Olympic karate at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

The best karatekas in the world will compete at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021: Who will become the first Olympic champion in history? When and where will karate take place at the Olympics? Find out here.

By Lorena Encabo

New sport on the block! Karate is one of the new sports you will be able to watch at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021.

Japan is the birth nation of this ancient martial art, which is one of the most popular sports in the world.

Here is your definitive guide to understanding the key things in Olympic karate at the Games.

Top Olympic karatekas at Tokyo 2020

There will be 80 athletes in total at theTokyo 2020 Games in 2021: 60 competing in the Kumite event and 20 in the Kata event. Both divisions will have an equal split of men and women competing.

Spaniards are on top of the kata world ranking in both male and female: Sandra Sánchez and Damián Quintero will be among the favourites in the event.

39-year-old Sánchez is 2018 World Champion, five-time European champion, and just entered the record books as the karateka with the most medals in the history of the international circuit.

The WKF called her the 'greatest of all time.'

Anything else?

Sandra shared with the Olympic Channel how she did a workout at home during the lockdown in Spain:

Her main rival at Tokyo will have the support of the home crowd: Kiyou Shimizu. The Japanese star is a two-time world champion and three-time Asian queen.

The battle in the kata men's event will also be between Spain and Japan. Ryo Kiyuna and Damián Quintero are both tipped to clinch the first-ever Olympic title.

Kiyuna beat Quintero in the final of the World Championships in 2018 and 2016. The duel between each other is already a classic in the kata world!

In kumite, there will be six different events at Tokyo: three weights on the men's side and another three for the women's competitors.

France will be represented by world champion Steve Dacosta in the men's -67kg category, where PanAmerican gold medallist Vinicius Figueira will compete too.

The world's top 3 in the -75kg category secured their qualification early: Rafael Aghayev of Azerbaijan, Bahman Asgari Ghoncheh of Iran, and Luigi Busa of Italy,

European champion Ugur Aktas of Turkey, as world No. 1 in the +75kg, category is one of the favourites to win gold.

On the women's side, Anzhelika Terliuga of Ukraine will be the one to beat in the -55kg event. The 28-year-old is three-time European champ and World Number 1.

Serbia's Jovana Prekovic won gold at the 2018 World Championships and wants to repeat that success at Tokyo. Her rival in the final was Xiaoyan Yin of China, who also has the ticket to compete at the Olympic Games.

And in the -61kg event, all the eyes will be set on world champion Irina Zaretska of Azerbaijan.

Olympic karate competition format at Tokyo 2020

There are two different disciplines with medals up for grabs: kata and kumite.


There are three weight classes each for men and women. Competitors each only compete in one class.

Two karatekas face each other, trying to land blows on their opponent in an 8m x 8m area over three minutes.

Kicks and punches with good form, power and control earn between one and three points. A competitor wins by earning eight points more than their opponent within the duration of the bout or by gaining more points than their opponent.

What happens if there is a tie? The athlete who scored the first point is the winner.

And if there is a scoreless bout? The judges will decide who is the winner.


The main difference is that the competitors don't face each other. Instead they stand alone in the arena, doing a demonstration of forms ('kata' in Japanese).

These include offensive and defensive movements, targeting a virtual opponent.

There are 102 'katas' recognised by the WKF and the karateka chooses which kata he / she will demonstrate in front of the crowd and, of course, of the seven judges.

There is a point-based system: the scores awarded by three of the seven judges are added then applied to a separate calculation formula to determine the winner.

Olympic karate schedule at Tokyo 2020

The karate event will make its first appearance in an Olympic Games on August 5th 2021, at the start of three days to determine the first ever Olympic champions.

The full schedule here:

All times in Japan Standard Time (JST)


10:00 - 14:45

Women's Kata Elimination Round* Women's Kata Ranking Round* Men's Kumite -67 kg Elimination Round

17:00 - 21:40

  • Women's Kumite -55 kg Elimination Round
  • Women's Kata Bronze Medal Bouts
  • Women's Kata Final Bout
  • Men's Kumite -67 kg Semifinals
  • Women's Kumite -55 kg Semifinals
  • Men's Kumite -67 kg Final
  • Women's Kumite -55 kg Final
  • Women's Kata Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Kumite -67 kg Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Kumite -55 kg Victory Ceremony


10:00 - 14:45

  • Men's Kata Elimination Round
  • Men's Kata Ranking Round
  • Women's Kumite -61 kg Elimination Round

17:00 - 21:40

  • Men's Kumite -75 kg Elimination Round
  • Men's Kata Bronze Medal Bouts
  • Men's Kata Final Bout
  • Women's Kumite -61 kg Semifinals
  • Men's Kumite -75 kg Semifinals
  • Women's Kumite -61 kg Final
  • Men's Kumite -75 kg Final
  • Men's Kata Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Kumite -61 kg Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Kumite -75 kg Victory Ceremony


14:00 - 20:35

  • Women's Kumite +61 kg Elimination Round
  • Men's Kumite +75 kg Elimination Round
  • Women's Kumite +61 kg Semifinals
  • Men's Kumite +75 kg Semifinals
  • Women's Kumite +61 kg Final
  • Men's Kumite +75 kg Final
  • Women's Kumite +61 kg Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Kumite +75 kg Victory Ceremony

Olympic karate history

On August 3rd 2016, during the Rio Games, the 129 IOC session approved to include four new competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: Sport climbing, surfing, skateboarding, and karate.

Karate was included in the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, to a positive response in Argentina.

Karate will not be included in the official programme of Paris 2024.

Olympic karate venue at Tokyo 2020

The Nippon Budokan (Martial Arts Hall in English) will be the location of the Olympic debut of karate in 2021. Judo will take place in same place.

The venue was built for the judo competition in the 1964 Olympic Games, when judo made its official debut. The Nippon Budokan, known as the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts, is located in the district of Chiyoda, in the center of Tokyo and very close to the Imperial Palace.

Did you know that The Beatles played here in 1966? The English musicians were the first rock band to perform here.

After them, other big names like ABBA, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and now the worlds top karate practitioners.


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