The Olympic Karate Guide for Tokyo 2020

In 2020, Karate will for the first time be included in the Olympic Games.

This is a historic moment for the sport of Karate, as millions of practitioners worldwide now have chance to shine themselves in the Olympic glory.

But how will this happen? Who can participate? Where will it be held?

There are so many questions…

Today I’m going to answer them!olympic_karate

First of all, let’s cover the basics:

The Olympics Games in 2020 will take place in Tokyo, Japan – the country famous for modernizing Karate.

The venue where Karate will hold it’s competition is called Nippon Budokan, located in Kita No Maru Park, in central Tokyo. This is an indoor arena built exclusively for martial arts events.

For two days, Karate will use this arena to carry out it’s Olympic activities, divided into two specific categories:

Kata and Kumite.

  • Kata is the solo representation of Karate’s self-defense techniques strung together into a performance routine that usually lasts 2 to 3 minutes. A kata is judged based on several technical and physical criteria; including speed, strength, focus, breathing, balance and rhythm. Kata is divided into male and female classes, but can also be performed in teams, however, team kata will not be included in Tokyo 2020.
  • Kumite is Karate’s sport fighting element. In a kumite match, two athletes face each others with small gloves and foot protection, with the goal of scoring points using kicks, punches, strikes, throws and sweeps for a maximum of three minutes. Note that this is not full contact Karate – athletes have to show full self-control in each technique, at all times. The weight classes for men in kumite are -67 kg, -75 kg and + 75 kg, while the women have -55 kg, -61 kg and +61 kg.

No matter what category an athlete competes in, he or she will have to wear either a red or blue belt, as decided by a random draw.

The red contestant is called “AKA” and the blue is called “AO”. These are simply Japanese terms for “RED” and “BLUE”. This makes it easy for judges to express their decisions with red and blue flags. The point system could also be used, like in other Olympic sports. The rules are constantly updated.

So, who exactly can compete in the Olympic Games?

jesse_enkamp_national_shito_champAccording to the World Karate Federation (WKF), the ability to compete in Tokyo 2020 will be given to all Karate practitioners in the world, as long as you follow the rules and regulations of the World Karate Federation.

For example, you cannot compete with weapons, or with a black Karate uniform. Your approved Karate gi needs to be white, with the correct features.

You will also need to be selected somehow, because like I said, there’s only place for 80 people to compete in Tokyo – 20 in kata and 60 in kumite, divided into 50/50 male/female.

The selection process will be based on a world ranking that will take into account some of the biggest Karate tournaments in the world, including the World Championship, the European Championships, Pan American Championships and so on. This is decided by WKF.

It’s safe to say that only the best of the best Karate athletes will be able to compete in Tokyo – like in any other Olympic sport.

However, there might not be any more chances after 2020… because at the moment, Karate has only been accepted for this Olympic event.

In order to make Karate a regular Olympic sport (like swimming or gymnastics) it would have to be proposed and accepted for future Olympics as well.

So make sure you don’t miss this historic moment in Tokyo 2020.

I hope this presentation gave you some knowledge on Karate in the Olympics.

Share this with your Karate friends so they know too!

Thanks & see you in Tokyo! 😉

PS. Is “Olympic Karate” good or bad? Here’s what I think.


  • Alvin
    Great article Jesse-san. I am hardly waiting for Tokyo 2020, definitely going to be there watching or participating.
  • Alan Walker
    It was my understanding that there would only be Kumite at the Olympics.My information comes from members of WUKF, not that I'm debating what you're saying.
    • Gary Ebel
      That was the case originally but it was later changed to include kata but there will only be 10 male and 10 female competitors.
    • Yes, many years ago that was the case. It changed.
  • zzdoc
    WKF-Japan dominated, political farce. So who is the all-high PoohBah gonna reap all the glory from this?
    • Chester
      Japan dominated? Far from it.The governance of WKF is made up of more nations than I can count! a good idea to do a little research before you start gobbing off!!
  • Cory
    Hey, Jesse-San, are you going to try out for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games then?
    • There are no actual "tryouts". It's more a question of accumulating many wins over a longer period of time to get ranked high enough for selection criteria to apply. I will definitely try! :_)
      • Cory
        While I will be watching regardless of what happens, it would be awesome to see you there.
  • Maurizio
    So, how about the "Ryuha"'s...who is going to compete? Shotokan katas? Gojyuryu katas? Shorinryu katas? What's the criteria? Full contact? Semi contact? Okinawa karate? Japanese karate?
    • Like I said, it's open for all styles, as long as you follow the rules of WKF. The rules are freely available on Google for you to read.
  • Cristian Álvarez
    Hi Jesse San. I'm left with a doubt after reading the article. When you say: "The selection process will be based on a world ranking that will take into account some of the biggest Karate tournaments in the world, including the World Championship, the European Championships, Pan American Championships and so on. This is decided by WKF."What do you mean?That the WKF will decide which tournamets are ranked for selecting competitors the Olympics?. Or that the WKF itself will select competitors based on the results of those tournaments?
    • Alan Walker
      Although the WKF have the choice they have been instructed to consider competitors from WUKF, UWK, WUKO, and other organisations.
  • Carlos
    What about styles? Any consideration about this? Styles mixed? Only one style? No styles
    • All styles have the possibility to compete. It's style free.
    • Alan Walker
      Styles won't be an issue, the countries allowed to participate will be the problem. It is unclear at the moment if the UK will be permitted to enter due to the issues between the Top 5 Governing bodies in the UK.
  • Richard Holdstock
    Karate inclusion in the Olympics is well overdue and MUST become part of every future Olympics
    • zzdoc
  • Mark Laderwarg
    After watching the pathetic attempt at Taekwondo in the 2016 Olympics, I am not expecting too much.However, I will be watching.The first Karate Olympics will probably be the high point for the sport. As the rules are solidified, it will likely go downhill.
    • It will definitely be interesting to see how everything unfolds Mark-san! :-)
    • zzdoc
  • zzdoc
  • Akshat
    Well i thought karate actually became a olympic sport from 2020. But I am vetting a feeling that this karate event is going to be amazing and will win a lot of supporters . Can't wait till 2020
  • Ben Brown
    Jesse-San , Any chance that Master Ken(Ameri-do-te) will enter the kumite. I think Olympic gold would look good displayed in his dojo!?Ben
    • Alan Walker
      He'd take the gold in Kumite and Kata, his kill face will eliminate the competition, plus who can beat the Thrust of Freedom Kata
      • zzdoc
        Here we go!! Fortunately Manchester United is not fielding a team.
  • Kathy
    Dear Jesse, thanks for this information! Where are that numbers (8o karateka e.g.) coming from? I found nothing about this on the official websites? Thanks a lot again and all the best, Kathy Miller
  • In fact not even 80 but just 72 participants around the world because 8 licenses automatically take the Japanese as the hosts of the Olympic 2020.
  • Bala
    I have a doubt that,they will select based on which year world championship competitions will take into account for short listing (i.e..,duration of 2016 to 2020)?
  • Sir thanks a lot for providing the karate players a lot of information about the Olympic selection processor. We would felt more helpful if the selection begins from district to world tournaments!!
    sir i have recently completed my 18 and haven't participated at any international tournament yet. will i be able to play for it will wkf choose players from my country or my country will keep an open selection for all participants

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