Record attendances have been reported at karate events in 2017 ©WKF

The World Karate Federation (WKF) has hailed 2017 as a "landmark" year for the soon-to-be Olympic sport.

Major events held by the governing body attracted a record number of competitors as the sport builds towards its Games debut at Tokyo 2020.

According to the WKF, such a massive attendance of competitors has "never before" been seen.

This includes at its flagship Karate1-Premier League series which had an average of 900 athletes per event in 2017.

More than 1,700 athletes entered Continental Championships while more than 800 took to the mat at Karate 1-Series A competitions.

World Karate Day and the sport's appearance at the World Games in Polish city Wrocław have also been described as highlights, alongside the the WKF Youth Camp and Youth Cup and the World Cadet, Junior and Under-21 Championships in Tenerife. 

"Twenty-seventeen has been the year of the true revolution of karate's top events," said WKF President Antonio Espinós.  

"It was simply breathtaking to experience how tournament after tournament, the participation of athletes exceeded all the expectations. 

"The massive attendance of competitors in our major events confirms the increasing magnitude of our sport."

Karate is building up for its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
Karate is building up for its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

The youth event in Tenerife, which attracted 1,700 athletes from 107 countries, was of particular importance as the athletes involved could be the ones winning Olympic medals in Tokyo.

"This tournament was a demonstration that karate is a sport, a martial art, but above all, it is a social movement that attracts a massive number of people," said Espinós.

"Thousands of people are involved in karate as we could see in Tenerife. 

"It is an honour to be the President of the World Karate Federation and to see how much our sport has progressed.

"We have come so far in such a short space of time and I am proud to see karate enjoying such a golden era in 2017 and beyond. 

"Now that we move into 2018, we get even closer to Tokyo 2020.

"It means that we must continue working hard to open new horizons for our sport. 

"We have a wonderful year to look forward to, with so many opportunities to show the best of our sport.

"I am sure that with the cooperation of all the members of the karate family our dreams will keep on becoming a reality."