Kumite Free sparring using karate technqiues

KUMITE translated literary into English means the "meeting of hands". It is also referred to as sparring.  Within the many different Karate styles are a few different types of sparring.

In Fushin Ryu the first sparring taught is based on WKF tournament kumite. The WKF (World Karate Federation) is the largest sport karate organisation and is affiliated to the IOC. Controlled punching, kicking and striking techniques. By the time students are doing kumite for gradings more techniques including leg attacks and grappling is introduced with controlled elbow and knee strikes allowed. "Dojo' sparring is continuous as opposed to the tournament style of stopping to award points or penalties. 

Kumite (free sparring) is a relatively new thing for karate, starting in the 19?0's and the first WKF (WUKO) World Competition was held in Tokyo in 1970. Many of the techniques used in karate had been considered too dangerous to use in a "free" situation so they were limited for competition. There are less injuries in Karate than most sports, especially compared to Rugby and Soccer but although complete control is the aim of the karate-ka, it is still possible for two exponents moving at top speed to receive injury so safety equipment such as hand protectors and mouthgaurds are compulsory; Shin and instep protectors as well as groin and chest protectors are recommended.

The KUMITE match demonstrates the fighting aspects of Karate-do. However, there is a difference between Dojo sparring and sport competition. The Dojo sparring simulates a real fight in which the main objective is to dispatch the attacker as quickly as possible by whatever means. Competition karate has the same aim to win as quickly as possible, but because you are fighting a similarly experienced opponent, the opportunity to win quickly does not always present itself. Also, many techniques are not allowed in competitive karate because of their extremely dangerous nature.

The competitors wear either a red belt (AKA), or a blue belt (Ao). The bouts last for 3 minutes for men and 2 minutes for women. There are different weight divisions in the individual kumite.

  • The Tournament match may be won by:
    1. Gaining a lead of 8 points or more over your opponent during the match
    2. Having the higher points total at the end of the match
    3. By disqualification
    4. By the decision of the Referee and Judge if scores are equal

A score is awarded when an effective punch, kick, or strike(either as a single or a combination technique) is delivered to a scoring area(head, face, neck or abdomen, chest, sides and back which has good form, correct attitude, vigorous application, proper timing, correct distance and control. For tournaments the rules and point structure may change. Higher points will be given for more difficult techniques, ie: Jodan kicks, combinations and takedowns. Techniques applied by the contestants are extremely fast and the untrained eye may occasionally miss a technique executed at very top speed. There are also a number of forbidden techniques and behaviour which may mean the attack is invalidated or may attract a penalty.

Below is an abrieviated version of the WKF Kumite rules 2017.


WKF Kumite Competition Rules (Basic)


A score is awarded when a technique is performed according to the Six criteria and to one of the seven scoring areas:

a) Head             b) Face             c) Neck             d) Abdomen      e) Chest            f) Back             g) Side


a) Good Form A technique with characteristics conferring probable effectiveness within the framework of traditional Karate concepts.

 b) Sporting Attitude refers to a non-malicious attitude of great concentration obvious during delivery of the scoring technique.

 c) Vigorous Application defines the power and speed of the technique and the palpable will for it to succeed.

 d) Awareness(Zanshin) State of continued commitment in which the contestant maintains awareness of the opponent's potential to counter-attack.

 e) Good Timing means delivering a technique when it will have the greatest potential effect

 f) Correct Distance similarly means delivering a technique at the precise distance where it will have the greatest potential effect.


In order to score, a technique must be applied to a scoring area as defined above. The technique must be appropriately controlled with regard to the area being attacked and must satisfy all six scoring criteria.




Ippon                         (3 points) is awarded for:

1. Jodan kicks. Jodan being defined as the face, head and neck.

2. Any scoring technique which is delivered on an opponent who has been thrown, has fallen of their own accord, or is otherwise off their feet (Torso Touching the floor)


Waza-Ari          (2 points) is awarded for:                                                                                                                                             1. Chudan kicks. Chudan being defined as the abdomen, chest, back and side.


Yuko              (1 point) is awarded for:

1. Any punch (Tsuki) delivered to any of the seven scoring areas.

2. Any strike (Uchi) delivered to any of the seven scoring areas.


HANTEI: In individual bouts, if after full time there are no scores, or scores are equal, the decision will be made by a final vote of the four Judges and the Referee, each casting their vote. A decision in favour of one or the other competitor is obligatory and is taken on the basis of the following criteria:

a) The attitude, fighting spirit, and strength demonstrated by the contestants.

b) The superiority of tactics and techniques displayed.

c) Which of the contestants has initiated the majority of the actions.


SENSHU:      First unopposed point advantage


P R O H I B I T E D B E H AV I O U R              There are two categories of prohibited behaviour, Category 1 and Category 2.



1.Techniques which make excessive contact, having regard to the scoring area attacked, and techniques which make contact with the throat.

2. Attacks to the arms or legs, groin, joints, or instep.

3. Attacks to the face with open hand techniques.

4. Dangerous or forbidden throwing techniques.



1. Feigning, or exaggerating injury.

2. Exit from the competition area (JOGAI) not caused by the opponent.

3. Self-endangerment, behaviour which exposes the contestant to injury by the opponent, fail to take adequate measures for self-protection, (MUBOBI).

4. Avoiding combat as a means of preventing the opponent having the opportunity to score.

5. Passivity–not attempting to engage in combat. (Cannot be given after less than the last 10 seconds of the match)

6. Clinching, wrestling, pushing, or standing chest to chest without attempting a scoring technique or takedown.

7. Grabbing the opponent with both hands for any other reasons than executing a takedown upon catching the opponents kicking leg.

8. Grabbing the opponents arm or karate gi with one hand without immediately attempting a scoring technique or takedown.

9. Techniques, which by their nature, cannot be controlled for the safety of the opponent and dangerous and uncontrolled attacks.

10. Simulated attacks with the head, knees, or elbows.

11. Talking to, or goading the opponent, failing to obey the orders of or discourteous behaviour towards the Refereeing officials, breaches of etiquette.


***The full set of WKF rules can be found on the WKF website WKF.NET


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