Karate at the Olympics: GB team and rules

Karate is ready to make its debut at the Olympic Games in Japan, its original home, and we've rounded up everything you need to know.

Karate Olympics guide

Karate becomes an Olympic sport for the first time in 2021 and what a fitting location to introduce the martial arts event to the world on such a stage.


The event will feature both a combat competition (kumite) and a subjectively judged demonstration of technique (kata) with a number of elite superstars in pursuit of the first gold medals in karate.

RadioTimes.com brings you up to speed with everything you need to know about karate at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in the summer of 2021.

When is karate at the Olympics?

Karate runs between Thursday 5th August until Friday 7th August.

It’s one of the last events to begin at the Games, but karate’s Olympic debut – in its homeland – should be a sight to behold.

Check out our guide on how to watch Olympics 2020 or see Olympics on TV today for more details, timings, and exclusive expert analysis from some of the biggest names in world sport over the coming weeks.

Sir Chris Hoy, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Adlington, Matthew Pinsent and Dame Jess Ennis-Hill are among the stars we have to being their esteemed opinions, so don’t miss what they have to say.

Olympic karate rules

Men and women have three weight categories each: -67kg, -75kg and +75kg for the men, and -55kg, -61kg and +61kg for the women. Participants are known as karateka, and will face each other on an 8 x 8 matt. 

Competitors are awarded one, two or three points per successful strike on the target areas of their opponents body.

The winner of the match is decided either by a karateka taking an 8-point lead over their opponent, or by having the highest score at the end of the three minute match.

In the event of a draw, the match is awarded to the karateka who scored the first point. In the event of a scoreless draw, the panel of five judges will decide the winner.

In kata, competitors are allowed to choose one of the 102 approved sequences of movements used by karateka to practice. These sequences are known as kata and give this competition its name.

Judges will assess the competitors based on their technical skill, with factors including their stance, transitions between moves, breathing and accuracy. They will also be assessed on their athletic attributes: strength, speed and balance.

The two highest and lowest scores of the judges are discarded,  and the remaining three scorecards are added up to give a score, with a particular weighting put on the technical aspects of the performance. In the event of a draw, competitors will pick another kata and perform again.

Which Team GB athletes will compete in Olympic karate?

Unfortunately, Team GB just missed out on a place in Tokyo after a COVID-embattled qualification period. Carla Burkitt was our closest competitor, finishing fifth in the qualifying event in Paris.

In the kata competition the hot favourites in the men’s and women’s categories are both Spanish, Sandar Sánchez and Damián Quintero, who are both ranked No.1 in the world. Their most likely rivals will be the Japanese pair Kiyou Shimizu and Ryo Kiyuna.

In the more broadly contested kumite category, France’s world champion Steve DaCosta and Brazil’s Vinicius Figueira are ones to look out fo in the -67kg class.

Also competing will be Ukranian karateka Anzhelika Terliuga, a three-time world champion and current world No.1. Also in her category will be Serbian karateka Jovana Prekovic, who won gold at the 2018 world championships.

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