Olympic Athlete Appeals for Unity After Being Target of Anti-Asian Rant in OC

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Sakura Kokumai (front, second from right) visited the Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu of Little Tokyo dojo in March 2019 to train and share experience with students and head instructor Art Ishii, seated to her right. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Staff Report

Sakura Kokumai, a karateka who will represent the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics, was verbally attacked while training in an Orange County park.

Sakura Kokumai posted video of the man who threatened her.

Kokumai, 28, was working out in Grijalva Park in Orange when the incident occurred. She was talking on the phone with a friend and recorded videos of her assailant, which she posted on Instagram.

The unidentified man shouts at her to stay away from him. At one point he yells, “You’re scared. I’m not f—in’ scared of you … Go home, you stupid bitch! You’re little. Leave me alone! I’ll f—k you up. I’ll f—k your husband up or your boyfriend or whoever the f—k you’re talking to on the phone.”

Kokumai said the man didn’t use racial slurs at first, but she heard him shout “Chinese” and “sashimi” when he eventually drove away.

She posted, “Couldn’t stop thinking about what happened yesterday. Still processing… Usually I like to keep my social media positive, but I realized that these issues need to be addressed so we can protect each other.

“Yes, what happened was horrible, but I don’t know which was worse, a stranger yelling and threatening to hurt me for no reason or people around me who witnessed everything and not doing a thing.

“In that moment, I thought, ‘Gosh, this guy is just crazy.’ But when I zoomed out I realized there were a lot of people at the park. Yes, a woman did come up and asked if I was ok towards the end as it escalated… but for the longest time no one cared. People would walk by, some even smiled. And I didn’t know what to do.

“I was angry, frustrated, confused, scared, but I was also heartbroken to see and experience how people could be so cold,” Kokumai said after the abuse.

“This could have happened to anyone. If it wasn’t me, someone could’ve gotten hurt.

“We need to take care of each other. Why is it so hard to treat people with respect… yes, everyone is fighting inner battles but have RESPECT. REACH OUT. BE KIND. IT’S NOT THAT HARD.

“I was angry, frustrated, confused, scared, but I was also heartbroken to see and experience how people could be so cold… Please take care of each other. Please look out for one another.”

Kokumai told KTLA5, “Obviously I was scared. I think in the video you can see I was kind of laughing but at that moment, you really don’t know what to do.”

She added, “I was aware about the anti-Asian hate that was going on. You see it almost every day on the news. But I didn’t think it would happen to me at a park I usually go to to train.”

A native of Honolulu, Kokumai has been a member of the USA Karate National Team since 2007. She is a seven-time U.S. national champion and a Pan American Olympic Festival gold medalist.

Kokumai will compete in elite kata as karate makes its debut as an Olympic sport this summer in Tokyo. In kata, athletes perform a series of predetermined movements, more akin to a gymnastics floor exercise than a traditional combat bout. Only 10 women and 10 men qualify for Tokyo in the kata competition.

Kokumai earned a master’s degree from Waseda University in Tokyo and now reside in Southern California. Her coach is Nghia Pham.

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