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Foto: Petrică Bulmagă

Sensei Petrică Bulmagă, 3 Dan NIKO black belt, is one of the Ashihara-Karate style’s veterans in Romania, and probably the person with the greatest notoriety in the national organizational structures. So, in the following, we present you an interview with the director of the Ashihara-Karate department from the Romanian Martial Arts Federation (RMAF), where we’ve approached lots of interesting subjects.

Acest interviu are o variantă extinsă în limba română, pe care o puteți accesa aici!

AK MASTERS: – How did you get in touch with the world of martial arts and, specifically, with the Ashihara-Karate style?
PETRICĂ BULMAGĂ: – The starting period was very beautiful! I started with wrestling in 1986, in Brașov city (Romania), at the age of 16. Sport helped me at that time, because the company I was working took this into account, and so I had some benefits for reaching training and school. The system was well coordinated and you received almost everything for free. After two years of wrestling, one of my colleagues at that time went to show me “a different kind of training”. I liked it! So, for a while I practiced both sports activities. After the Revolution (1989), I interrupted wrestling training and I dedicated myself to Ashihara-Karate style. I was very attracted by the fact that it came with a different approach, with emphasis on education and training.

– How would you characterize the organizational relationship between NIKO and Romania?
– In order to give a comprehensive answer to this question, we must consider two aspects: the national legislation and the conditions imposed by Japan. It’s certain that the model proposed by NIKO’s management isn’t adapted to the laws of the Romanian state and to the organizational forms in the European Union. Thus, from time to time, small conflicts arise between local and international organizational structures. About eight years ago, Hidenori Ashihara asked me who put me department manager… From this I realized that he doesn’t know how we operate nationally, namely that the chairmen of the sporting clubs of RMAF have the right to choose a coordinator. But NIKO doesn’t work with RMAF; in its form of organization, NIKO uses the Area Manager position, so he appointed Sensei Nicolae Dascălu in this activity, and the Romanian state – through its authorities – has no relationship with him, he being exclusively in direct collaboration with Honbu. As a result, I – as director of the Ashihara-Karate department of RMAF – have no causal relationship with the Area Manager. NIKO works with him, and the Romanian state with the department, namely with me. I think that Japan should sit at the table of discussions with RMAF to find the best possible collaboration solutions.

– How do you appreciate the involvement of Hidenori Ashihara in the national movement?
– His involvement is very low, but I don’t think this affects. Of course I would like him to be more present, because he would create a local dynamism and it would be set an important goal for everybody to prepare for. Also, all practitioners in Romania would thus come in direct contact with the novelties in this martial arts style. His appearance at that international annual training camp, in Denmark, I think is too little, especially because not many athletes from our country can go there.

– And this doesn’t create a negative image especially because leaders of other organizations, such as Dave Jonkers and Jōkō Ninomiya, have recently supported seminars in Romania?
– We must, however, relate to the size of the organizations. NIKO is a much larger structure than AIKO (Ashihara International Karate Organisation) or Enshin-Karate. In addition, Enshin-Karate is a very rigid organization, structured in much the same way as NIKO, in Branches. However, there is a common denominator of these structures, namely that none is involved in the establishment of official protocols with the states where they activate. Overall, it’s about policy in sport, where leaders decide the line to follow. I, knowing the other martial arts organizations, the laws and the structure of the International Olympic Committee, I would appreciate if Hidenori Ashihara would guide us to form continental and world federations such as those from Judo, Karate, Boxing, etc. We can not compare with other world or European federations which have the legal capacity and the structure to involve national decision-makers, local communities, or to attract people and sponsors. Here in Romania, I’m broken by NIKO’s help. For example, in Wushu, the international organization has direct contacts with state structures, assists with equipments the national federations, sends specific trainers to support thematic seminars, and all this paid out of the money of world or European organizations, with the goal of developing their sporting sector.

– Then why is it better to be part of NIKO and why we can’t create a great Ashihara-Karate “family”, regardless of the organization we are part of?
– We started with NIKO; it grew us and gave us rights, licenses, etc. In addition, there is currently no other stronger organization. Maybe in five or ten years, one of these other international structures, with good management and openness to states, will prove the opposite. At the same time, we also have a duty to Honbu, because the learning, the culture and what we have acquired through practicing the Ashihara-Karate style have shown that beautiful things can be built for the practitioners of this sport. From an administrative point of view, I might see things differently, but in all these years of practice I grew healthy and, in my turn, I grew healthy people. I feel comfortable at the moment in NIKO.

– Regarding the competition, how do you see the new kumite rules?
– Most of the people still work on the classic system, because it has demonstrated, by introducing protections, that an athlete is safe. The big issue with “New Style” regulation is the possibility of someone getting traumatized because of shocks received to the head, as has happened in other sports. Nobody has thought about this! In Romanian sports we’ve been shunned by such things, but I think at some point it’s possible that something serious would happen taking into account the direction we are heading. From the discussions I had with people who fought on the new competition regulation, I understood it was a bit tough because the glove, being thin, transmitted a strong shock to the helmet. For example, all protective measures have been taken in Taekwondo to prevent serious injuries. When designing a competition regulation, emphasis should be placed on the safety of the athlete. What is being promoted today on TV in terms of fighting are simple shows, not competitions. The organizers pay various athletes and put them in TV shows, and all the responsibility lies on the protagonists. While we operate under the authority of the Ministry of Youth and Sports; we have to make sure that nobody gets hurt.

– Many voices believe that the uniformization of contact sports rules will help them to be included in the Olympic Games…
– At the 2020 Olympics there will be a karate competition, and discussions are also being held for a full-contact contest. The problem is there are so many martial arts organizations and we don’t know if the full-contact competition will be accepted. Probably nothing will materialize because of the short time left to the Tokyo (Japan) event, especially since semi-contact sports are already advanced in terms of regulations and qualification system. If at some point a common denominator is reached and the grapplings are allowed on the full-contact system, then Ashihara-Karate will have an advantage over Kyokushin, for example. In all this landscape, I have only one assurance: the competition rules won’t be the “New Style” type.

– Why should someone practice Ashihara-Karate?
– First of all, for health, discipline, personality development, and last but not least, for the confidence you obtain in your own forces practicing this sport.

– How do you see AK MASTERS blog activity?
– Any constructive action is welcome. Through blog activity, I would like the posts and informations to be presented as clearly as possible, leaving no room for readers’ interpretations. Generally, correction is beneficial, because often we, as decision-makers, may have the impression that our opinions are the best. Then comes someone who sees things differently! I think this was the thing you want to do, to put on the same “table” the issues that they have escaped us or others ways of solving the problems. Even if some don’t want to recognize and don’t accept criticism, there are still enough people in Ashihara-Karate capable of understanding and evolving.