Karate gained prominence in Malaysia mainly thanks to the exploits of karate family of T. Ponniyah. His sons Arivalagan, Thennavan and Thiagu were at the peak of their powers when I began my career in journalism.
Supported by Clement Soo, the taikor of karate, the sport prospered. There were teething problems, but nothing Makaf could not solve, with the support of the National Sports Council (NSC) then. Ponniyah, a kumite specialist and Clement, a kata grandmaster, formed a powerful duo. Thanks to its medal-churning products, karate became a major contributor to Malaysia's medal tally in multi-sports events, especially the SEA Games and the Asian Games.
But typical of any Malaysian sports body, Makaf has internal issues as well.
Arivalagan's removal as the chief coach took everybody by surprise, including Clement himself. As the Makaf secretary general, Clement was kept out of the loop. Read here
Apparently the technical committee wants to hire Iran's Vahid Khajeh Hosseini, the 1994 Asian Games bronze medallist in the 80kg. Ponniyah is not agreeable to the idea. Read The Star.
However Arivalagan's detractors claim he had not been producing exponents of his own since taking over from Ali Reza Souleymani in late 2003.
Arivalagan's track record showed otherwise. R. Puvaneswaran originally came from Hayashi-ha though his winning mentality was fine-tuned by Ali Reza from 1998 to 2003.
Insiders say there are some elements within the kata group that were envious of the influence the Ponniyah family had on the karate scene, what with his son Thiagu also a respected referee.
The whole issue is said to have been triggered by the defeat of the son of a national coach in the 2008 Sukma in Terengganu...which then led to the controversial EGM in 2009 which saw the election of Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam as Makaf president. Read The New Straits Times
I fear for karate. The sport could be going the taekwondo way if this matter is not resolved amicably.