What is Karate?


The main concept of karate is the art of self-defense. It is a weaponless martial art that requires use of all parts of the body in numerous attacking and defensive techniques. Belt colors are used to signify a karate student's level, white being a beginner level, and black being a highly advanced level. There are three different types of karate practices, known as Kihon (basic technique), Kata (combat simulation), and Kumite (sparring).


karate history

Karate originated from Japan, and was heavily influenced by Chinese Martial Arts. There have been over 75 different styles of karate taught over the years, but 4 have become most prominent over time. The styles are known as Shotokan, Shito-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, and Goju-Ryu. Shotokan, Shito-Ryu, and Wado-Ryu originated from the Shuri region in Okinawa, Japan, while Gofu-Ryu originated from the Naha province in Okinawa, Japan.

Playing Surface

Karate Playing Surface

The main purpose of dojo surfaces is to have a good balance between safety, comfort, and flexibility for movement. A typical dojo floor is made up of high-density foam around 1 to 1 and half inches thick. Crash pads are also used often in dojos to protect fighters when rolling or performing takedowns.


Karate Equipment

The main piece of equipment required for karate is the uniform. An extension of a karate uniform is a karate belt. Other important equipment for karate are groin protectors, mouth guards, hand guards, chest protectors, and foot guards. Other equipment can be purchased for training purposes, such as training dummies.


Karate Gameplay

A karate fight or spar is known as Kumite. Many competitive karate fights are overseen by the World Karate Federation. The goal of a karate fight is to score points by landing kicks, punches, and throws. Points are awarded based on where the hits land and how good a fighter's technique is when a hit lands.

Positions and Roles

karate positions and roles

Karate consists of two fighters, a referee, and judges for deciding on points scored. The fighters go head-to-head against each other, while the referee ensures a fair and safe fight. Along with that, referees also indicate to judges when they think a scoring technique was used, and the judges have final say on how many points were scored.

Rules and Regulations

The basic rules of karate revolve around scoring. There are seven areas of the body a hit can land in order to get points. They are the head, face, neck, abdomen, chest, back, and sides. There is also a criteria for scoring techniques. The criteria consists of observing form, timing, distance, vigorous application, awareness, and a sporting attitude. Fighters can score 1, 2, or 3 points based on types of technique used.

Referees and Officials

Karate Referees and Officials

Referees serve the purpose of ensuring the fighters abide by the rules of karate. They also help with the scoring for the fight. A singular referee watches over a fight, and indicates to a group of judges when they think a scoring technique took place. The judges decide if they agree, award the amount of points they deem fitting, and then the fight continues.

Lingo and Terminology

Important lingo to know during a karate fight involves scoring. Ippon is the term for three points awarded, Waza-ari is the term for two points awarded, and Yuko is the term for one point awarded. Other important terminology is said by referees. When a referee shouts "Shobu Hajime" to begin the fight, "Yame" when they think a scoring technique occurred, and "Tsuzukete Hajime" to resume the fight after the judges judge the alleged scoring technique.


Karate Coaching

Karate coaches, more commonly known as instructors, teach groups of karate students or a single student all the different techniques in karate. Instructors not only teach the physical skills required in karate, but also attempt to teach the core values of martial arts. Instructors teach karate classes with a belt progression system. If one of their students enters a competition, they may even go with the student to guide them.

Skills and Techniques

Karate Skills and Techniques

While karate is a contact sport, it mainly focuses on being quick, agile, and a skilled fighter. There are 5 main techniques that karate beginners must know to get better. They are front kicking (mae-geri), upper blocks (jodan uke), knee strikes (hiza-geri), elbow strikes (hiji ate), and palm-heel strikes (shotei uchi).


A karate match can be won in 4 different ways. When one fighter has more points than the other at the end, one fighter obtains an 8 point lead, a fighter is deemed unable to carry on, or a fighter is disqualified. The basic strategy of karate is to try land hits with good technique without the opponent landing hits. The more difficult the technique, the more points a fighter earns, but that also leaves them more vulnerable to take a hit.


