Fighting For a Right to Fight

Three karate fighters from Toronto, Ontario are preparing for a trip to Montreal, because Ontario won’t allow them to display their skills.

Larissa Isk and Jhonattan Adames are preparing for semi-contact, and Norihiro Yoshida full-contact.

All three train in Kyokushin Karate, a style founded in Japan in 1964 by Masutatsu Oyama. Kyokushin is Japanese for “the ultimate truth“. Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline and hard training. The full contact style has huge international appeal, with millions of practitioners worldwide. It still remains less popular in North America, and specifically Canada, than other styles. Mostly because, unlike other styles of karate, kyokushin is full contact, and full contact remains illegal in most of Canada.

From the 2014 British Open

From the 2014 British Open

So, our three fighters have to travel to Montreal, where though it still remains illegal, the Quebec government tends to turn a blind eye.

The largest challenge with growing Kyokushin Karate in Ontario is the fact that it’s illegal.

Despite a relatively long history of hosting professional martial arts bouts, including several UFC contests, professional and amateur martial arts bouts presently are illegal in Canada.  This is so due to the outdated language of section 83 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which makes it an offence to engage in a “prize fight” except in limited circumstances.

Currently Section 83 of the Criminal Code reads as follows:

Engaging in prize fight

  • 83. (1) Every one who
    • (a) engages as a principal in a prize fight,
    • (b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or
    • (c) is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter,is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
  • Definition of “prize fight”(2) In this section, “prize fight” means an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them, but a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province, shall be deemed not to be a prize fight.

This law was first enacted by Parliament in 1892 and unfortunately appears to be here to stay for sometime yet.

Ontario Athletics Commissioner, Ken Hayashi, appears to believe that any combat sport, excluding boxing and kickboxing, is illegal in Ontario (and all of Canada). He was unwilling to budge on the matter, causing frustration for MMA lobbyists, especially since he was considered the person best positioned to start the legalization process. But this is how it remains.

So, while karate styles like Shotokan can have tournaments in Ontario, Kyokushin practitioners have to go elsewhere. This makes it difficult for parents of children in Kyokushin as well. While the kids do not do full-contact, and they use sparring safety equipment, the tournaments themselves remain illegal, so parents are forced to either try a different style of karate, or must leave the province or country to compete.

Bill S-209 was passed, in regards to section 83 of the Criminal Code, which allowed professional boxing and MMA events, such as the UFC, to be sanctioned. However, Bill S-209 does not in and of itself make MMA or combat sports legal across Canada. It allows provinces to make it legal on a Province by Province basis. The default is the sport remains illegal. It requires Provincial regulation.

While this is great news for the combat sports community, Bill S-209 didn’t mention specifically kickboxing, amateur martial arts, Muay Thai, etc. So, while the UFC can come to Toronto, it is a criminal offence to have an amateur full contact karate event.

As mentioned, people are going to Quebec, Alberta, B.C., or the United States, to compete in these events. This is money that we would much rather leave in Ontario. The tourism dollars alone would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with people coming from all over Canada and the United States to compete, as well as some from Europe.

Sensei Steve Fogarasi

Sensei Steve Fogarasi

Two Sundays ago, October 4th 2014, was a monumental day for Kyokushin in Canada. Sensei Steve Fogarasi, of Contact Kicks MMA and the leader of the Canadian chapter of the International Federation of Karate (IFK), a worldwide Kyokushin association, organized a gathering of leaders from the various Kyokushin schools and organizations in Ontario to talk about and propose a group that can oppose the archaic law of section 83, and together bring Kyokushin and full-contact tournaments and events to Ontario.

Attendees included organizer Steve Fogarasi, Ali Yassini, Dezideriu Muzsi, Scott Heaney, Mici Fogarasi, Mano Sadati, Baker El-Hoseiny and Ali Sharif.

First meeting for the formation of an Ontario Full-contact organization

First meeting for the formation of an Ontario Full-contact organization

At the meeting there was a proposal to form the “Ontario Kyokushin Association”. To give “one voice” to the cause. While the details still need to be ironed out, this was a huge step towards legalization.

Aside from the main focus of legalizing full-contact events, at the meeting it was proposed that the various schools would create a calendar of cultural and training events for the students. Including outdoor seasonal training camps, black belt seminars, beach training, etc.

The instructors of the different organizations have continued their discussions since the meeting, and another meeting is planned for the near future, as well as steps to approach the Ontario government with a proposal to allow tournaments to take place in Ontario.

While this is all amazing news for not only Kyokushin, but all combat sports in Ontario, our three fighters continue their training and prepare for their trek to Montreal next weekend, where we hope they return to Ontario with Gold!


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