ITKF celebrates expansion of number of members, new partnerships and full calendar of events in 2024

Gilberto Gaertner, ITKF chairman next to the photo of master Hidetaka Nishiyama © Global Sports

The chairman of ITKF, Gilberto Gaertner, confirms that the entity’s goal is to reach 100 members, but at a pace that guarantees the maintenance of its quality standards.

By Paulo Pinto / Global Sports
May 2, 2024 / Curitiba – Brazil

In 2024, International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF) will hold more than 22 events of special importance, including a Special Master Course, in which Shotokan katas will be standardized according to traditional karate principles. The action is necessary because in recent years the practice has taken on different forms, following the diversity of organizations dedicated to Shotokan karate.

But the icing on the cake will be the world championship, again in Europe, due to the great success of the competition held in Slovenia in 2022. This preference is due not only to the fact that the continent is home to the largest number of affiliates, but also because it facilitates access for participants from all regions.

In this interview, Gaertner informs that ITKF Global currently has 70 affiliated national representations and that this number could reach 100, but at a rate of no more than five or eight affiliations per year. This is to ensure the integrity and efficiency of international management. Another progress highlighted by the chairman are the partnerships signed with four internationally recognized institutions, in addition to IAKS, Kimyo International University and TAFISA, a partnership was signed with the International Council of Sports Sciences and Physical Education (ICSSPE), a strong scientific and technological support, whose prestige further increases ITKF’s credibility.

What is the reason for the explosion of activities scheduled in 2024?

There are actually more than 22 events, in addition to other smaller events, but with significant regional importance. It is very interesting to see that we managed to format an extremely rich, diverse calendar that really serves our four major regions of the planet: European, Americas , Africa and Asia/Oceania. We have significantly expanded promotions, but it is very important to emphasize that these are not just competitive events. ITKF follows a policy of working not only on competitions, but on the continued training of instructors, athletes and practitioners. So, we can see that the number of courses is equally large and with this we are able to always maintain updating and technical development in parallel with competitive activities, seeking excellence in these aspects. I think a fundamental point was the very strong work and dedication of the regional directors, from Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia/Oceania, who put a lot of effort into providing us with a calendar of this magnitude in partnership with all affiliates.

“The rules of traditional karate place high demands on scoring, meaning that the athlete must also train the fundamentals of the art and demonstrate efficiency in applying the techniques.”

Would this be a differential of traditional karate?

Yes, this is one of the classic characteristics of traditional karate: optimization and technical development combined with competition. Competition is seen as an extension of daily training, immersed in a psychological atmosphere that approximates a self-defense situation. The rules of traditional karate place high demands on scoring, meaning that the athlete must also train the fundamentals of the art and demonstrate efficiency in applying the techniques.

How many countries are affiliated with the entity? How did this significant expansion occur?

ITKF Global, which has its headquarters in Brazil, currently has around 70 affiliated countries and a unique dynamism in promoting courses and championships around the planet. Since 2019 the organization has been restructured at an administrative and technical level. It gained the trust of its members, became stronger, sought external partnerships and expanded its geopolitical space across the five continents. Today ITKF Global is one of the largest and most respected organizations representing karate around the world.

The current board’s project envisages the membership of how many new countries in the medium term?

The current board believes it can reach 100 members in the coming years, that is, 100 national federations. We are 70, we still have to work a lot. However, our project foresees a limited number of memberships per year. Why? If we have five to eight new members each year, which is what interests us, we will have time to adapt the new leaders to ITKF Global’s traditional karate thinking, culture and way of working. A very large influx of members, on the contrary, can cause institutional mischaracterization and make it difficult for these people to really understand how our institution works. Reaching 100 members is one of our goals, but at this rate of five to eight per year, this is enough time for people who join the institution to understand how it works, its culture, all the technical aspects and our vision of traditional karate. This makes a very big difference.

How does the increase in the number of registered national representations impact ITKF management?

Initially I would like to point out that I represent a management team that is very hardworking, united and committed to traditional karate and the institution. Without these valued friends and collaborators we would not have progressed. Growing up is a very complex and delicate issue, because we are interacting with different cultures and different ways of decoding life. Obviously, each time we increase the number of members, the demand for the entire administrative and technical structure will increase. Gradual entry allows us to make the necessary adaptations to meet management needs and, most importantly, offer the necessary support to our members.

Among the activities scheduled for 2024, what will be the icing on the cake?

