Can height categories replace weight categories in striking martial arts competitions? A pilot study

Gal Dubnov-Raz*, Yael Mashiach-Arazi, Ariella Nouriel, Raanan Raz, Naama W. Constantini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


In most combat sports and martial arts, athletes compete within weight categories. Disordered eating behaviors and intentional pre-competition rapid weight loss are commonly seen in this population, attributed to weight categorization. We examined if height categories can be used as an alternative to weight categories for competition, in order to protect the health of athletes. Height and weight of 169 child and adolescent competitive karate athletes were measured. Participants were divided into eleven hypothetical weight categories of 5 kg increments, and eleven hypothetical height categories of 5 cm increments. We calculated the coefficient of variation of height and weight by each division method. We also calculated how many participants fit into corresponding categories of both height and weight, and how many would shift a category if divided by height. There was a high correlation between height and weight (r = 0.91, p<0.001). The mean range of heights seen within current weight categories was reduced by 83% when participants were divided by height. When allocating athletes by height categories, 74% of athletes would shift up or down one weight category at most, compared with the current categorization method. We conclude that dividing young karate athletes by height categories significantly reduced the range of heights of competitors within the category. Such categorization would not cause athletes to compete against much heavier opponents in most cases. Using height categories as a means to reduce eating disorders in combat sports should be further examined.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)91-98
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Human Kinetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Gal Dubnov-Raz et al., published by De Gruyter Open.


  • athletes
  • eating disorders
  • karate
  • rapid weight loss


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