Karate will be a new addition to the Olympics in Tokyo 2020. This week the World Championships in this sport are being held in Madrid, Spain.
In terms of scoring karate is similar to judo. Also in karate we find yuko's, waza-ari's and ippon's. Unlike in judo where an ippon automatically ends the fight, in karate the match continues. The fighter with the most points at the end of the fight wins the matchup. The current scoring system is as follows:
Yuko - 1 point - a punch to the head or the body
Waza-ari - 2 points - a kick to the body
Ippon - 3 points - a straight kick to the head, or bringing your opponent down before striking the body.
In case of a draw the winner will be the athlete who scored the first point of the contest. However if no points are scored in the entire match the final decision will be made by an uneven number of jury members who will raise a flag to make everyone aware of who they believe should be the winner of the contest.
VAR system in Karate
Yes that's right, also in Karate there is a VAR-like system, which allows coaches to claim a review of a situation in which they believe their athlete scored one or more points that wasn't seen by the judges. Whenever a coach requests a review the replay is shown on the screens in the venue, so that the audience can see what is happening and will be made aware of the decisions that are made by the VAR.
Besides fights, athletes also compete in kata. Kata is a training method of detailed patterns of movements which are either practiced solo or in pairs. The aim is to maintain perfect form during these movements.
Over 68 kg - Ayumi Uekusa (JPN) vs Eleni Chatziliadou (GRE)
The first final of the day was the women's over 68 kg match between Ayumi Uekusa of Japan and Eleni Chatziliadou of Greece. Uekusa was the defending champion from the 2016 World Championships in Linz, Austria. She won that gold medal two years ago by beating the exact same opponent she faced today, Chatziliadou.
This time it went all the opposite way as Chatziliadou landed two yuko's early on in the bout. Halfway during the 2-minute lasting final Uekusa desperately tried to get back in the game, but Chatziliadou managed to keep the control to the frustration of the Japanese, who started to panic. With only a few seconds left only an ippon could save Uekusa from a defeat. It did not happen and Chatziliadou was crowned as the new world champion.
Over 84 kg - Sajad Ganjzadeh (IRI) vs Jonathan Horne (GER)
Sajad Ganjzadeh of Iran was the next athlete to put his world title at stake, going up against Jonathan Horne of Germany in the final of the over 84 kg division. Ganjzadeh might be the defending world champion, but Horne is the current number one of the World in the WKF (World Karate Federation) rankings.
Ganjzadeh was the first karateka to get on the scoreboard, landing an early waza-ari that was missed by the judges, but awarded by the VAR. Not much later the match went on fire as Horne countered that waza-ari with a direct kick on Ganjzadeh's head (ippon). This was the setup for another athlete unable to defend the previous world title as Horne landed two yuko's to expand his lead to 5-2, winning the contest.
Under 68 kg - Irina Zaretska (AZE) vs Victoria Isaeva (RUS)
European Games champion of 2015 Irina Zaretska from Azerbaijan was up next against Russian Victoria Isaeva in the under 68 kg category.
It was a low scoring contest in which Zaretska scored an early yuko. Isaeva managed to get the score equal in the second part of the clash, but there was no clear winner at the end of the 2 minutes. Having scored the first point of the match, it was Zaretska who was crowned at the new world champion, confirming her rising star status.
Under 84 kg - Ivan Kvesić (CRO) vs Valerii Chobotar (UKR)
Ivan Kvesić of Croatia was crowned as the new world champion in the category under 84 kg. All he had to do was walk onto the tatami awaiting his opponent who never showed up. Valerii Chobotar was forced to miss the final due to an injury suffered in the semi final the day before as he was unable to compete.
Under 61 kg - Jovana Preković (SRB) vs Xiaoyan Yin (CHN)
Preković was in an outstanding form earlier these championships as she eliminated defending world champion Giana Lofty from Egypt. In the final however it did not go so well in the early stages of the contest. Her Chinese opponent in the under 61 kg contest landed an early yuko. Preković however equalized with a yuko of her own and then continued with an ippon to take a big lead. In the exciting encounter both karatekas added another yuko, bringing the score to 5-2 in Preković's advantage with another minute to go. The match seemed over when another two yuko's expanded that lead to 7-2, but then Yin scored an ippon bringing the score back to 7-5 with 25 seconds left on the clock. In her utmost try to score another ippon she faces another Serbian yuko, bringing the final score to 8-5.
