14/04/2024
Tokyo 2020 Olypmic Qualfiers

Karate athletes show off their skills at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers in Paris. (Credit WKF twitter)

Karate will be new to the Olympics at Tokyo 2020. Who will win the event which has captured audiences hearts through pop culture for decades

Karate will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020, with eight Gold medals up for grabs. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Karate is the most recognisable and most popular of the world’s martial arts. Having featured throughout popular culture, Karate at the Tokyo 2020 Games will be an event not to miss.

While karate has developed over centuries in east Asia, the recognisable karate of today first appeared in Okinawa in the 17th century. However, today karate consists of many different styles and is taught differently throughout the world.

Olympic Karate will consist of two different events. Firstly, Kumite or sparring, which audiences will be more familiar with, where participants will fight looking to score points. Kata is the second event this is a choreographed routine in which competitors are judged for technique and skill.

Tokyo 2020 Rules

Kumite will last for up to three minutes, with the clock stopping after each point when the referee yells ‘yame’. A winner can be crowned before the three minutes are up if the competitor is eight points ahead.

However, if this does not occur and the fight goes the full three minutes, then the opponent with the most points will be crowned the victor of ‘karateka’.

Points are earned for strikes to different areas of the body, with three points coming for a strike to the head or neck via kick. Two points are awarded for a kick to the torso, and one point given for a punch to any legal part of the body. Any contact below the belt is illegal, and contact must always be controlled not to hurt opponents; both of these may result in penalties.

Kumite will be fought in three different weight classes for men and women. For men, the weight classes are 67kg, 75kg and over 75kg. For the women, classes include 55kg, 61kg and over 61 kgs. These classes are in addition to kata, in which there is only one class for men and one for women.

Kata comes with different conventions and rules. Competitors are being judged on technique and form.

The kata stage of the competition will take place in a bracket system, in which competitors will compete one on one with only one competitor going through as the victor.

A point-based system will judge critical factors such as speed, rhythm, balance, and power. Each kata will be judged by seven judges with the three middle scores from judges applied to the kata, with the higher scorer being the winner.

Why to Watch

With this being karate’s first time at the Olympics, viewers will need to tune in to get an essence of the sport. With many having come to karate through pop culture, viewers will want to see the difference between ‘TV’ karate and competitive karate.

The athleticism of these athletes is something remarkable, the skill balance and discipline required to compete in karate is unbelievable. 

Whilst it is not one of Australia’s most competitive events, viewers will be intrigued by something new, and karate is unlike anything seen at the Olympics before. If spectators are lucky, they may even see a famous crane kick or two.

Australian Karate History

With Tokyo 2020 being the first Olympics to contain karate, it is important to look at Australia’s past with the sport. Interestingly Australia’s history with karate is one linked with filmmaking.

Karate and martial arts champions from Australia of note include actors, Brad Allen who now works on Jackie Chans stunt team and Richard Norton, who has featured in over 80 feature films, including working with Chuck Norris in ‘The Octagon’.

Two current Australians fighting in the UFC also have karate backgrounds. Anthony Perosh and Robert Whittaker both began their martial arts careers with karate. Anthony Person has a black belt in Kempo karate, while Robert Whittaker has a black belt in Goju-Ryu karate.

Unknown to many Australians, there is a uniquely Australian karate discipline. Zen Do Kai was founded in Melbourne by Bob Jones in the 1970s. Since then, tens of thousands of Australian students have come through the doors all over the country.

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Australian Competitors for Tokyo 2020

Only one Australian will be competing at Tokyo 2020.  After winning the gold medal in the Australian Open Karate Championships, Tsuneari Yahiro will be fighting for Australia.

An incredibly talented and fit athlete, Yahiro will be competing in the 75kg weight class. He will face brutal competition from Iran’s Bahman Askari, who will be the favourite for the event.

As Australia’s only entrant, Yahiro will have the weight of the nation’s expectations on his shoulders.

Australian karate Hopeful Yahiro competes in 2018

Medal Favourites

Men’s kata- Danian Quintero (ESP), a kata specialist Quintero has won over 30 medals in kata during his career. Being 36 years of age, Quintero has more experience than any of his competitors, this should suit him well on the big Olympic stage. In his most recent event, Quintero won silver at the European championships in Poreč. Quintero will bring poise and discipline to the event, which he will start as a favourite.

Women’s 61kg- Yin Xiaoyan (CHN), at 27 Xiaoyan is getting into her fighting prime. After finishing 4th in 2014 at the Asian games, Xiaoyan went two better in 2018, winning the gold medal fight against Iranian Rozita Alipour. Since 2018 unfortunately, COVID has interrupted preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Men’s 67kg- Steven Da Costa (FRA), a young up and comer at 24, Da Costa will want to continue his winning run. Da Costa has taken the karate world by storm in recent years in both Kumite and Kata. Having won a slew of gold medals in both world and European championships, it is hard to go past the Frenchman as the favourite here.

Karate will commence on the 5th of August and concludes on 7th of August with the men’s 75+kg, Women’s 61+kg

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