MARTIAL ARTS - ISKA wants Jamaica on board
Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer
CORY SCHAFER, president of International Sport Karate/Kickboxing Association (ISKA), which stages the world's biggest martial arts tournament, the United States Open, and operates in 55 countries on six continents, is eyeing Jamaica as a future stop for his organisation's Open World Tour.
Schafer on Friday said he intends to fit the August 27-30 International Taekwon-do Federation (ITF) World Cup into his tight schedule to get a ringside experience of Jamaica's first attempt at hosting a world martial arts event.
"That is my intention, to be in Jamaica. We have great interest in hosting international martial arts events in Jamaica, specifically to work with Jason McKay, who is an outstanding leader in the industry," Schafer pointed out.
McKay, working as promoter with the Jamaica Taekwon-Do Association, won the bid to host the fifth ITF World Cup at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in the tourist mecca, a destination which excites Schafer and the ISKA.
"We have always worked in support of ITF and McKay has quite an impressive operation. The reality is when you're looking to expand international events, you promote where people would like to go," he explained, pointing to the sure winner of deciding to host the annual US Open in Disney World, Orlando, Florida, pulling up to 4,000 competitors from 40 countries.
"One of the things we recognise is that the demographic of people involved in karate tournaments is family oriented and we support that. Disney is the family travel capital of the universe so if you want to attract people, make a tournament family friendly and at a place people want to go.
"At martial arts tournaments, the majority of the competitors are children who are travelling with parents. Montego Bay is a beautiful place to go to a tournament and spend the next week. That's what we are looking for. It's a little unique, not a theme park, but can be a beautiful event."
ISKA is a global leader in promoting, sanctioning and regulating combat sports, as well as live martial arts events. It has formed media partnerships in broadcasting the US Open on ESPN, Glory World Series elite professional kickboxing on SPIKE TV, Strikeforce MMA on CBS and Showtime, as well as K-1 USA and Chuck Norris' World Combat League.
ISKA events, especially the US Open, welcome all art forms, similar to how Twenty20 has revolutionised cricket, eliminating the drudgery of traditional closed events and competitors in white uniforms.
Its latest venture, ISKA Open World Tour, debuted in Maryland, August 1-2, at the US Capitol Classics and China Open.
Schafer wants McKay and Jamaica to come aboard the ISKA Open World Tour train which has stops in Australia, Chicago, California, Ireland, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and Atlanta before culminating with the World Championships at the 2015 US Open.
"Now is a particularly attractive time for something like this. In the last year, we extended great efforts to develop the Open World tour, which lasts 12 months.
"We have developed an alliance with the best open tournaments around the world. The sole purpose is to get competitors to travel internationally.
"I have encouraged Jason to develop an open tournament, also to rebrand as ISKA, to move in the direction of having a World Tour event in Jamaica.
"It won't happen overnight as it will have to build to be a leading event. However, that might not be hard for Jamaica as popularity of location is favourable. People want to go to Jamaica and his expertise and infrastructure could rise quickly," said Schafer, adding that with the industry norm of 2.7 spectators for each travelling competitor, Jamaica's economy would be bound to benefit.