I’ll start with the competitive part, which has to do with holding the world championship in Europe. Why Europe first? In 2022, we had an excellent competition in Slovenia, bringing together a very large number of countries. So we decided right away that we would hold another edition in Europe with the aim of strengthening the structure on the continent a little more and attracting a very large number of representations from the region. Furthermore, it facilitates the travel of representations from Africa, Asia and the Americas. I believe we will have an excellent participation, our expectations are very high.

Will there be any side events?

We are going to have a technical event that I consider to be of great importance: a Special Master Course. In it we will promote the standardization of Shotokan katas according to the vision of ITKF Global. The Shotokan style katas, initially standardized by the NKK (JKA), began to be performed differently by the numerous organizations created following the split in the JKA that occurred after the death of master Nakayama, each with its peculiarities. The person who accepted this challenge was Sensei Dino Contarelli, author of a very well written book, with direct influence from Masters Nishiyama, Shirai and Kase. The standardization of katas will be added to the new exam program that is already being implemented by the Technical Committee, with support from Shihan-Kai. I believe that we will advance a lot, within the technical area, continuing what Master Nishiyama developed. Let’s take an initial step towards transforming ourselves into a “Traditional Karate School”. This passage will be very important, because it will define a clear and specific way of practicing traditional karate, based on the teachings of Master Nishiyama with the contribution of Sports Sciences and Neurosciences.

What are the prospects for the French Master Course, the main event in the technical and arbitration areas?

It is the first Master Course we will have this year and it is very important because it initiates the training and preparation of referees and coaches who will work at the World Championship. The technical committee hopes to finalize the presentation and training of the new ITKF exam methodology and advance several other important technical aspects. Furthermore, we hope to bring together a significant number of teachers from all continents. I believe it will be a very successful event.

This is a traditional event for ITKF, isn’t it?

Yes, the event is in its thirty-first edition and continues to be organized by our Vice-President, Sensei Sandrine Le Corre – El Marhomy. Since 2019, the course has been taught by the ITKF Technical Committee, it is a high quality event, exclusively for teachers. However, it will be complemented by the General Course, open to minors. It is important to highlight that this event will be held for the first time outside of Paris, in Les Sables D’Olonne, on the coast, in a very nice gym and accommodation, in a hotel facing the beach.

“I feel that ITKF today is like a living organism, pulsing with high intensity. This is an aspect that impacts me deeply, because when observing events in different countries simultaneously, I realize that ITKF operates with vigor and cohesion across the planet, as if we were all interconnected on the same frequency.”

What were the main advances of ITKF at an institutional level?

This year we entered into a major partnership with the International Council of Sports Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE), an institution focused on research in the sports field. It is important to highlight that this affiliation gives ITKF credibility in the area of scientific development. So, this partnership adds to that of IAKS, an extremely respected international organization that works with sports for all and with the production and creation of spaces for sports. Another important affiliation last year was TAFISA, the second largest sports management body in the world, only behind the International Olympic Committee. TAFISA works with a very important approach to traditional karate, which is an inclusive sport, that is, karate for everyone. Another important partnership in the academic field, celebrated in 2023, was with Kimyo International University. In short, today we have four important partnerships, with major representations worldwide and this brings very strong credibility to our institution. Without disparaging other institutions, I believe we take on a very different place when we join four highly respected global organizations. Today, when we interact with national governments and present these partnership credentials, we significantly differentiate ourselves. This brings credibility and a very significant return for our members. Our organization has really changed levels.

How would you describe ITKF today?

I feel that ITKF today is like a living organism, pulsing with high intensity. This is an aspect that impacts me deeply, because when observing events in different countries simultaneously, I realize that ITKF operates with vigor and cohesion across the planet, as if we were all interconnected on the same frequency. This feeling of unity is fundamental, as it allows us to recognize and respect the different cultures and individual purposes of each member of our entity. Cultural, ethnic and religious diversity enriches our community, and it is through mutual respect that we further strengthen the bonds that unite us as a global family of traditional karate. This large family is seeking to develop a culture of peace, respect, equality and sustainability.


Gilberto Gaertner, chairman of the ITKF, is an 8th dan black belt and member of the ITKF Technical and Shihan-Kai Committee. He presided over the Traditional Karate Federation of Paraná (FKTPR) for two terms and held the position of technical director of the Brazilian Traditional Karate Confederation (CBKT) for 14 years, an entity that he also presided over twice.

Graduated in psychology with a master’s degree in production engineering and neurosciences, Gaertner became a doctor in child studies and a post-doctor in human movement sciences, having coordinated the Specialization in Sports Psychology and Neurosciences at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR).

As a sports psychologist, he was world cup champion, world champion and Olympic champion with the Brazilian men’s volleyball team, as well as runner-up in the Copa Libertadores de América football with Club Athletico Paranaense.