Karate at the Summer Olympics

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Karate at the Summer Olympics
IOC Discipline CodeKTE
Events8 (men: 4; women: 4)
  • 1896
  • 1900
  • 1904
  • 1908
  • 1912
  • 1920
  • 1924
  • 1928
  • 1932
  • 1936
  • 1948
  • 1952
  • 1956
  • 1960
  • 1964
  • 1968
  • 1972
  • 1976
  • 1980
  • 1984
  • 1988
  • 1992
  • 1996
  • 2000
  • 2004
  • 2008
  • 2012
  • 2016
  • 2020
  • 2024

Karate was first included in the Summer Olympic Games at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan. After it was announced to not be included in 2024, in August 2022 it was announced that karate had made the shortlist for inclusion in the 2028 Games, although it was ultimately not selected.[1][2]

Olympic karate featured two types of events: Kumite and Kata. Sixty competitors from around the world competed in the Kumite competition, and twenty competed in the Kata competition. Both divisions of the competition were split 50/50 between men and women.[3][4]

It was governed by the World Karate Federation (WKF).


The effort to bring karate to the Olympics was begun in the 1970s by Jacques Delcourt.[5][6] [7] In 2009, in the 121st International Olympic Committee voting, karate did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority vote to become an Olympic sport.[8] Karate was being considered for the 2020 Olympics,[9] however at a meeting of the IOC's executive board, held in Russia on 29 May 2013, it was decided that karate (along with wushu and several other sports) would not be considered for inclusion in 2020 at the IOC's 125th session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September 2013.[10]

Bid for inclusion[edit]

In September 2015, karate was included in a shortlist with baseball, softball, skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics,[11] and in June 2016, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that they would support the proposal to include all of the shortlisted sports in the 2020 Games.[12] Finally, on 3 August 2016, all five sports (counting baseball and softball together as one sport) were approved for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic program.[13] Karate will not be included in the 2024 Olympic Games or the 2028 Games though.

Format and rules[edit]

The Olympic karate competition in 2021 put eight gold medals in dispute: six for the Kumite (fighting) competition, with three weight categories for each gender, and two for the Kata (forms) competition, one for each gender.

The main rules for Kumite and Kata competitions were as follows:



The individual tournament for the Kumite competition at the World Karate Federation (WKF) Karate World Championships is held under a weight class system comprising five divisions each for both men and women.[14] However, the Kumite competition at the Summer Olympics consisted of just three divisions each, thus:

  • Weight classes for men: −67 kg, −75 kg, +75 kg
  • Weight classes for women: −55 kg, −61 kg, +61 kg[15]

Kumite rules[edit]

All Kumite bouts were semi-contact, meaning all strikes delivered must not use full force. Striking an opponent with full force could result in a warning or disqualification. In all categories, fights lasted for up to three timed minutes (i.e., the clock stops every time the referee says "yame"). During that time, a winner would be declared if a karateka scored eight points more than their adversary. If this did not happen, the person with more points at the end of the fight was the winner. If the fight ended up tied, a decision would be given through the senshu rule: the contestant that scored the first unopposed point wins.[16][17]

Assignment of points[edit]

Points were earned as follows:

  • Ippon (three points): for hitting the head or neck of the opponent with a kick, or when any technique is applied to a fallen adversary.
  • Waza-ari (two points): for applying a kick to the belly, side, back or torso of the opponent.
  • Yuko (one point): for delivering a punch with closed hand (tsuki) or strike (uchi) to the head, neck, belly, side, back or torso of the opponent.

Strikes below the belt were strictly forbidden and strength must always be controlled as the fighter would receive a warning if they hurt their opponent. Points could be lost or there could even be a disqualification if the resulting injury was severe. Knocking an opponent down to the floor without at least attempting to strike them was also liable to be punished.[clarification needed]

Warning levels:

  • Chukoku (first warning): for committing a minor infraction for the first time.
  • Keikoku (second warning): for the same minor infraction, or for committing a medium infraction for the first time.
  • Hansoku-chui (third warning): for committing the same minor infraction for the third time, the same medium infraction for a second time, or for committing a major infraction for the first time (usually excessive contact to vital parts or below the belt, really hurting the opponent).
  • Hansoku (fourth and final warning): inflicting serious damage on the team score as a whole. The victory is given to the opponent.

Warnings and punishments were divided into two different categories, the first being for excessive and/or illegal contact and the other for technical violations, such as leaving the koto (fighting space) or faking an injury in order to make the referee give the opponent a warning.


