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.
    • Sanjay singh
      How to participate ? I am belonging to india so you tell me how to participate.
      • Aadarsh
        hey bro i'm also from india do you have any information how to participate part in 2020 tokyo olympics .
  • 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.
      • Cobus
        How will the Kata Competition run. Will it be 2 groups of 5 each and the 2 winners of each groepe go on to compete for the medals?
    • 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! Probably 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.
      • Thomas L Grady
        How would that work for other countries to try out for the 2020 Olympics for karate. What are the steps that we need to take a home or what website to go visit
      • Jorge Smith
        When is the deadline? Is it too late to start competing now?
  • 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.
      • KarateN00b
        Alan, that's interesting: where can I find more information on this? Does that mean that WKF non-affiliated clubs can compete now, assuming that their athletes score well enough in the WKF qualifiers?
      • Ichiro OWA
        Hi, Jesse. I am in Tanzania now and was trying to form an national team here, but it seems to be far from it since there is no big competitions here and less oppotunities to participate in other area. Is there any possibility for East African nations?
    • There is a WKF Olympic Ranking that will clarify for you exactly which tournaments are considered and who has the greatest chances so far. It can be found here:
  • 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.
      • KarateN00b
        Sorry for coming late to the debate: all styles, is that also true for Kata?
    • 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
    • I’m now 100% disabled and haven’t competed for quite awhile. I would truly love to see any televised or recorded videos. How, when or what must I do to witness history that I was ready for twenty years ago?
  • 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
      • KarateN00b
        Thanks for pointing to the right sources. One would hope that one of those international organizations do a better job assembling all relevant information in one place for the global Karate community. Even the WKF website looks like from a different era (so 20th century??). Thumbs up for dragging us all into the 21st Century Jesse Sensei!
  • 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
  • Oss 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?
    • ZZDoc
      Becoming clear who the Grand Poobah in all of this will be.
  • eddyd
    Thanks for the thorough information. If I start competing as an adult this coming year will I be able to gain a high enough ranking to be considered? I won't be 18 for a few more months, but have previously won AAKF junior nationals and have been practicing for 13 years. Any guidance is greatly appreciated.
  • Adarsh Borse
    I'm from India. Can I participate?
  • Megan Horton
    If I am correct, the National Team Trials is in July in Greenville SC. Sensei Hood is the Olympic coach, and in general you need to participate in a National Qualifier first, then compete and win a top 4 spot at the Team Trials to be placed in the team pool. I gathered this from being at a National Qualifier and finding a document(it was old) online. So this may not be 100% accurate, but it might help your google searches.
  • Mounish
    Wondering karate must be in future also.
  • Super Sane
    I really wanna join the olympics for Karate but I'm not in any Dojo or club. Can I still join it?
    • ZZDoc
      I would suggest that you contact the WKF. From Jesse's comments in his post there's to be a world ranking based upon tournament, and a best of the best selection. How one manages to do this as an unaffiliated practitioner, in the notorious world of karate politics, is beyond my Ken.
    • Megan Horton
      You can, but you do have to goto a National Qualifier and then the team trials in July. Again, I am only speaking from my personal experience and I do not pretend to be an expert, but I think this is correct. Carolina Karate in Greenville is the Dojo of Sensei Hood, the appointed coach for the US Team. His folks are extremely kind and welcomed me with open arms at their tournament. I would say they would be happy to answer any of your questions. I believe once someone makes the team pool, it then becomes the coaches decision about who competes for the team. He can choose from anyone that has made the Team Pool from any year.
  • Yannay bleher
    Im in kyokushinkai karate. What kind of karate is this ?
    • ZZDoc
      Research the life of Mas Oyama. That should tell you what you need to know.
      • Yannay bleher
        I ment the karate in the video. Not kyokushin.
        • ZZDoc
          I don't see a video linked to your posted question.
  • Ricardo
    Hi Jesse, thank you for everything you do to circulate information on Karate. There isn't a lot of information on requirements/qualifications to be considered as an Olympic competitor for 2020. Do you know of any good resources?
