How Does Scoring Work In Karate?

How Does Scoring Work In Karate

Karate is an Olympic sport and martial art that millions of people practice around the world. While many practice karate for fitness or to learn self-defense, there are a lot of karate practitioners that take part in the art to compete. Here is a breakdown of how scoring works in karate.

Karate Scoring Systems

Karate has many different local, regional, national and international tournaments around the world, allowing a wide array of skill levels to compete. In karate competitions, athletes usually take part in two different forms of assessment, kata and kumite. Both kata and kumite have different scoring rules that determine a karate athlete’s overall tournament placement.

Kata Scoring

One of the two formats that karate athletes are judged on is kata. Kata is a pre-rehearsed, defined flow of movements that the athlete performs alone for judges. Kata is meant to showcase athletes’ ability to complete a defined array of moves, maintaining traditional techniques and discipline.

Unlike sparring, katas are clearly defined, and karate athletes are not judged based on their ability to innovate and score points. Instead, athletes are judged on how they perform the defined choreography.

Kata Scoring Criteria

While judging kata leaves scoring up to the individual judges’ interpretations of what defines a perfect kata, there are a few factors that judges look for when watching karate athletes perform the moves.

Here is a list of key qualities of a skilled kata:

  • Ease and relaxation: This gives off the appearance that the athlete is comfortable and knowledgeable about the kata.
  • Pace:  Judges keep an eye out for Katas that are too fast or slow.
  • Ikken Hissatsu: The concept of annunciating key movements, such as strikes, to demonstrate strength, speed, and mastery of the technique.
  • Facial expression: This should be neutral, giving off the appearance that the athlete is comfortable and has mastered their kata.
  • Spirit and master of technique: Over time, karate athletes learn how each individual technique should appear and the emphasis that they should apply behind each move. Seasoned karate judges are able to gauge if an athlete is simply “going through the motions” or if they truly take command of a kata.

Kata Scoring Method

Taking all of these factors, as well as personal discretion, into consideration, judges score katas in competitions on a scale from 0-10. However, kata scoring is unique as a kata must achieve a base score of 5 in order to be accepted and judged. Katas that are insufficient do not qualify for proper scoring and are given a 0.

Katas are judged by a panel of seven judges in most competitions through three separate rounds. Each round, the athlete must perform a different Kata. In a judge’s scoring breakdown, they evaluate technical ability, which makes up 70% of the athlete’s score, and athletic ability, which accounts for the remaining 30%.

In the first round, the elimination round, a pool of athletes perform two predefined katas for the panel of judges. Athletes are given a score based on the average of their two katas. The three lowest scores from this round are eliminated from the competition. In the second round, the ranking round, the pool of athletes perform one kata one by one. In this round, karate athletes compete for medal rankings, with the top performer receiving the gold medal.

In some competitions, there are enough athletes to break the ranking round into two separate groups. If this is the case, then the corresponding top three athletes in each group compete head-to-head in the medal bout, which is the third ranking round. In the medal bout, athletes perform the same kata as their competitor. They are then judged in regard to their competitor, with the winner receiving the medal.

Kumite Scoring

In karate, kumite is the second format that athletes are judged on. Also known as sparring or fighting, kumite pairs two athletes against each other in a controlled fight environment. The goal of kumite is to score points by landing clear blows on the opponent, though some older competitions also valued knockouts or technical knockouts.

In kumite, athletes are divided into weight classes. Each match has a set time limit. Matches are judged by four referees and one overseeing judge.

Scoring Points in Kumite

In this format, points are awarded for correctly executed techniques that are landed on an opponent. An example of this is if one athlete strikes the other with a side kick, they receive a point. The victor of each match is determined by who has the highest points. If a match ends in an exact tie, the winner of the round is the athlete that scored the first point.

While different karate organizations may have unique sets of rules for this format, such as no strikes to the head, they all generally utilize this point system. In tournament formats, winners of each round move on to fight the next opponent in the bracket.


How do you score points in karate?

In karate, athletes can score points in two separate competition disciplines. The first discipline is kata, where athletes perform predefined choreographies that demonstrate an array of karate moves. Athletes are judged on a point system from 1-10 and receive higher scores for correct technique executions. The second format that karate athletes can be judged on is kumite, or sparring. In this section, athletes compete head to head in a controlled fight, attempting to score as many points within a set time period. The fighter that has landed the most blows on their opponent wins the round.