©2019 Xavier Servolle / Kphotos
©2019 Xavier Servolle / Kphotos

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.

Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"

We will show you the rules and highlights of karate in one minute. Whether you are familiar with karate or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.

One Minute, One Sport | Karate

"One Minute, One Sport" will show you the rules and highlights of Karate in one minute


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.

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.

Event Programme

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

Essence of the sport

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.

In kumite, two karateka face each other in a matted competition area measuring 8m x 8m. Athletes must land a series of blows on the target area of their opponent's body with energy and 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. In the case of a scoreless bout, the winner will be declared by the decision of the judges.

Shimizu Kiyou of Japan competes in the Kata Individual final of the Karate 1 Premier League at Nippon Budokan
Shimizu Kiyou of Japan competes in the Kata Individual final of the Karate 1 Premier League at Nippon Budokan
2019 Getty Images

Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games

Intense competition to make Olympic history

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.

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.