Karate at Tokyo 2020

Karate is poised to make its historic debut on the Olympic stage at Tokyo 2020.

The sport was one of five put forward to the programme by organisers in September 2015, alongside baseball/softball, climbing, skateboarding and surfing.

All five were then officially accepted onto the programme at the International Olympic Committee Session before the Rio 2016 Games.

As the sport originated in Japan, karate will be "coming home" for the Olympics in Tokyo.

Competition will take place at the Nippon Budokan, the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts and a legacy venue from the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.

Both kumite and kata competitions will be held, for men and women.

The men will lock horns at under-67 kilograms, under-75kg and over-75kg in the kumite, with the women battling at under-55kg, under-61kg and over-61kg.

Speaking after the Rio Session when karate's Olympic place was confirmed, World Karate Federation President Antonio Espinós said: "It is incredible for karate.

"It is a moment of great joy and it will be on our minds forever.

"Who could have believed that when we had our first World Championships in 1970 in the Nippon Budokan, that 50 years later we would come back to the Nippon Budokan for the Olympic Games.

"We would like to thank the Organising Committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games because without them it would have been impossible for us to be here, and many thanks to IOC President Thomas Bach because we are only here for his Olympic Agenda.

"We will work as much as we can since we have the vocation to be an Olympic sport.

"We are convinced that we will give added value to the Olympic Games."

Karate competition in Tokyo will take place between August 6 and 8.

Karate's Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 will take place at the Budokan ©Getty Images
Karate's Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 will take place at the Budokan ©Getty Images

Tokyo 2020 qualification system

Forty men and 40 women will compete in karate at Tokyo 2020, across all of the kumite divisions and the kata.

This means there will be a maximum of 10 athletes in each competition.

Countries are restricted to four men and four women, meaning they can have one athlete in each event.

As the World Karate Federation has five men's and five women's weight divisions in kumite, these have been combined into the three Olympic classes for both genders.

The governing body's Olympic standings, based on performance at major events, are a key way to qualify for the Games.

One quota place will be allocated to the four highest athletes in the rankings for each event, with the deadline April 6, 2020.

An Olympic Qualification Tournament will also be held in Paris between May 8 and 10, 2020, where the three highest placed athletes in each category will qualify.

Twelve quota places are available through continental representation, to be spread across all of the events.

Three places are on offer for Africa and the Americas, and must be split between at least two countries.

Asia, Europe and Oceania each have two places available.

Last year's European Games in Minsk and Pan American Games in Lima served as direct qualification events, with the Olympic standings the criteria for the other continents.

Japan, as the host nation, will be entitled to field an athlete in each competition while two men and two women will also be picked through the International Olympic Committee's Tripartite Commission.

Full details of the qualification system can be viewed here.

Kata and kumite divisions will be contested at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
Kata and kumite divisions will be contested at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

Olympic standings

The World Karate Federation's Olympic Standings is the main path for athletes trying to qualify for the sport's historic debut at Tokyo 2020.

Ranking points for the standings are available from major competitions, with the qualifying window opening on July 2, 2018.

One quota place will be allocated to the four highest athletes in the rankings for each event, after the deadline of April 6, 2020.

This has ensured that the stakes have been higher than ever at the flagship karate events.

The first event to count towards the standings was the Karate1 Premier League meeting in Berlin in 2018.

All events on the WKF's flagship circuit have since counted, as did the 2018 World Championships in Madrid.

Continental Championships also count towards the rankings, alongside Karate1 Series A events.

The last events before the cut-off point are the Karate1 Premier League leg in Morocco's capital Rabat and the European Championships in Baku.

Full details of the Olympic standings can be viewed here.

Forty men and 40 women will compete when karate makes its Olympic debut ©Getty Images
Forty men and 40 women will compete when karate makes its Olympic debut ©Getty Images

Olympic Qualification Tournament

Karate's Olympic Qualification Tournament for Tokyo 2020 will be held in French capital Paris between May 8 and 10.

Competition will be held at the AccorHotels Arena and athletes will have the chance to directly qualify for the Olympic Games.

Twenty-four athletes will qualify for the Games in all, with the top three in each category making it to Tokyo.

Three days of competition will be held, with action scheduled between 9am and 9pm on the Friday and Saturday and from 11am to 7.30pm on the Sunday.

Karate will be returning to the AccorHotels Arena, the venue which hosted the 2012 World Championships.

The Qualification Tournament will also be broadcast live on many television networks around the world.

Click here for more details about ticketing and pricing.

The official bulletin for the Qualification Tournament can be found here.

Paris will host karate's Olympic Qualification Tournament ©WKF
Paris will host karate's Olympic Qualification Tournament ©WKF

Let's 55

The popularity of karate in Japan was proven by Tokyo 2020's "Let's 55" campaign, which aims to provide opportunities for fans to get to know all 55 competitions of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Karate was one of the sports involved when more than 15,000 people gathered for a "one-year to go" event at the Tokyo International Forum in July 2019.

Demonstrations of both kumite and kata took place and hundreds of youngsters were involved in classes.

A kata performance was also broadcast live by the Olympic Channel.

The sport also featured at an event at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, where top Japanese athletes carried out exhibitions.

At Mitsui Shopping Park, a karate tatami was installed and youngsters had the chance to try out different techniques, under the watchful eye of instructors.

Kata was performed on the main stage and Olympic mascot Miraitowa dressed in a karategi.

Youngsters tried out karate as part of Let's 55 initiatives ©WKF
Youngsters tried out karate as part of Let's 55 initiatives ©WKF

Olympic Test Event

The karate test event for Tokyo 2020 was held in September 2019 at the Nippon Budokan.

Organisers reviewed the competition schedule as well as operations, transport and procedures.

More than 30 Japanese athletes took part, with the event mirroring the second day of Tokyo 2020 competition.

Sixty-five staff members and 35 technical officials were also involved.

The competition followed the Karate 1-Premier League in Tokyo and was part of the "Ready Steady Tokyo" test event series.

The Budokan hosted the Olympic test event ©WKF
The Budokan hosted the Olympic test event ©WKF

Olympic Seminar

The World Karate Federation held its first Olympic Seminar in September 2019 to give coaches from around the world a glimpse of what things will be like at Tokyo 2020.

Tokyo 2020 sports director and Olympic hammer gold medallist Koji Murofushi led the event alongside WKF Athletes' Commission chairman Davide Benetello.

Coaches were given an overview of preparations for the Games and issues such as protection of athletes, clean sport and the general rules of behaviour were discussed.

The event was held in the Nippon Budokan where karate will be held at the Olympics, with around 100 coaches attending in all.

Coaches from around the world took part in the Olympic Seminar ©WKF
Coaches from around the world took part in the Olympic Seminar ©WKF