Twenty-six sports were recommended as new additions to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As many of you now know, Tokyo2020 and the IOC selected five new competitions: baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing.

But there were others recommended that I was either surprised about or unfamiliar with. I’ve created a list below of all the “sports” that were considered officially by Tokyo2020 for the next Summer Games. I took the liberty to make sense of them by organizing them into four categories, which you could most certainly dispute.

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The Olympics are, in a way, an endorsement of the international relevance of an organized sport or gaming activity. This year, there was a conscious emphasis to increase the youth following, so skateboarding (roller sports), sports climbing and surfing were added.

Baseball and softball were actually Olympic competitions from 1992 to 2008, so it probably was not a difficult decision with the Olympics returning to Asia, where baseball is very popular. However, tug of war, which was an Olympic competition from 1900 to 1920, did not make the cut.

I was faintly familiar with Netball, which is popular in Singapore where I lived a couple of years. It is a derivative of basketball, played mainly by women. But I was not familiar with Korfball, which originated in the Netherlands and is similar to basketball, but certainly not the same. First, the teams are composed of both 4 men and 4 women. Second, you can score from all angles around the basket. Third, there is no dribbling, and fourth, you can’t shoot the ball if someone is defending you. Watch this primer for details.

Orienteering is new to me, but then again, I was never in the Boy Scouts. Orienteering is a category of events that require the use of navigational skills, primarily with the use of a map and compass. Most are on foot, but some are under water, or in cars or boats. Think The Amazing Race, without all the cameras. The video gives you an idea of what this activity is like.

DanceSport is essentially competitive ballroom dancing, which is popular in Japan. The 2004 movie “Shall We Dance” with Richard Gere and Jeffifer Lopex is a re-make of the 1996 Japanese film of the same name. A film that you may know that focuses on the competitive side of dance (with a smattering of American football) is “Silver Linings Playbook” with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro.

And then there’s Bridge and Chess, what most people refer to as games as opposed to sports. I used to play chess a lot, since I grew up in the days of Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. And while I won second place in a chess tournament when I was 13, I would never experience the mentally and physically draining levels of tension that world-class chess masters go through. Still, is it a sport?

Does it matter?

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The second-place chess trophy I won at a competition at the Manhattan Chess Club when I was 13 years old. (If you must know, there were only three competitors.)
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When I was growing up in the US, it seemed like all the martial arts were perceived to be this polymorphous Asian judo/karate/kung fu sport that looked really cool on the big screen. I recall this scene from Hanna Barbera’s The Flinstones where Fred and Barney escape the alien bad guys delivering blows and shouting “judo chop chop!”

Here we are in the 21st century, and we’ve come a long way. Judo and taekwando are Olympic sports, while wushu was given strong consideration. A couple of weeks ago, the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee recommended karate as one of five sports to be added to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The recommendations for karate would include “kata” and “kumite”. Kata is the display of sequences of movements that come together in patterns, and like Hanon’s exercises for piano, need to be practiced over and over and over again. Kumite is a sparring competition that includes punching, kicking and blocking. Assuming the IOC approves next year, there would be one medal awarded each to men and women in the kata events, and three medals each for men and women in the kumite events, depending on the weight class.

There is said to be 100 million karate practitioners worldwide, 185 national karate federations, with around 2,000 global karate events held per month. What that has led to are schisms as to what qualifies as karate. One school of karate is called “kyokushin-style” is a full-contact sport, where the head and face are as much a target as any other part of the body. In other words, this is a version of karate where the intent is to deliver pain.

Kyokushin is very popular, but the vision of blood and broken bones on the mats of the Budokan in 2020 probably did not appeal to the powers that be, so it is the light-contact version of kumite that has been recommended to the IOC. As NewsonJapan.com puts it, “Those from karate schools that practice full contact would be allowed to take part in the Olympics if the sport was included, but would have to abide by the non-contact rule and wear mouth guards, body protectors and padded gloves, as well as shin and foot guards.”

Karate will likely be in the 2020 Games. It’s so popular that surveys repeatedly show that people think that karate is already an Olympic sport. One of the internet phenomenons who have been increasing popularity of karate for kids is Mahiro Takano, who has scowled and screamed her way into our hearts. Here she is in this great commercial for Japanese retailer, Aeon. She’s only 8, so maybe we’ll see her stomp her way to glory in the 2020 Games.