So you think you can fight?

250px-Kumite_of_Motobu_ChokiYou’ve done a little Karate sparring at your local club and you think you know all about Sport Karate Kumite … Or you’ve trained in a number of different clubs/organisations and noticed they all spar slightly differently?

There just happens to be lots of different formats of Karate Sparring competitions driven by slightly different rule sets.  As a result all the participants of each silo of rules evolve slightly different sparring tactics, techniques and strategies for success. All of those strategies are built on the premise the Karate-ka is sparring against someone with similar tactics, techniques and strategies within the same rule set.  This is an important point of failure often lost when we spar against other Karate styles and martial arts.  All of this is set against the use of  2-3 base sets of Kata (for example Heian Kata from the Shuri-te line) applied throughout the entire Karate family.

This suggests that the real difference seen between different Karate clubs and associations exists not in the fighting strategies passed down from the past masters in the form of Kata, but in the rule sets each group adheres to for its sparring competition, and hence the tactics and ranges used in its live sparring.  Here are some examples of how wide that can be, and how narrow our approach to fighting is when focusing on Sport Karate.

WKF/point karate: No/skin touch, break after each exchange of hits. KO = disqualification for contact. No lowkicks, no knees, no elbows. Without doubt the largest sport karate version in the world.

Ippon shobu/point karate: Light contact. break after each exchange of hits. KO=disqualification for contact. No lowkicks, no knees, no elbows.  The “original” point karate system. Now mostly associated with and used by, the Shotokan style.

Bogu karate: Heavy contact. Break after each clean hit. KO= win, but almost impossible with the equipment.  Knees &elbows allowed. Lowkicks USUALLY not allowed.  Popular among traditional Okinawa karate&kempo styles. Uncommon elsewhere. Some styles use special names for their rule versions.

Knockdown karate:  Heavy contact. Continuous fighting (no stopping to hand out points unless it involves a knockdown). KO=win.  Lowkick, knees and elbows allowed, but hands&elbows must hit below the neck.  Very big, but fractured between several rival style organizations that do not cooperate.  Sometimes called kyokushin fighting, after the style that originated the rules and still is the largest style using them, by people not familiar with the multitude of styles using the rules now..

Glove karate:  heavy contact. KO=win.  Based on knockdown in scoring, but with rules modified to use boxing gloves and head punches. Elbows not allowed.  Looks like kickboxing, and many amateur kickboxers in japan try it out. But it is NOT kickboxing. Growing fast in Japan.

Shinken shobu:  Heavy contact. KO=win.  Based on knockdown scoring but with rules modified to use small gloves and head punches. Elbows, lowkicks, knees are allowed.  Kyokushin special rule set. New and not very big, but the interest for it is growing.

American point karate:  Semi-contact.  No lowkicks, no knees, no elbows. Foot fencing.  The less said the better.

Contact karate:  Not sure about the specific rules here – but basically kickboxing.

ISKA contact karate:  No lowkicks, no elbows, no knees.

Iri kumi go:  Full contact. KO allowed. (“go”=hard. Also exist in a “ju”/soft version using light contact with no KO).

Hokutoki “Koi no takinobori ryu” MMA karate.  Allows basically anything. up to and including eyepokes.  Those russians are crazy.

Nihon Zendokai karate. Vale tudo karate. offshot from Daidojuku.  KO =win.  Lots of grappling.  Small style of karate existing only in Japan. But only one of several styles doing “MMA karate”

Pro karate Do (french)

Pro karate Do (Japanese)

Chaos Madmax -Kenshikan karate organization Special rules event

budokai allround fighting karate.

Ukado (Unified KArate DO -or something similar)

Daido juku. Originally a mix of kyokushin and judo. Technically they are calling themselves “Kudo”, not karate, since a few years. But they tend to forget that when it suits them to use the Karate label.  Allows knees, elbows, lowkicks groin strikes, headbutts, grappling, strangulation, submission.

So you think you can fight?

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