Iceland strives towards the karate elite

Iceland. A country with an unusually barren landscape, hot springs, strongmen – and karate. Karate in particular is perhaps not the first thing people associate with the island out in the North Atlantic. The future hope, however, is that with the help of good planning, correct training methods and qualified coaches, the nation will eventually be able to establish itself at the top of the world.

In order for Icelandic karate to be able to develop and tap into the outside world, influences and knowledge from outside are required. Gunnlaugur Sigurdsson planned a karate event and wanted to bring in a reputable instructor. It eventually resulted in the Ukrainian Olympic medalist Stanislav Horuna – and it all started with a message on social media.

– I have followed Stas for the last ten years and I have always liked his way of fighting, the way he behaves on the tatami and his never-give-up mentality. He put up a post on his Instagram account where you could ask him anything and I asked if he would be interested in visiting Iceland for a seminar. He said yes and from there the ball started rolling. Stas came across as a friendly and down-to-earth guy. I made a new friend, he says and continues:

– The camp went well and overall people were very happy with the event. We had between thirty and forty people attend over the weekend. Overall satisfaction from everyone I’ve heard from.

To be honest, the interest in karate is not particularly great in Iceland. At least not yet. Martial arts figure in the periphery compared to other sports on the island. The hope is, however, that the sport will be able to find more practitioners, grow even bigger and ultimately succeed in reaping international success.

– Karate is far from a mainstream sport in Iceland and there are not many practitioners. Every time we bring in outside instructors, it gives our karatekas a big boost. There are thirteen clubs that teach different styles with a mix of traditional and sport karate and one of them focuses solely on sport karate, he says, adding:

– In the future, I hope that we can increase the total number of practitioners and that our level will improve and at the same time get closer to other Nordic countries. The Icelandic Karate Federation has a performance strategy in place that concerns it. Then individual clubs try to implement these strategies as best they can.

The goal that is closest to hand is to work hard to succeed in reducing the gap between the island nation and the other Nordic countries. They try to achieve that with a Nordic neighbor, fittingly enough.

– It’s hard to say, but from what I’ve observed, the gap (to other Nordic countries, ed. note) seems to increase as we move up the age groups. Iceland has a Swedish kumite coach and an Icelandic kata coach. They conduct regular weekend seminars for the national team members and invite upcoming talents to participate. They then pass on the information to the clubs to follow up in their training for these athletes.

Finally, I ask him if, at present, there are any practitioners on the island who can assert themselves on the biggest stage. As well as what he himself thinks about the likelihood that we will see Icelandic karate masters in the future.

– There are some who have had relatively good results internationally, but not at the very highest level. With good planning on all levels, correct training methods and qualified trainers, yes.

Read more about The olympic medalist Stanislav Horuna

Also read about The Icelandic Karate Federation

Tomas Loman

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