Director Maria Morgunova Interview About Karate in Ontario: The Uphill Battle

Director of Karate in Ontario: The Uphill Battle. The cost of raising a champion

Julian Galitsin: The Uphill Battle is an award-winning documentary. There are many leading karate experts in Ontario including coaches, judges, and elite athletes who participated in the documentary. You cover a lot of questions and described the many problems of this sport in 75 minutes. How did you decide what to include?

Maria Morgunova: My initial plan was to make a short documentary, no longer than 30 minutes, because I believed that not many people would welcome being interviewed since at the time several of our subjects encountered obstacles at the executive level. However, things changed dramatically. Participants started recommending us to other experts and athletes, and step-by-step the content was filled with new facts and interesting stories. During the production of this documentary, I was fortunate to interview amazing coaches, athletes, parents, and referees. They shared their experiences with me; it was really inspirational to learn exactly what these people do and how they become champions. In fact, the script was rewritten again and again, so the run time increased to 75 minutes.

Julian Galitsin: When you were collecting material for the film, which historical fact impressed you about karate?

Maria Morgunova: Karate is a most mysterious sport. It was banned in a number of countries, including Japan, throughout different historical eras. Being a journalist, I was always attracted by something that was forbidden under the law. Karate has gone from being officially banned to being included in the Olympic Games.

Julian Galitsin: What was the reason to ban karate?

Maria Morgunova: I didn’t find any clear explanations either in books or online resources. As we know, karate was created by Okinawans for defense against Japanese samurais. When Okinawa was a Japanese colony, residents were forbidden to have weapons. At the same time, a samurai could easily “try the sharpness of his sword” on any local peasant. Okinawans looked for a way to survive. They had no weapons, but still had hands and legs. They learned to fight without weapons and win. They called this martial art karate which means “an empty hand.” Now think about any modern system where an unarmed person dressed in regular clothing can defeat an armed and experienced soldier. What kind of government would accept this? Karate offers an advantage to some people and can eventually establish an independent community of people who can stand up for themselves. How would a government or power manage such a society? This may be the reason karate was banned. In my opinion, many secrets of karate training that are still hidden.

Julian Galitsin: Did the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics influence your project?

Maria Morgunova: Yes, because karate is set to make its debut appearance at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. This has motivated children in Canada and throughout the world to turn their love of the sport into a professional career while giving them the opportunity to represent their country on the international stage. The inclusion of karate in the Olympic line-up has prompted many young students to strive to be elite athletes, prompting lofty goal-setting as new opportunities arise. From the parents’ point of view, the aspirations of their young karate champion hopefuls mean further travel and greater expenses than ever before. Unfortunately, the Canadian government, unlike other countries, has chosen not to support talented young karate athletes and coaches. I hope this situation will be remedied someday.

Julian Galitsin: Despite this fact, there isn’t much news about karate through major media. Is the lack of publicity a problem?

Maria Morgunova: Lack of publicity is one of the primary problems associated with the sport of karate in Canada. There is not a single magazine, newspaper, or website that reflects the successes of Canadian karate athletes. It appears that mass media has no interest in this sport. You can read about any other sport in the Canadian press, listen to it on radio, watch it on TV, or hear about it on the news, but you never hear anything about karate from mainstream mass media. Overlooked by them due to a lack of interest and understanding of the complexities of karate, we simply don’t get the level of publicity enjoyed by most other Canadian sports. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of engagement between both the federal and provincial governments and the media.

Julian Galitsin: The Uphill Battle is an award-winning documentary. There are many leading karate experts in Ontario including coaches, judges, and elite athletes who participated in the documentary. You cover a lot of questions and described the many problems of this sport in 75 minutes. How did you decide what to include?

Maria Morgunova: My initial plan was to make a short documentary, no longer than 30 minutes, because I believed that not many people would welcome being interviewed since at the time several of our subjects encountered obstacles at the executive level. However, things changed dramatically. Participants started recommending us to other experts and athletes, and step-by-step the content was filled with new facts and interesting stories. During the production of this documentary, I was fortunate to interview amazing coaches, athletes, parents, and referees. They shared their experiences with me; it was really inspirational to learn exactly what these people do and how they become champions. In fact, the script was rewritten again and again, so the run time increased to 75 minutes.

Julian Galitsin: When you were collecting material for the film, which historical fact impressed you about karate?