There are numerous drills people can do to get better at karate. The main focus of drills include developing instinct, footwork, striking, agility, and coordination. A great example of a common drill is having two fighters spar with each other and putting restrictions on each one to force them to work on something specific, such as their weak side for striking.

Olympic Karate

olympic karate

Karate was not a part of the Olympics until very recently. It made its Olympic debut at the youth Olympic games in Buenos Aires in 2018, and was scheduled to debut at the Tokyo Olympic games in 2020. The Tokyo Olympics have been pushed back to 2021, and worst case, karate should make its debut in 2022 in Dakar.

Karate Brands

list of karate brands

There are 10 well known brands for karate uniforms. Traditional karate uniforms are also known as a "gi" or "dogi".

Tokaido: One of the oldest, most well known karate brands. Based in Japan. High quality material leading to a high price.

Shureido: Similar high end quality, price, and fame as Tokaido, however, uniforms have a unique pale blue color. Also based in Japan.

Tokon: Has uniforms suitable for all levels of karate, including a tournament line of uniforms. A german based brand with uniforms ranging from $55 to $195.

Toyo: Japanese based and costs around $195. High end quality, but lacks the fame of Tokaido and Shureido.

Meijin: An American-made brand that offers lots of freedom with customization and sizes. A newer brand with a typical price range of $100 to $150.

Kwon: A German brand that started out making taekwondo uniforms. Now produces different styles of karate uniforms for higher levels, including tournaments, and hover around $100 in price.

Jukado: Made up of a higher level line (Juka) and a lower level line (Dragon). Has multiple options of uniforms, including a uniform designed specifically for women. Juka sells between $95 and $115, while Dragon sells between $45 and $55.

Century: Non-traditional uniforms compared to other companies. Prices range between $50 and $150 depending on unique features and quality of material.

Mugen: Well-rated company, but is better known in Europe than the United States. Uniforms are similar to Toyo's but cheaper, ranging from $70 to $80.

Adidas: American-based company recently endorsed by the World Karate Federation. Comes in both traditional and non-traditional (American) cuts.

Karate Youth Organizations

There are many different karate organizations that have influence in different parts of the world for young and up and coming fighters. There are 34 different organizations that focus on karate and youth fighters.

  • American Amateur Karate Federation in the Great Lakes region
  • American Amateur Karate Federation
  • American Institute of Martial Arts International
  • American Jidokwan Association
  • American Karate System
  • Ashihara Karate
  • Australian Karate Federation in South Australia
  • Budokan Karate-Do India
  • Go-Kan-Ryu Karate
  • International Karate Association
  • International Karate Federation
  • International Martial Arts Alliance
  • International Martial Arts Federation of the Deaf
  • International Traditional Karate Federation
  • Japan Karate Association
  • Japan Karatedo Federation Wado-Kai
  • Karate Federation of Slovenia
  • Karate New Brunswick
  • Karate Ontario
  • Kazoku Kai International
  • Martial Arts Alliance
  • Ogasawara-Ha Shorinji Ryu Karatedo
  • Ontario Karate Federation
  • Professional Karate Commission
  • Seido Juku Karate Australia
  • Shorinjiryu Shinzen Kyokai
  • Traditional Karate Association
  • Ty-Ga Karate International
  • United States Chito-ryu Karate Federation
  • United States Karate Alliance
  • United States of America Karate
  • World Karate Federation
  • World Traditional Karate-Do Federation

Karate Coaches

While fighters get most of the credit, coaches are very important for success in karate as well. Here are some of the most famous coaches in the world.

