas across the world ©WKF

Every karateka across the globe will be able to compete in the Olympic qualification process should the sport get the nod for inclusion at Tokyo 2020, the World Karate Federation (WKF) has announced.

In what appears to be an attempt at unifying a sport which has had its issues with rival governing bodies in the past, the WKF said in a statement that they were “opening the pathways” to all athletes worldwide.

The move gives them the opportunity to participate in what would be karate’s historic Olympic debut, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) due to vote on the matter at its Session ahead of Rio 2016 from August 2 to 4.

It is widely thought that all five bidding sports - karate, baseball softball, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding - will be accepted but the decision still needs to be rubber-stamped at the Session.

The WKF have been the driving force behind karate’s bid to become a part of the Olympic programme but other governing bodies within the sport also exist, including the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF).

An internal dispute within the ITKF in 2014 forced the IOC to send a letter to the organisation asking them to remove all associations with them from their website as “the only organisation by the IOC in the sport is the WKF”.

According to the WKF, they represent roughly “98 per cent” of karatekas from around the world and them opening up the qualification process allows “the other two per cent” to take part.

“Ahead of the decision to be taken by the IOC about the inclusion of karate in the Olympic programme of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the WKF manifests its policy of open doors for all karatekas worldwide to participate in the Olympic qualification process,” a statement from the WKF read.

“Following this initiative, the WKF will provide open pathways for every karate athlete in the world to find access to the possibility of representing their countries in the 2020 Olympic Games.

The WKF has allowed athletes from other bodies to compete in the Olympic qualification process should they be granted inclusion at Tokyo 2020
The WKF has allowed athletes from other bodies to compete in the Olympic qualification process should they be granted inclusion at Tokyo 2020 ©Xavier Servolle/WKF

“This action represents yet one more example of WKF’s intention of bringing together the whole family of Karate, as the WKF represents the umbrella that includes each and every Karateka in the world.

“While the whole family of karate is looking forward to the final decision of the IOC during the session of the Olympic organisation in Rio de Janeiro from August 2 to 4, the WKF is confirming that every karateka will be able to be part of the Olympic qualification process by the system that will be established to this effect.”

The exact qualification process is yet to be determined, with a decision expected to be made by the WKF at their General Assembly before the World Championships in Linz in October.

WKF tournaments, including their flagship World Championships, feature five men’s and women’s categories, which raises a concern among the governing body as to how they would go about installing an Olympic qualification route and how they select the athletes who will compete at the event itself.

insidethegames understands discussions concerning the issue remain ongoing but that a resolution is close.

The initial proposal was to have all 10 categories, which were included at the inaugural European Games in Baku last June, before it was whittled down to eight.

Eventually six was the amount put forward by Tokyo 2020.