Maria Morgunova: Karate is a most mysterious sport. It was banned in a number of countries, including Japan, throughout different historical eras. Being a journalist, I was always attracted by something that was forbidden under the law. Karate has gone from being officially banned to being included in the Olympic Games.

Julian Galitsin: What was the reason to ban karate?

Maria Morgunova: I didn’t find any clear explanations either in books or online resources. As we know, karate was created by Okinawans for defense against Japanese samurais. When Okinawa was a Japanese colony, residents were forbidden to have weapons. At the same time, a samurai could easily “try the sharpness of his sword” on any local peasant. Okinawans looked for a way to survive. They had no weapons, but still had hands and legs. They learned to fight without weapons and win. They called this martial art karate which means “an empty hand.” Now think about any modern system where an unarmed person dressed in regular clothing can defeat an armed and experienced soldier. What kind of government would accept this? Karate offers an advantage to some people and can eventually establish an independent community of people who can stand up for themselves. How would a government or power manage such a society? This may be the reason karate was banned. In my opinion, many secrets of karate training that are still hidden.

Julian Galitsin: Did the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics influence your project?

Maria Morgunova: Yes, because karate is set to make its debut appearance at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. This has motivated children in Canada and throughout the world to turn their love of the sport into a professional career while giving them the opportunity to represent their country on the international stage. The inclusion of karate in the Olympic line-up has prompted many young students to strive to be elite athletes, prompting lofty goal-setting as new opportunities arise. From the parents’ point of view, the aspirations of their young karate champion hopefuls mean further travel and greater expenses than ever before. Unfortunately, the Canadian government, unlike other countries, has chosen not to support talented young karate athletes and coaches. I hope this situation will be remedied someday.

Julian Galitsin: Despite this fact, there isn’t much news about karate through major media. Is the lack of publicity a problem?

Maria Morgunova: Lack of publicity is one of the primary problems associated with the sport of karate in Canada. There is not a single magazine, newspaper, or website that reflects the successes of Canadian karate athletes. It appears that mass media has no interest in this sport. You can read about any other sport in the Canadian press, listen to it on radio, watch it on TV, or hear about it on the news, but you never hear anything about karate from mainstream mass media. Overlooked by them due to a lack of interest and understanding of the complexities of karate, we simply don’t get the level of publicity enjoyed by most other Canadian sports. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of engagement between both the federal and provincial governments and the media.

Julian Galitsin: Who should be engaging with the media?

Maria Morgunova: In Canada, karate is fuelled by individual champions and their gifted instructors. It is overlooked by the media because most officials don’t know what karate is all about and simply don’t liaise with the media to discuss the subject. It’s a sad fact that there are no karate experts in the Ministry of Sport. Officials don’t see any difference between karate and other martial arts so as a result, karate is rarely mentioned in the media at all.To my knowledge; there has never been a press conference to discuss karate achievements or developments and trends in the sport.
I am not aware of any time that a representative from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport Ontario or the Minister of Science, and Sport Canada has made mention of karate in the leading media.

Julian Galitsin: What about karate officials? Do they communicate with journalists?

Maria Morgunova: Unfortunately, karate officials simply don’t understand that it is not enough to send out a press release to announce karate related news. If you think about popular Canadian sports like hockey and football, none send out press releases to make important announcements. In fact, those involved in hockey and football typically do nothing to announce major news, because PR specialists at the provincial and federal levels will already be there to cover any new developments.
Press coverage is almost always fuelled by popularity and public interest. Demand for press coverage comes from the top down, which inevitably means that sports that enjoy the support of governments, investors, and sponsors receive infinitely more coverage than those that are self-funded. Additionally, sports clubs and leagues owned or primarily funded by media corporations like newspapers, TV channels, magazines (which usually enjoy government support) will inevitably be featured predominantly in those media corporations.

Julian Galitsin: In case of lack of sponsorship, investors, government support, and professional PR specialists, who will represent Canada in Tokyo 2020?

Maria Morgunova: Unfortunately, talented people often don’t have money for training and traveling, and wealthy athletes often don’t have enough talent to win, so I admit to the idea that talented athletes will stay home while the money will go to prestigious events.

Julian Galitsin: It turns out a vicious circle: to represent Canada, you need sponsors and investors, but where do you find these sponsors if there is no primetime media coverage?

