Is Karate A Sport?


Karate originated in Japan where it is an essential form of sports and martial arts for thousands of years.

You may have known that karate is a form of martial arts but is it also classified as a sport? 

Since karate appeared on the program of the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020, many people wonder if karate can really be seen as a sport.

In this article, we take a look at the reasons for and against karate being a sport.

Is Karate A Sport?

There is a lot of debate about whether karate is both a combat sport and martial arts. As karate is a form of physical activity, some argue that it is definitely a sport.

The fact that karate was part of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 suggests that it is an essential part of sport culture around the world.

Reasons Why Karate Is A Sport

There are many people who believe that karate should be seen as a sport. Here are some of the main arguments why karate is a sport.

Karate Provides Physical Exertion

One of the main reasons why karate is often seen as a sport is because karate practitioners exert themselves physically.

The traditional definition of sport includes that the activity you do should be physically exhausting.

Whether you tried karate yourself or you watch it from the sidelines, you will be able to see that dedicate karate practitioners need to keep a certain level of fitness to perfect their moves.

Karate Requires Physical Fitness

Physical fitness is an essential part of a sport. That’s the reason why activities, such as chess or just sitting on your sofa, isn’t seen as sports.

When you are practicing karate, you need to be fully physically fit to win a fight. That’s also the reason why you need a certain level of fitness before you start karate.

Karate Requires Learned Skills That Improve Over Time

By definition, a sport should include a certain amount of skill which improves over time.

This is the case with karate where practitioners are taught different karate techniques. While these skills are a challenge at first, practitioners develop and improve over time.

As karate requires good knowledge and skill which need to be developed over a certain period of time, it can be seen as a sport.

Karate Is An Olympic Sport

For many karate fans, this is the vital argument that sways the debate. If karate wasn’t an accepted sport, then why did Olympic officials include it in the Summer Olympics in 2020?

The Olympics only accept certain types of sport and martial arts, which means it’s hard to argue that karate wouldn’t be a sport.

Karate Is Competitive

A sport is often also defined as a team or competitive game where opponents compete to win, or for entertainment.

Karate tournaments on a local and international level show regularly that karate individuals compete against each other.

Reasons Why Karate Is Not A Sport

While there are some great reasons why karate should be seen as a sport, there are also a few things to consider which might mean karate isn’t a sport.

There Are No Teams In Karate

When you look at the majority of sports, they are often teams that play against each other. There aren’t many recognized sports that include individuals, such as karate.

Some people don’t see activities that involve individual competition as sports.

Karate Is An Unarmed Form Of Combat

Sport is usually defined as a friendly competition or just a type of play. As the Encyclopedia Britannica classifies karate as an unarmed form of combat, this does not fall into the definition of sports.

Any type of combat is not a friendly competition, and therefore also not a sport, even though karate requires physical fitness.

Karate Is A Form Of Self Defense

When karate was first used in Japan, it wasn’t as a form of entertainment but as a type of self-defense and ancient martial art in battle.

Karate teaches practitioners how to move, react and protect themselves in combat situations.

Karate is an art where you need to be physically and mentally fit. It also requires the right mindset to practice karate safely.

This way of developing your physical and mental skills is typical for any close combat art. But the origins of karate as a self-defense mean that it didn’t start out as a true sport.

Karate Was Made An Olympic Sport Only Recently

While karate has been included in the Summer Olympics, there is an argument that this was done only quite recently.

Before karate’s inclusion in the Olympics in Tokyo, karate wasn’t considered a suitable sport for the Olympic Games.

This means that requirements for certain sports to enter the Olympics might have changed.

Many people point out that as karate has failed to pass the requirements for such a long time, it cannot be a real sport.

Karate Is A Lifestyle

Another big argument for karate not being a sport is that it isn’t actually just a type of exercise but a lifestyle.

There are plenty of different workouts and sports that a person can regularly do. If you have a certain level of fitness and knowledge, you are good to go.

While karate does require some understanding of the fighting techniques as well as physical fitness, it is not just a sport.

When you practice karate in the right way, you do not just dedicate some of your time but you immerse yourself in the true practice of karate.

Traditionally, karate lessons are long and there is a lot to learn for practitioners, physically and mentally.

This means karate is not just a simple sport that you can do now and then. It requires dedication.

Final Thoughts

There are many good reasons why karate is a sport and also some arguments why it is not. In the end, karate is a form of martial arts which requires physical as well as mental dedication.

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