Bruce LeeWorld famous actor, fighter, and instructor
Jason ChambersAlong with being a karate instructor, Chambers is best known for hosting Human Weapon on the history channel
Frank LandersFounded the Seishindo Kenpo karate system

Karate Players

While there are many famous karate fighters, most of them live double lives that made them famous along with their famous karate careers. Here are a few examples:

Chuck NorrisLegendary actor and martial artist, is currently 81 years old
Chuck LiddellFamous UFC fighter, used karate skills to great advantage while in the ring
Wesley SnipesIs a 5th dan black belt along with being a famous actor

Karate Leagues

While karate isn't as closely followed as other sports, there are still plenty of leagues. While there are leagues with things similar to karate such as kickboxing and taekwondo, there are 4 premier leagues that focus on karate specifically.

  • North American Sport Karate Association
  • National Blackbelt League
  • World Karate Commission
  • World Kickboxing and Karate Union

Karate Teams

While there are many small club teams in karate, the real high level teams are the national teams. Here are the 3 best countries based on medal count in the Karate World Championships.

Japan: Has 198 total medals, 90 gold, 52 silver, and 56 bronze

France: Has 167 all time medals, 55 gold, 45 silver, and 67 bronze

Spain: Has 117 all time medals, 21 gold, 27 silver, 69 bronze

Karate Events

There are many different events that take place within a karate competition. Using the World Karate Championship as a guide, here are a few examples of events.

Men And Women Individual Kumite: Single fighters go head to head representing their country in an effort to become the best fighter in the world

Men And Women Team Kumite: A team of fighters goes head to head representing their country to try and be crowned the best team in the world

Men And Women Individual Kata: Single fighters perform techniques and movements to earn the highest score and be the best kata fighter in the world

Men And Women Team Kata: A team of of fighters performs techniques and movements to earn the highest score and be the best kata team in the world

Men And Women Team Kata With Bunkai: Bunkai adds an element of analysis into kata. It essentially converts the dance like kata into fighting techniques, like a combination of kata and kumite

Karate Tournaments

While there are plenty of karate tournaments out there, none of them rival the importance and pedigree of the Karate World Championships. Hosted by the World Karate Federation, the Karate World Championship is the most prestigious tournament in the world, consisting of multiple events and countries competing. Fighters represent their countries, the most important aspect of sports to many athletes.

Karate Books

Karate Books

While karate is a tough sport to master, there are plenty of books out there that help people to learn the sport. Here are a few of the most well received books in the karate community.

The Art of Hojo Undo: Power Training for Traditional KarateMichael Clarke
The Art of Shiyu Ryu KarateJoe Luis Calderoni, Kunio Murayama, and Marcelo Calderoni
Best Karate, Vol.3: Kumite 1Masatoshi Nakayama
Black Belt Karate: The Intensive CourseHirokazu Kanazawa
Goju Ryu Karate KyohanGogen Yamaguchi

Karate Websites

Karate Websites

While there are many different karate websites on the internet, a few stand out. Here are some of the most respected websites in the karate community.

wkf.netWorld Karate Federation website, good for following and learning about the Karate World Championships
karateculture.comAlso has a youtube channel, posts training videos, lessons, self-defense instructions, and even travel vlogs
karatebyjesse.comCreated by Jesse Enkamp, a best selling author, who is seeking to unite the karate community
karatescienceacademy.comUses and science and facts to help teach karate to newer fighters


What is Karate?

Karate is a martial arts form that preaches self defense exclusively with the body and mind.

What country is karate from?

Karate originated in the country of Japan, but was also heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts.

What is the purpose of karate?

The purpose of karate is to exercise both physically and mentally. Karate helps people to develop a more clear thought process, self-confidence, composure, and a deeper understanding of oneself along with the physical benefits. Along with fighting and self defense, karate aims to improve an individual as an all-around person.

How dangerous is karate?

Considering karate is a sport martial art indicating that there is concern for an opponent's well-being, it is no where near dangerous on a lethal level. However, as with most martial arts, bruises and sprains occur most often.

What does karate literally mean?

The word karate is comprised of two chinese characters kara and te. Kara translates to "empty", while te translates to hand. Therefore, the literal translation of karate is "empty hand," which most likely refers to it being weaponless fighting.