Maria Morgunova: Sport marketing, PR, advertisement and image-making are very specific and should be provided by professionally trained specialists. It is all about building the image of karate as a prestigious professional sport and trendy hobby. As soon as karate becomes a popular sport, investors will appear and Canada will have many more champions and gold medalists. It is necessary to talk about this sport and tell a wide audience about the specifics of karate and share news about leading athletes’ achievements to make this sport popular and prestigious with the public.
By the way, today, our feature documentary The Uphill Battle remains the only available piece of research on the sport of karate in Canada. Furthermore, it seems that I’m the only journalist who covers karate to any extent. I cover every angle of this sport for parents of karate students and anyone interested in it, however, I have found it difficult to find a platform in Canada to publish my work. As a result, I submit most of my work to sports portals in the United States, such as www.abstractsports.com

Julian Galitsin: Daniel Gaysinsky, who is one of the top-level Canadian athletes, participated in your documentary. Any news and achievements from him since then?

Maria Morgunova: As I know he earned a silver medal at the World Karate Federation K1 Premier League Karate Series in Montréal last year. He also received a silver medal at the Dutch Open in 2016 and a gold medal at the Pan American Championship in 2017. He probably won more medals, but we don’t know about it, because there was not a single mention or breaking news report from Canadian mass media about these amazing achievements. Why the Ministry of Sports and local sports reporters had no desire to interview this top-level Canadian athlete, who represents his country so beautifully, remains a mystery. I also don’t understand why there was no queue of journalists at the door of the RSK karate club (where this athlete trains) anxiously waiting to interview the Canadian national team champion.

Julian Galitsin: I’m wondering how many Canadians know that Daniel Gaysinsky usually brings medals to Canada. Do you think he will represent Canada at the Olympics in 2020?

Maria Morgunova: I am not a predictor, especially when it comes to sports. For me, Daniel Gaisinsky is already a champion. As athletes say, “karate is more than a sport, and championship is more than medals or public recognition.” Championship is a reflection of self-development and self-improvement. He’s got a great personality. Look at his horizons, appearance, style, manner of communication, sense of humour; he is an example of a successful self-made person. I believe Daniel could bring glory to our country if he represents Canada in Tokyo.

Julian Galitsin: I know libraries and colleges are interested in this documentary. Looking through the reviews on different websites, I noticed that the audience is quite serious. What do you think piqued their interest in the documentary on karate?

Maria Morgunova: Parents, teachers, coaches, and other people watch The Uphill Battle because it helps them find a solution for their children, students, or talented athletes.
Historically, karate has been based on the idea that even though everyone is different, this means of self-defence can be adapted to each person by developing a unique method specifically designed for them. Even though an individual may be ill or suffer a developmental challenge such as autism, karate has been proven to be an excellent way to strengthen the immune system, manage weight, and increase mental abilities.

Julian Galitsin: With the many factors that go into creating a feature-length documentary film, how did you find the experience of directing your team?

Maria Morgunova: Creating a feature-length documentary film is certainly a synergy of art and technology. I was fortunate to work with an amazing team of like-minded people and am constantly learning from my colleagues. Everyone I work with has unique talents and perspectives to offer and each team member is someone I genuinely respect.
While some producers insist on hiring the best of the best, my policy is to work with people who are personally interested and invested in the project, and who genuinely want to lend their assistance. Creating a crew that works well together comes down to choosing people based on their temperament and personality, while getting a good idea of their view of the concept, theme, and the project’s intended final result.

Karate in Ontario: The Uphill Battle

Julian Galitsin: Where can we see The Uphill Battle? Can we watch it online or buy the DVD and Blu-ray?

Maria Morgunova:
Amazon Prime US

Amazon Prime UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/video/detail/B079ZC3ZF1

Amazon.com with English and Spanish subtitles

Vimeo on Demand with English and Spanish subtitles

Julian Galitsin: Do you have a Facebook page where you promote your documentary film?

Maria Morgunova: Yes, please visit and like our Karate in Ontario: The Uphill Battle Facebook page

Julian Galitsin: thank you for joining me today. I look forward to reading your future articles about Canadian athletes and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Maria Morgunova: Thank you, it was my pleasure.

Karate in Ontario: “The Uphill Battle” – The Cost of Raising a Champion

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