Overview

Karate will make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games and feature eight medal events, four for men and four for women:

  • Men’s Kumite 67kg
  • Men’s Kumite 75kg
  • Men’s Kumite +75kg
  • Men’s Kata
  • Women’s Kumite 55kg
  • Women’s Kumite 61kg
  • Women’s Kumite +61kg
  • Women’s Kata

Kata

Kata is a demonstration of karate techniques using pre-defined movements judged on speed, strength, focus, balance, rhythm, etc. Athletes choose from roughly 100 kata – while the timing of each kata varies, they are typically 3-4 minutes long. Athletes progress to the next round by outscoring their opponents.

Scoring

Athletes must perform a different kata each time. Scores run from 0-100, but an athlete typically scores anywhere from 50-100 and would only receive a score of 0 if he or she is disqualified. Seven judges will evaluate the performance based on:

  • Technical performance (weighted 70% of the total score)
  • Athletic performance (weighted 30% of the total score)

The two highest and two lowest judges scores for technical and athletic performance will be eliminated, and the total score is calculated based on the weighting described above.

There are three rounds of competition in kata:

  • Elimination Round
  • Ranking Round
  • Medal Bouts

Elimination Round

Athletes are divided into two pools (A and B) of five athletes. Each athlete performs a kata one by one from a predefined kata list. All athletes then perform a second kata. The athletes are ranked according to the average score of the two kata. The top four athletes in each pool qualify for the ranking round, while the lowest-ranked athletes in each pool are eliminated and will be classified as ninth or tenth, based on the total of points they get in the two katas.

Tiebreaking

Japan is expected to excel in karate when it plays host to the Olympics, having earned more world titles and medals than any other country.

Ranking Round

Consists of two pools (A and B) of four athletes. The athletes perform another kata one by one. Start order is determined by a draw. The winners in each pool will compete for the gold medal. The 2nd-ranked athlete from Pool A competes against the 3rd-ranked athlete from pool B, and the 2nd-ranked athlete from pool B competes against the 3rd ranked athlete from pool A in the bronze medal bouts, so two bronze medals will be awarded in men’s and women’s kata. The 4th-place athlete is each pool is eliminated.

Tiebreaking

If two or more athletes have the same score, the following criteria will be used to break the tie:

  • Highest total score of the technical criteria (before it is weighted as part of the total score)
  • The highest value of the technical criteria lowest score not included
  • If there is still a tie, there are additional criteria that can be used. The manual will contain a full list of tie-breaking procedures.

Medal Bouts

Athletes perform a kata one by one from a predefined kata list, while the opponent waits outside of the bout area. After both athletes have performed, they will stand side by side to wait for the judges to cast their votes. Starting order is determined by their results in the previous round (the competitor who scored higher wears a red belt and goes first; the competitor who scored lower wears a blue belt and goes second). The athlete who receives the higher score wins the bout.

Tiebreaking

If two or more athletes have the same score, the following criteria will be used to break the tie

  • The highest total score of the technical criteria before the multiplication for the factor of the total score (70%)
  • The highest value of the technical criteria lowest score not included
  • If there is still a tie, there are additional criteria that can be used. The manual will contain a full list of tie-breaking procedures.

Kumite

Kumite is the fighting discipline. Athletes compete head-to-head against each other using punching and kicking techniques performed on permitted parts of the body, aiming to earn a higher score than their opponent. Each kumite bout lasts three minutes.

Individual Events

  • Men’s 67 kg
  • Men’s 75 kg
  • Men’s 75+ kg
  • Women’s 55 kg
  • Women’s 61 kg
  • Women’s 61+ kg

Scoring

Athletes receive points for correctly executed techniques. One referee, four judges and a match supervisor manage the bout. The winner is the athlete with the highest number of points at full time, or who gains an eight-point lead before full time.

Elimination Round

Contested in two pools (A and B) of five athletes in each pool. Athletes compete against the other athletes in their pools and are ranked according to results achieved in their pool (number of points and the scores). An athlete receives two points for winning a bout, and one point for a tie. The top two athletes from each pool (based on points earned for each bout) qualify for the semifinals.
If the score is equal at full time of a bout, the winner is the athlete who has scored first (which is called Senshu).

Tiebreaking

If there is a tie between two or more athletes to decide who will advance to the semifinals, the criteria below are used to break the tie:

  • Winner of the bouts between the tied athletes
  • Higher number of scores obtained in favor of each athlete in all bouts
  • Lower number of scores against each athlete in all bouts
  • There are several more criteria that can be used to break ties if a tie remains. The manual will contain full details of tie-breaking procedures

Semifinals/Finals

The winner of pool A competes against the 2nd-ranked athlete from pool B, and the winner from pool B competes against the 2nd-ranked athlete from pool A. The winners of the semifinals compete for the gold medal; the semifinal losers are both awarded bronze medals.

Tiebreaking

In case the score is 0-0 during semifinals or the final, meaning no athlete has scored first, the winner is determined by majority vote of the four judges and the referee. If the score is tied beyond 0-0, the athlete who scores first will break the tie, unless the athletes loses the Senshu privilege due to infractions. In that case, the referee indicates the loss of Senshu by raising his or her hand with the palm backward and crossing arms. In this case, the tie is broken by judges’ decision.

More information:

Official Tokyo site – Karate

USA Karate

World Karate Federation