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These two colors are also used in Taekwondo Olympic sparring, where the two opponents use red and blue colored protective gear. In the case of Taekwondo, the choice of colors is the same used in the Korean national flag.

But what about Karate? The red color is in the Japanese flag, but why the blue color? Does it have some particular significance for Japanese culture?

Is the color choice a coincidence between Japan and Korea, or is it there some common theme in oriental culture about these colors?

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It is as Meer states, that they distinguish between opponents. However, not all styles use red and blue. In Taekwondo, it is required to wear the color of your belt (for poomsae competition), while in JKA, Red and White are worn, while in Olympic Karate, Red and Blue are worn. Incidentally, in Taekwondo, while natural belt colors are worn for poomsae divisions, in sparring, Red and Blue are worn (Chung and Hong). Usually, though, without e-scoring, the color of the chest protector is the color of the competitor, which is why white hogus are white with red on one side and blue on the other. They are switchable for just this purpose.

As a referee, I can tell you that is is much better to have differing colors, because it makes it easy to point out which competitor gets the point or warning. The rule books don't go into the whys and wherefores, but, from experience, I can tell you that the colors really do make a difference.

As an example, a common judging format is to have a judge sit with two pieces of paper, each divided down the middle. Left side is for competitor #1, while right side is competitor #2. In this type of scenario, it is easy for sparring opponents to cross and re-cross, and so, "competitor #1", or "left competitor", etc can easily be confused.

As to why the specific colors were chosen, I cannot say. As to why different colors are chosen, I can definitely say it is to reduce chances for error in scoring a competitor.

USA Olympics - Red/Blue

JKA - Red/White

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    Different subject, but regarding the red vs. blue, always try to pick red if you're competing. Analysis shows that referees and judges tend to be biased towards those competitors that wear red. If you want a slight advantage over your opponent, wear red! Source: bbc.com/future/story/20120731-wear-red-to-win-gold May 28, 2018 at 20:18
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    As the first competitions (at least in the UK) were held in a boxing ring - I imagine the red corner vs blue corner was lifted from there - it seems to be a commonality for combat sports.
    – Collett89
    May 29, 2018 at 7:06
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Historically both JKA Karate and AJJF Judo used red and white belts in competition (the colours of the Japanese flag).

However red and blue are contrasting primary colours that look good on TV, easily distinguish opponents, and have a history of use in combat sports, and hence have been adopted as international competitive standards:

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