Competitive Karate

Whilst Karate was not developed for competition and although certain styles of Karate object to its competitive aspect, Karate has been an official competitive event since World War Two and is now separated into three different disciplines. Karateka compete in kumite (sparring), kata (forms), or kobuda kata (weapon forms).

In kumite, the competition is judged by a referee, unlike kata and kobuda kata, which are assessed by a panel of judges. Karate is not currently an official Olympic sport, but the World Karate Federation is an international body which organizes various international competitions.

Competitive Events


In individual kata or kobuda kata competition, the karateka is judged on the form, dynamics, speed and power of the kata, and must demonstrate an understanding of the sequence of moves through accurate rhythm and timing, progressing to the final kiai point.

Team Kata

As a team event, kata are performed by a team of three people who attempt to synchronise their moves to the utmost precision. The team is judged on the way they move together, but also on their individual technique and understanding of the sequence.


Competitive kumite consists of a three minute sparring contest for senior male competitors and a two minute sparring contest for women, juniors and cadets (competitors aged 16 – 17). Points are awarded as follows:

  • 1 point: Punches or strikes on the head, face, neck, abdomen, chest, side and back.

  • 2 points: Middle kicks, punches on the back, combination hand techniques, unbalancing the opponent.

  • 3 points: Head kicks, throwing or leg sweeping the opponent.

Competitive karate in the UK

Karate is an extremely popular sport in the UK and internationally with 40 million people practicing Karate world wide and numerous regional, British and international competitions take place every year. These include the:

  • UK Open Championships
  • British Open Championships
  • Ama International Open Championships
  • European Karate Championships
  • World Karate Championships
  • International Karate Cup