Competitors were judged on the power and correctness of their techniques. Under conventional competition rules, one competitor was assigned a blue belt and the other a red belt, and each took a turn in demonstrating their kata. The outcome of the competition was determined under a flag system, where five judges who each held a blue flag and a red flag raised either one to signal which competitor they believed won: the one with more flags raised in their favour was declared the winner. However discussions are still ongoing into the judging system, including whether to use a scoring system rather than the flag system.[citation needed][18]

Due to the large number of karate styles, each with its own katas, only katas from the list recognized by the WKF were allowed in the Olympics.


Karate 75 kg awarding ceremony

Medal table[edit]


  *   Host nation (Japan)

1 Japan (JPN)*1113
2 Spain (ESP)1102
3 Egypt (EGY)1012
 Italy (ITA)1012
5 Bulgaria (BUL)1001
 France (FRA)1001
 Iran (IRI)1001
 Serbia (SRB)1001
9 Azerbaijan (AZE)0202
10 Turkey (TUR)0134
11 China (CHN)0112
 Ukraine (UKR)0112
13 Saudi Arabia (KSA)0101
14 Kazakhstan (KAZ)0022
15 Austria (AUT)0011
 Chinese Taipei (TPE)0011
 Hong Kong (HKG)0011
 Hungary (HUN)0011
 Jordan (JOR)0011
 United States (USA)0011
Totals (20 entries)881632


Event Gold Silver Bronze
Ryo Kiyuna
Damián Quintero
Ariel Torres
 United States
Ali Sofuoğlu
67 kg
Steven Da Costa
Eray Şamdan
Darkhan Assadilov
Abdelrahman Al-Masatfa
75 kg
Luigi Busà
Rafael Aghayev
Gábor Hárspataki
Stanislav Horuna
+75 kg
Sajjad Ganjzadeh
Tareg Hamedi
 Saudi Arabia
Ryutaro Araga
Uğur Aktaş


Event Gold Silver Bronze
Sandra Sánchez
Kiyou Shimizu
Grace Lau
 Hong Kong
Viviana Bottaro
55 kg
Ivet Goranova
Anzhelika Terliuga
Bettina Plank
Wen Tzu-yun
 Chinese Taipei
61 kg
Jovana Preković
Yin Xiaoyan
Giana Farouk
Merve Çoban
+61 kg
Feryal Abdelaziz
Irina Zaretska
Gong Li
Sofya Berultseva


  1. ^ "Motorsport, cricket and karate among nine sports on shortlist for Los Angeles 2028 inclusion". Inside the Games. August 3, 2022. Archived from the original on August 19, 2022. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  2. ^ "Los Angeles 2028 proposes five new sports for 2028 Summer Olympics". www.insidethegames.biz. 2023-10-09. Retrieved 2023-10-23.
  3. ^ "IOC approves five new sports for Olympic Games Tokyo 2020". IOC. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  4. ^ "Olympics: Baseball/softball, sport climbing, surfing, karate, skateboarding at Tokyo 2020". BBC. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  5. ^ "Karate in the Olympics? More than a pipe dream". Active Interest Media, Inc. (February 1985). Black Belt. Active Interest Media, Inc. pp. 40–44. ISSN 0277-3066.
  6. ^ Coleman, J. (1993): "Watch out, WUKO—Here comes Shotokan Karate's Nishiyama! Noted Instructor claims he is ready to lead Olympic Karate movement if IOC ousts WUKO." Black Belt, 31(4):18–22.
  7. ^ Coleman, Jim (September 1992). "Questions and Answers with Wuko's Head Man". Black Belt. 30 (9): 30–33. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  8. ^ "IOC Fact Sheet 2012" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-31. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  9. ^ "Eight sports compete for inclusion in 2020 Olympics". BBC Sport. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  10. ^ Rogge, Jacques; Riach, James (2013-05-29). "2020 Olympics: wrestling, squash and baseball/softball make shortlist". The Guardian. London.
  11. ^ "Surfing and skateboarding make shortlist for 2020 Olympics". GrindTV.com. September 28, 2015. Archived from the original on August 13, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  12. ^ "IOC Executive Board supports Tokyo 2020 package of new sports for IOC Session - Olympic News". Olympic.org. June 1, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  13. ^ "IOC approves five new sports for Olympic Games Tokyo 2020". Olympics.org. International Olympic Committee. August 3, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  14. ^ Sports, Fox. "Hopes high for karate's inclusion for 2020 Tokyo Olympics".
  15. ^ "Olympic Sports : Karate|The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games".
  16. ^ "Kumite competition rules".
  17. ^ "World Karate Federation - KARATE COMPETITION RULES" (PDF). World Karate Federation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 October 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Olympic Sports: Karate|publisher=The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games".
  19. ^ "Olympic Analytics - Medals by Countries". olympanalyt.com. Retrieved 2022-01-31.

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