(Seulement disponible en anglais présentement)

Karate, along with many other forms of martial arts, is a sport that can be done by a person with a disability. It can be adapted in multiple ways to fit the needs of any individual.


Generally speaking there are two different types of disabilities for classification:

  1. Depending on the type of the disability (amputation, blind and people with visual impairment, cerebral palsy, wheelchair user, etc.) following the medical diagnosis; and
  2. According to their level of impairment and to the sport discipline as well as the ability of the individual to practice this sport discipline.

Currently athletes compete in one group despite the broad spectrum of impairments, but there is work in progress to create new and more equitable classification system. So far, only athletes with intellectual impairments have been allowed to participate at the Paralympic Games, and that was as a demonstration event.

Specific disability classifications include:


  • A1 double leg above knee amputation
  • A2 single leg above knee amputation
  • A3 double leg below knee amputation
  • A4 single leg below knee amputation
  • A5 double arm above elbow amputation
  • A6 single arm above elbow amputation
  • A7 double arm below elbow amputation
  • A8 single arm below elbow amputation
  • A9 combined upper and lower limb amputations (unilateral or diagonal)

Blind and Visual Impaired:

  • B1 Total Blindness: Total absence of perception of the light in both eyes or some perception of the light but with inability to recognize the form of a hand at any distance or direction. Athletes must wear opaque glasses!
  • B2 Severe visual impairment: From ability to recognize the shape of a hand up to visual acuity of 2/60 and a visual field of less than 5 degrees (in the best eye with the best practical eye correction).
  • B3 Visual Impaired: From visual acuity above 2/60 up to 6/60 and/or a visual field of more than 5 degrees and less than 20 degrees (in the best eye with the best practical eye correction).

Cerebral Palsy (CP):

  • C1 severe quadriplegia = tetraplegia, dependent on electric wheelchair for mobility
  • C2 severe spastic quadriplegia, self propulsion in wheelchair is possible with hands and feet for short distances
  • C3 Leg paralysis, arms have sufficient, but limited, trunk control is unstable, use of manual wheelchair without any problems
  • C4 Minimal limitations in upper limbs, poor or no walking ability, fair trunk control.

    Existing Group

  • C5 Leg paralysis = diplegia, dependent on assistive devices in walking
  • C6 St. Vitus' Dance, uncontrolled movements in upper limbs and face = athetosis
  • C7 right or left paralysis = hemiplegia, mostly severe limping
  • C8 Minimal paralysis, minimally affected diplegia, hemiplegia or athetosis, mostly incoordination

Tetraplegia, paraplegia, Spina Bifida and poliomyelitis are the most common forms. The classification depends on the parts of the spinal cord below the affected area. According to the sport discipline there are from 4 up to max. 8 categories. The classification is done according to the specific requirements of the sports discipline.
Following are differentiated:

  • paralysis of the cervical spine (C5-C8), whereas arms and hands are also always affected (tetraplegia)
  • paralysis of the thoracic spine (TH1-TH12) with different instability of the trunk, but with normal arm functions (paraplegia)
  • paralysis in the lumbar area with deficits in the legs, but fair trunk control (L1-S2) (paraplegia)

Intellectual Impairment:
Persons with intellectual impairment, Down syndrome, learning disorders, behavioural disorder, etc. having an IQ below 75, are authorized to participate in this group.

Hearing Disorders
Deafness with a hearing loss of at least 55 Decibels in the best ear. The athletes are not allowed to use any hearing aids during the competition. This group of disabled is organized separately world-wide through the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (CISS Comité International des Sports des Sourds) and hosts its own World Games. For this reason this group is not part of the Paralympics

Source: http://www.wkf-handicapped.com/en/rules.html


Karate was originally developed on the island of Okinawa. Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the Japanese overlords still did not permit martial arts activities on Okinawa.  From 1890 to 1940 Okinawa underwent complete assimilation by Japan. As Okinawan skills increased, competitions were conducted with teams from Japan. The underlying purpose was to improve the physical condition of the Okinawan conscripts. An alert Japanese military doctor one day noticed that certain Okinawan conscripts had splendid physiques. These were ascribed to the practice of te. Impressed, the Japanese government authorized the inclusion of te as physical education in Okinawan Schools in 1903. The Okinawans chose the name karate-jutsu to replace the word te. By 1932 all Japanese universities had dojos for the practice of karate-jutsu. About this time, for convenience the term karate-jutsu was shortened to simply karate.

A dojo affiliated with the Y.K.K.F. (Yudansha Kobujitsu Karate-Doh Federation) began teaching karate to people with disabilities. In 1991, Barry Mitchell, a Y.K.K.F. karate instructor, moved his Dojo to a facility named the ASPIRE National Training Centre (Association for Spinal Injuries Research and Rehabilitation) on the grounds of the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital in Stanmore, London. In 1992, Mitchell read a book about karate training for people with disabilities. It angered him so much because of its poor quality that he decided to start teaching people with disabilities at his Dojo. He used three ground rules when teaching: "do not change anything that does not need to be changed;" "make the karate work for the individual;" and "if changes or variations need to be introduced, try to keep to the spirit and the rhythm of the original".

Source: ref: http://www.dctkd.org/library/papers/benefits-of-ma-for-disabled.cfm