Under 55 kg - Jana Bitsch (GER) vs Dorota Banaszczyk (POL)
Both of the karatekas in the under 55 kg division are fairly new to the big stage, which was clearly visible early in the match. Neither of the two dared to take action which resulted in a warning from the referee for both of them for being to passive. German Jana Bitsch entered the final as the favorite for the gold, but it was Banaszczyk from Poland who scored the first point. Bitsch tried all she could to get back in the game, but then the Polish coach asks for a VAR review. The replay shows that he is right, another yuko for Dorota Banaszczyk and a 2-0 lead. She holds on and one of the biggest surprises of the competition is complete.
Under 75 kg - Luigi Busa (ITA) vs Bahman Asgari Ghoncheh (IRI)
The under 75 kg category is normally the domain of 5-time world champion Rafael Aghayev, however the Azerbaijani was eliminated in the semi final by Luigi Busa from Italy. Aghayev won bronze earlier in the day and knows there's a lot of work to do in order to be successful in Tokyo 2020. Due to eliminating Aghayev it was Busa that entered the final as the favorite to win gold. He already won a silver medal in 2014 and bronze in 2016.
However it was Bahman Asgari Ghoncheh from Iran who scored the first yuko of the match. Being a former youth world champion, he also seems to know how to beat the best. Shortly after the Italian coach claimed to have seen a waza-ari which will need to confirmed by the VAR, who decided negatively for Busa. This leaves Ghoncheh still with the 1-0 lead which he keeps until the end of the match, he now is the world champion.
Kata - Kiyou Shimizu (JPN) vs Sandra Sanchez (ESP)
Sandra Sanchez from host nation Spain is first up in the Kata final, being backed up massively by the crowd. She is the current world number one, whereas Shimizu is the next best competitor in the WKF rankings, as well as the 2-time back to back defending champion of the world.
After both athletes performed their movements on stage the jury announces a 3-2 win for the Spanish athlete. The crowd goes wild!
Kata - Ryo Kiyuna (JPN) vs Damian Quintero (ESP)
A similar clash in the men's Kata competition. Another Spanish competitor against a Japanese. Kiyuna is the best in the world, also a 2-time back to back defending champion and is hard to beat.
This was no battle at all and Kiyuna showed his skills. He is definitely the man to beat during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in this category. He outclasses Damian Quintero with a 5-0 score to take his third consecutive gold medal.
Under 60 kg - Angelo Crescenzo (ITA) vs Naoto Sago (JPN)
Another chance on a gold medal for Japan as Naoto Sago takes on Italian opponent Angelo Crescenzo in the under 60 kg category. Sago has been dominating in the earlier phases of the tournament and is the big favorite for the title. Both karatekas never competed at the World Championships before.
The encounter is an equal one, both of the competitors scoring a double yuko. With only 30 seconds remaining the score is 2-2. Crescenzo then strikes hard with an ippon and takes the gold medal with a 5-2 win over the Japanese.
Under 50 kg - Serap Özçelik (TUR) vs Miho Miyahara (JPN)
The under 50 kg category was an encounter between the top two athletes according to the WKF rankings. Özçelik being the number one of those rankings and Miyahara the number two.
Miyahara proved that the differences at the top are tight as she took the lead in the clash. Not just with a yuko, but straight with an ippon. Özçelik responds and lands a yuko, but it's not enough to win the contest, making Miho Miyahara the new world champion.
Under 67 kg - Steven Dacosta (FRA) vs Vinicius Figueira (BRA)
In the under 67 kg category Brazilian competitor Vinicius Figueira started off with an ippon within the first few seconds of the match, taking a 3-0 lead over French Steven Dacosta. Dacosta then proves that he can do the same and takes the score back to 3-3 immediately. The exciting final continues as Figueira takes the lead again with a waza-ari, bringing the score to 5-3. Just like earlier that minute Dacosta counters straight back and lands another ippon to take a 6-5 lead with still more than a minute to go. The second minute is exciting as well, but no further scores are being made, meaning Steven Dacosta is crowned as the world champion in this category.
Women's Team Final
Shortly after Dacosta's win France added another gold medal to their tally as the women's team beat Japan in the final 3-1. Lea Avazeri, Andrea Brito, Leila Hertault and Laura Sivert were too strong for the Japanese opponents.