Australia and Olympic Karate

Australia will look to send its first representatives to the Tokyo 2020 Games in the newest Olympic sport of Karate. The sport was included on the Olympic programme after the 129th session of the International Olympic Committee, held in Rio de Janeiro on August 3rd 2016. The Executive Board of the IOC also agreed to include Karate on the programme of the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires 2018.

Just months after Karate was added to the Olympic programme, the Australian Karate Federation hosted the largest sanctioned event ever in Australia. The Australian Open featured over 1300 entries and was run alongside the Oceania Championships that featured the nation’s best karate athletes taking on the region’s finest.

Olympic History

The sport of Karate will officially make its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games, marking its first appearance at the Summer Olympics. The sport will feature two events, Kumite and Kata.

Sixty competitors will compete in Kumite while twenty contest Kata. Both divisions will have an equal gender split, with 30 men/women competing in Kumite and 10 men/women in Kata.

Sport Format


Kumite provides Karate’s sport fighting element and competition will be held under a weight class system comprising of five division for both men and women;

Weight classes for men: −60 kg, −67 kg, −75 kg, −84 kg, and +84 kg
Weight classes for women: −50 kg, −55 kg, −61 kg, −68 kg, and +68 kg

In a kumite match, two athletes will face each other armed with gloves and foot protection. Over three minutes, athletes will aim to score points using kicks, punches, strikes, throws and sweeps. The sport of Karate is not full contact therefore athletes will have to show full self-control in each technique at all times.

Competitors send tsuki, or punches, and keri, or kicks, with explosive force at the prescribed regions of their opponent's body. However, a tsuki or keri never actually hits the opponent because competitors perform every tsuki and keri with absolute control, enabling them to stop the motion suddenly only millimetres before coming into contact with their opponent. Competitors switch between attacking and defending so instantaneously that only very observant spectators are able to discern which competitor has succeeded in completing a tsuki or keri.

There are four ways of determining victory or defeat: (1) a lead of eight points scored within the prescribed duration of the match determines the scorer as the winner; (2) withdrawal from the match, rule violation, or disqualification by one competitor determines the other as the winner; (3) an advantage in points scored by the end of the prescribed duration of the match determines the scorer as the winner; or (4) in the case of a tied score at the end of the prescribed duration of the match, a decision by the judges determines the winner.

Kata serves as the solo representation of Karate’s self-defence stung together into a performance routine usually lasting two to three minutes. Competitors are judged on several technical and physical criteria including; speed, strength, breathing, balance and rhythm. Kata at the Olympic Games will be divided into male and female classes.

Competitors are judged on the speed and power of their tsuki and keri, and are also required to show their understanding of the meaning, or principle, carried by the kata they demonstrate.

Under conventional competition rules, one competitor is assigned a blue belt and the other a red belt, and each take turns demonstrating his or her kata. The outcome of the competition is determined under a flag system, where five judges who each have a blue flag and a red flag raise either to signal which competitor, they believe, won: the one with more flags raised in his or her favour is declared the winner. However, to provide more clarity regarding the judges' views, discussions on applying a scoring system where victory or defeat is determined by adding up the points that each judge gave each competitor are being held for the Tokyo 2020 Games.