As judo and karate both originate in Japan, probably one way to refer those athletes who practice these martial arts would be using the Japanese expressions as follows:

  • "karateka" (空手家?) [karate practitioner]
  • "judoka" (柔道家) [Judo practitioner]

But I'm quite confident most native speakers have not even heard those terms once!

I know more people who do karate / judo are called:

  • "karate / judo practitioners"
  • "somebody does karate / judo," [which is a description rather than a name like: "wrestler: who practices wrestling!"]

I would like to ask if one really wants to use an English expression how they should normally refer to someone who practices these sports in everyday idiomatic speech and common English?


  • Karate / judo player
  • Karate / judo athlete
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    For any general audience, they are all martial artists who study a certain technique. No other expression is commonly used by anybody who isn't part of the profession. None of the answers currently given are what everyday people would say. Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:17
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    What about (karate / judo "fighter") @Jason Bassford? Google Ngram demonstrates much more results for "fighter combinations than "athlete" and "player".
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:19
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    No. The average person on the street would never say [technique] fighter. (The possible exception being UFC fighter, but that doesn't actually specify a technique.) Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:20
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    And how should we separate their fields of sport @Jason Bassford? I.e. how shall we distinguish between someone who does karate and the other who practices judo or a ninja warrior, where we call them all martial artists?
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:25
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    They are all martial artists. He's a martial artist. He [studies / practices / trains in] Judo and Aikido. (Ninjas are an exception. There's a direct noun for them. Most people don't know what they actually train in; but those who do, know they study ninjitsu.) Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:38

2 Answers 2


This depends on the audience. If you are talking to people who do karate then "karateka" is going to be well understood, as part of the technical language of karate.

If you are going to be writing an essay, then the best solution is to define your technical language on first use:

The sportsmen and women who practice karate (known as karateka) have to learn many things. The karateka need to learn to respect and humility as well as physical fitness...

If it is just a one-off, then rephrase. Instead of saying "I am a karateka" say "I do karate", or "I'm a member of a karate club" or something similar.

If there is absolutely no way to rephrase then "karate athlete", "karate practitioner" or "karate player" are acceptable.


Well, I'm not sure about your suggested terms but I think that if someone is dedicated professionally to karate / judo then he/she is called a karate / judo fighter instead of athlete. A quick search in Google for that term returns a lot of images involving karate practitioners.

The martial artist Joe Lewis for example is labeled in the Wikipedia as "an American kickboxer, point karate fighter". And Keith Vitali as ""#1 Karate Fighter in the USA".

I think that such distinction applies to all sports that involve physical contact between two persons, like boxing or sumo for example.

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