WORLD-CLASS. Former Southeast Asian Games champion and national coach David Lay discusses the karate programs in the country during the TOPS forum at the National Press Club in Intramuros, Manila on Thursday (Feb. 20, 2020). Lay said the Philippines can produce world champions in karate. He was joined by other guests from basketball and TOPS president Ed Andaya. (PNA photo by Jess Escaros)

MANILA — Like other martial arts sports, the Philippines can also produce a world champion in karate.

Former Southeast Asian Games champion and national team coach David Lay certainly thinks so.

“With the right training and proper international exposure, Filipino karatekas can also excel in this sport,” said Lay during the 56th “Usapang Sports” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) at the National Press Club in Intramuros, Manila on Thursday.

Lay, also the chief instructor of the Karate Development Arts (KDA), said Filipino-Japanese Junna Tsukii remains as the country’s brightest hope in karate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I think kailangan na lang nya ng ilang (Tsukii needs some) medal finishes. I hope she makes it to the Olympics. I’m really happy that she is representing the Philippines, although she is half-Japanese, half-Filipina,” said Lay, who excelled in the sport while under Junna’s father-coach Shin Tsukii in the 80s.

Unlike during his time in 1987, Lay said Filipino karatekas have improved a lot due to good number of exposures abroad.

Lay and Rudy Ochoa of Philippine Karatedo Traditional and Sports (PKTS) also announced the staging of the first Japan Karate Shoto Federation kata and kumite seminar on Sunday, Feb. 23, at Ali Mall in Cubao, Quezon City.

The event is part of 20th anniversary of the KDA. Ochoa, on the other hand, said there are about 74 JKS blackbelts in the country with more to follow.

“This Sunday, we expect as many as 400 to 500 participants from various JKS clubs in Metro Manila,” said Ochoa during the weekly sports program supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, National Press Club, Pagcor, Community Basketball Association and HG Guyabano Tea Leaf Drinks.

Ochoa said Lay will handle the kata seminar at 10:30 a.m., while Ali Parvinfar will handle the kumite seminar during the KDA event at Ali Mall.

Both Lay and Ochoa said the controversy affecting karate in the country is not affecting their programs.

“We have no problems. We try to work together. If there’s an activity, we support each other. What’s important is yun (the) goal that we have. If our players want to play in the other group, we will not stop them and even encourage them. Respetado namin sila (We respect them),” explained Lay. (PR)