images of Karate

Olympic Sports


Karate will make its first appearance on the Games programme at Tokyo 2020, with men and women competing in kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) events at the Nippon Budokan.


Karate is a martial art that originated in Okinawa during the Ryukyu Dynasty period. It spread throughout Japan during the 1920s and then worldwide following World War II. It is predominantly a striking, kicking and punching art. A Karate practitioner is called a karateka.

Broadly speaking, Karate competition consists of kata (forms) and kumite (sparring).

Kata are demonstrations of forms consisting of a series of offensive and defensive movements targeting a virtual opponent. Competitors choose the kata they will demonstrate from 102 that are recognised by the World Karate Federation. A point-based system was adopted in January 2019 whereby the scores awarded by three of the seven judges are added then applied to a separate calculation formula to determine the winner.

Key factors include the strength, speed, rhythm, balance and power of strikes and kicks; the solidity, clarity and force of movements; and the proper expression of the meaning of each technique with beautiful, flowing motion. Competitors are required to demonstrate movement that is both slow and fast, and weak and strong, along with focus and concentration.

In kumite, two karateka face each other in a matted competition area measuring 8m x 8m. Competitors wear a traditional Karate suit known as a gi. Three offensive techniques are allowed: striking, kicking and punching. Athletes must land a series of blows on the target area of their opponent's body with explosive energy and also with precision. Attacks with good form, power and control earn between one and three points. A competitor wins by amassing eight points more than their opponent within the duration of the bout or by gaining more points than their opponent in the allotted time (three minutes). In the event of a tie, the competitor who scored the first point is the winner.

Karate's quest to secure a place on the Olympic programme dates back to the 1970s. In 2015, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee proposed the inclusion of Karate as one of five additional sports, a decision that was approved by the International Olympic Committee. Athletes will compete at the Nippon Budokan, the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts and a legacy venue from the Tokyo 1964 Games.

International Federation: World Karate Federation(Open in a new window)

Event Programme

  • Kata (Men/Women)
  • Kumite
  • Three weight categories (Men -67kg, -75kg, +75kg / Women -55kg, -61kg, +61kg)


Intense competition to make Olympic history

Karate players

The World Karate Federation has more than 190 members spread across the world. At the 2016 World Championships, athletes from more than 20 countries earned medals.

Many leading kumite competitors come from Europe, notably France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Turkey, as well as from Iran, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. In East Asia, karateka from Vietnam and Thailand are gathering strength.

In kata events, talent is also spread across the globe. However, Japan can boast both men's and women's 2014 and 2016 WKF world champions, Ryo Kiyuna and Kiyou Shimizu.

The Tokyo 2020 Games will feature 80 athletes, with ten competing in each of eight events (two men's and women's kata events and three classes each for men's and women's kumite events). Eligibility will be determined by international rankings in the years leading up to Karate's Olympic debut with each country or region fielding only one competitor.

What's certain is that inclusion in the Games is a great opportunity to grow and promote the sport of Karate, not only in Japan but around the world.



Which part of the Karate competition area used for kumite is changed for kata?


A:The different colours signifying the starting position for each athlete in kumite are changed to a single colour for kata. At most venues, the mats used are double-sided and can be flipped over to make the competition area a single colour.

As of 1 Dec. 2018

Competition Venues

  • Nippon Budokan

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