“The future of Para Taekwondo is bright.” Chakir Chelbat

Interview with
Mr. Chakir Chelbat

Chairman Para Taekwondo Committee of World Taekwondo
Technical Delegate for Taekwondo at Tokyo Paralympics 2020/21
Referee Chairman for World Taekwondo Europe

With the preparations for the Tokyo Paralympic Games in full flow Mr. Chakir Chelbat is incredibly busy. We are happy that we had the chance to talk with him about the evolution of Para Taekwondo and about his commitment.

TA: Since 2017 you are responsible for Para Taekwondo at World Taekwondo, first as Chairman of the Para Technical and Referee Committee and now as Chairman of the Para Taekwondo Committee. What are your main activities?

Chakir Chelbat: Before I was appointed as chair of the WT Para Taekwondo committee I had been WT Referee Chairman since 2010 and I am also WTE Referee Chair. Under the leadership of President Dr Choue and President Pragalos there were so many activities that gave me ample opportunity to gain experience, knowledge and to grow. 2017 was my last World Championships as a  WT referee chairman and after that President Choue decided to give me a new opportunity to serve the Taekwondo community as chair of the Para Taekwondo Committee. Para Taekwondo was new for me and I had to study a lot. I had to learn more about the Para movements, its rules, classifications and so on. In 2018 I was also appointed WT Technical Delegate for the Para  Taekwondo competitions of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. I am glad to say, that I have a very good team. I am working closely together with my colleague Mr. Usman Dildar and all the other members of the WT Para Committee. President Dr Choue told me together with Mr. Usman to create education programs for Para and to gather all the impairments which are under the IPC in the WT Para Taekwondo program. Me and Mr. Usman developed a coach administration bylaw, coach certification courses (three levels), promotion test bylaw, examiners certification courses, promotion test syllabus, several other education courses, MNA workshops and more – all Para specific.

The above mentioned items, bylaws and proposal amendments, are already approved by the WT council and some others such as athlete classification will be presented on the next council meeting in October.

We strongly focus on the spreading of knowledge and on education. All courses are held online for now. This is in fact an advantage for the participants as the it is very cost efficient.

I am proud to say that in many ways we were able to make history. For example this week we conducted the first ever WT Para Taekwondo International Coach Certification Course which was attended by 73 coaches from 26 countries. It was basically for coaches from Europe, but we allowed others as well. Events for Africa, PanAm, Asia and Oceania will all follow within the next three weeks.

We also initiated a Para Taekwondo Newsletter with which we reach out to our MNAs and encourage them to engage in Para Taekwondo – from grassroot level to high performance alike. We give them a lot of information, advice and present the existing para activities in all MNAs and continental unions. For this we got a very positive feedback from our stakeholders.

TA: You mentioned the Para Taekwondo International Coach Certification Course. Is this completely separate from the Coach Certification for able bodied athletes? And what are the most important areas you teach to the coaches?

Chakir Chelbat: The Para Coach Certification is totally separate from the standard coach certification. In fact, Para Taekwondo is a very complex area, as World Taekwondo includes all ten impairment types which are under the International Paralympic Committee. This includes athletes with visual, intellectual, neurological, physical, wheelchair, deaf (for poomsae and kyorugi) and short stature impairments.

Coaches have to take into consideration that every athlete has her or his personal history. For example it is a big difference if the athlete was born with the impairment or acquired it due to an illness, a trauma or other reasons. In the future a Para Taekwondo coach will have more knowledge on how to work with athletes with different disabilities.

The main areas of knowledge we teach the coaches are the history of Para Taekwondo, rules and regulations, code of ethics, classifications, biological and psychological aspects. There will be three levels of certificates: Level 1 allows a coach at national and G1 tournaments, level 2 adds G2 and G4 and level 3 is for G8, G12 and G20 (Paralympic Games). The level 1 and 2 education will be completed this year and the license will be mandatory from January 1, 2021 and level 3 follows later on in 2021.

As I said, every Para athlete has her or his own story and often they had to overcome many difficulties in their lives. It is amazing that so many Para athletes reach out to Taekwondo and it is our duty as officials and coaches to help these heroes as best as we can.

TA: What about the referee education?

Chakir Chelbat: At the moment the education for referees for tournaments with able bodied players and for Para Taekwondo are merged. For example when we have an online education of 8 hours, about 2 hours are reserved for Para Taekwondo, which is very little. We are in discussion with WT to increase this, as the impairment sport classes have increased which means the education needs to be adjusted so each specific impairment sport class will get equal focus. I trust in the leadership of WT to find a good solution very soon.

TA: How is the referee selection for the Tokyo Paralympic Games going?

Chakir Chelbat: We started with 300 referees whom we considered able to serve at the Paralympic Games. By now we reduced this number to 50 referees who continue to go through the selection process. The 50 referees will be assigned to officiate at the Paralympic continental qualifications. A referee will not be invited to officiate at her/his own continental union qualification. For example at the European qualification tournament only referees from outside Europe will serve. The qualification tournaments for Europe and Asia will still have to take place, probably at the beginning of 2021. After that we will evaluate the work of the referees and select the final team of 30 referees. This referee team for the Paralympic Games is completely separate from the referee team for the able body players. One cannot take part in both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games as a referee.

TA: It is less than one year now, that the first ever Taekwondo competitions at the Paralympic Games will take place. You are Technical Delegate for WT for this important event. How are the preparations going?

Chakir Chelbat: We are happy that WT President Dr Choue puts a lot of support and effort into Para Taekwondo. Without his work in liaison with the International Paralympic Committee we would not be where we are now.  For example at Tokyo 2020/21 we will have three weight categories for men and women each. Also keep in mind that Para Taekwondo is already a confirmed sport for Paralympic Games in Paris 2024 as well; WT has applied to increase the weight categories from three to five for male as well as for female players which would mean an increased number of players and more medals for Para Taekwondo. We are very optimistic for a positive answer from the International Paralympic Committee.

We constantly focus on how to develop our sport as a Paralympic discipline. This is a nonstop process. One focus area is to evaluate the rules: we have to eliminate all grey areas in our rules and regulations. Everything has to be clear and transparent and must leave no room for misinterpretation.

The future of Para Taekwondo is bright. Me together with the WT Para Committee are committed to do our outmost to deliver a very successful Paralympic in Tokyo 2020/21.

TA: There are many discussions if and how the games can proceed in 2021, for example if spectators will be possible and so on. What is your personal opinion about that?

Chakir Chelbat: We have ongoing meetings with the WT Para Committee as well as with the Paralympic Tokyo organizing committee. I know that everybody is working nonstop and it is a difficult time for everybody. However, everybody takes their responsibilities seriously and is doing their best. Hopefully there will be a vaccine coming soon so we can move forward towards to Tokyo 2020/21. The main focus has to be everybody’s safety. We are prepared in every possible aspect for the Games and we will do our best to deliver an historical event in 2021 – that is our commitment.

TA: Is there something you would like to add – some message for the Taekwondo community?

Chakir Chelbat: I hope that through the various Para education courses launched by the WT Para Committee, we are able to reach out to the MNAs and to the clubs in order to increase the awareness, knowledge and involvement – and that this will help to open up the clubs for more Para athletes. We strongly believe that education is the key and that together we will develop the Para Taekwondo movement. My hope is that my message is heard and that every Taekwondo club gives equal chances to all taekwondo heroes – able body and Para athletes.