  • Megan Horton file:///C:/Users/The%20Hortons/Downloads/USA%20Senior%20National%20Team%20Selection%20(3).pdf Hope these links further assist you, but all of the information is published. Good Luck.
  • Where can we find the rankings and the tournaments that are being used for ranking competitiors?
      • Sayantani Ash
        which countries will be qualified any idea?
      • Latesh sherkhane
        I am from India can i participate
  • T. Durga prasad
    I have one doubt sensie.... I am 50kg weight.... Can I qualify for participating Olympics....
  • Hey Jesse, Thanks for the article! Obviously, as a young Karateka, my dream is to go to the Olympics one day. I will be too young to go in 2020, just 17, so hopefully Karate will stay in the Olympics for future years. I just had one question for you. It terms of WKF ranking, for both Kata and kumite, what place would you have to be to get in? By this I mean: e.g top 50 kumite, top 20 kumite. Again, thanks for the post! Jes
  • Adam robinson
    Hi Jesse, great article! Just wondering if someone was to practice martial arts concepts I.e. karate, kickboxing, Muay Thai, ju jujitsu, etc, can they compete in karate tournaments and competitions?
  • Dhvani dubey
    I want to participate in this tournament and also want to represent my country
  • Joe the Penguin
    Sooooo excited for this! Do you think you will compete? And what are the chances of karate happening again in the olympics?
    How many palpable can attend for Kumite ? do they have limit for Kumite?
  • Michelle Blackwell
    My daughter has been training for 10 years (5 days a week) and is desperate to compete at the Olympics and was overjoyed to hear it had been chosen but I'm gutted it's not going to be in every Olympics as we were looking for her to try for 2014. I really hope it stays in as it's her life dream to represent her country in Kata. She is already a 3rd Dan and an Assistant Instructor at her Dojo at just 16 and well respected by her peers who fully support her's hoping it stays!!
    • Joe the Penguin
      I think that that is a great idea. I wish that I was that good.
    • Rachel Caygill
      I hope she gets to achieve her dream because mine is exactly the same and I would be very proud of myself if I got there, she should keep working hard and she will get there, I believe in her!
  • ZZDoc
    Ms Blackwell needs to wake up and smell the coffee.
    • Michelle
      You need to get a life ZZDOC......every kid should have a dream and as she's trained by a Word Champion she has a damn good chance...go troll somewhere else Mr I don't even use my name!!!
      • ZZDoc
        Don’t care who trained her. If you’re talking sport then it’s not karate. That happens to be a widely held opinion. The fact that you’re so bent out of shape about the prospects of the power and the glory supports what’s wrong with the idea in the first place. Any athlete who wants that should turn to taekwon-do.
        • Mark Laderwarg
          Sadly, there are still people who try to trivialize the arts by turning them into a circus act. Some do it because there is money in it and some because they can't conceive of anything deeper. ML
      • ZZDoc
        Oh yes....and don't be too disappointed if 1st, 2nd, and 3rd go to Japan.
  • ZZDoc
    Well writ. You and I are always on the same page........on a different forum. Onegaishimasu!!
  • Rachel Caygill
    So is it all types of karate are being considered for the Olympics or is it just the original 4 that you have to be apart of? I take part in GKR karate and wanted to know if I have a chance of getting there.
  • Eileen Giordano
    Hello Jesse, I have a similar question. We are hoping to attend the Olympics 2020 Karate event, but, have not seen the actual dates published as yet. Have checked the obvious websites. Do you have this information? Many thanks,
  • jj
    Is there any age limit for karate in olympic?
  • Very nice its a great opportunity to all karateka
  • Victor Rod
    Good Morning, can you provide a schedule of events for Karate in the Olympics. When and where is going to be held and if tickets are available the procedure to get them. It will be greatly appreciated. I will like to take some students to watch in addition to providing a gift to our instructor. Thank you. Victor
  • Dano
    WKF Format ?? JKA Format ?
  • it is a good karate included in 2020 Olympics read here
  • Chloe
    Hi Jesse! When do we find out who has been selected for the Olympics team? Thanks :)

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