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Rules of the OIympic games: Karate

Karate is one of the sports making its Olympics debut in Tokyo.

Karate is one of five new sports for the 2020 Olympics. It's broken into two disciplines: Kata is non-contact and is judged. Kumite is sparring, which is scored.

Kata

The Kata is a demonstration of karate forms in which the athlete engages a virtual opponent with a series of offensive and defensive moves. The athlete can choose from 102 different katas recognized by the World Karate Federation. Speed, strength, balance, power and rhythm are all taken into account by the judges, along with the clarity and force of their movements, according to the Tokyo organizing committee. Technical performance is weighted higher than athleticism. Focus and concentration must also be demonstrated.

There will be one men's and one women's event for kata. An elimination round will determine who will advance to the ranking round. The ranking round consists of two pools (A and B) of four athletes each. The winners of each pool will advance to the gold medal match.  The second place finisher in Pool A and third place finisher in Pool B will face off for one of the two bronze medals that will be awarded. The second place finisher in Pool B and third place finisher in Pool A will compete for the other bronze.

Kumite

Kumite may be easier for casual fans to follow as it will be actual combat rather than demonstrating moves in the air.  Two athletes face each other on a mat with a match lasting up to three minutes. Competitors can score anywhere from one to three points based on where they strike, kick or punch their opponent. Form, power and control are taken under consideration in scoring.  The winner is determined one of three ways:

  • Score at least eight more points than their opponent
  • Have the most points after three minutes
  • In the event of the tie, the win goes to whoever scored the first point, called a Senshu.

The men and women will each have three different weight classes they can qualify in for Kumite. Like the Kata, the elimination rounds will be divided into two pools. The semifinal winners from each pool compete for the gold. Those who lost the semifinals will each receive bronze.

Only 10 athletes from around the world will qualify for each Kata and Kumite event.