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Japan karate world champ claims she was abused with bamboo sword during training

Karateka Ayumi Uekusa is shown in this file photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Top karateka Ayumi Uekusa, who will participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games and has claimed to have received power harassment from the coaching director of the Japan Karatedo Federation, revealed on March 28 that her left eye was bruised after being struck in the face with a bamboo fencing sword during a January practice session.

    Uekusa, a 28-year-old athlete and a medal prospect in the women's 61-plus kilogram kumite category at the Tokyo Olympics, won the women's 68-plus kilogram kumite title at the 2016 world karate championships, and finished second at the world championships in 2018. She described in her blog on March 28 the nature of the harassment she allegedly received from Masao Kagawa, coaching director to strengthen athletes at the Japan Karatedo Federation (JKF).

    Kagawa told the Mainichi Shimbun on the night of March 28, "I would never do such a thing as jabbing an Olympic athlete in the face and injuring them," and denied the allegations.

    As the manager of Teikyo University's karate team, Kagawa had been Uekusa's instructor since she entered college. She currently continues to use the university as her training ground.

    Around Dec. 20, 2020, Kagawa began a form of training where a bamboo fencing sword was thrusted and swung around before athletes to simulate punching and kicking techniques, according to Uekusa's blog entry. This training was held at the end of practice sessions. Its objective was for athletes to dodge the movements and perform counter-attacks with punches and kicks, but athletes had apparently engaged in the training without wearing protective gear. Numerous athletes besides Uekusa also reportedly suffered bruised eyes during the practice sessions.

    Uekusa also claimed that Kagawa had frequently shouted at and admonished her about training and her private life since last autumn, and that from around December, she experienced cases of not being able to attend practice due to mental stress. Earlier this month, Uekusa reported the issue to the consultation desk of the Japanese Olympic Committee, and confided in individuals affiliated with the JKF. The JKF is set to open an ethics review board on March 31, and discuss how to handle the case after listening to the views of both parties.

    In her blog, Uekusa revealed, "I had been worrying for a long time that by speaking up, I might lose my place in the karate world, and that I wouldn't be able to prepare sufficiently for the Tokyo Games either." However, she said, "I thought that having this situation continue wouldn't be desirable for myself as an Olympic athlete, and I decided to work up all of my courage and convey the truth."

    (Japanese original by Akira Matsumoto, Sports News Department)

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