Am I likely to get hurt?
No. We have extremely few injuries at our tournaments. We are a non-contact style, and the lower the age and grade division, the more strictly this rule is enforced.

Do I have to enter kumite and kata?
No, you can do either or both.

What grade must I be to enter tournament kumite?
You must be yellow belt or above.

What are the fighting divisions?
You will fight somebody of your approximate grade. If you are under 21, you will also fight somebody of your approximate age. Adults can fight in the 21 and over division, or 35 and over. The World Cup also has an additional senior veterans division for competitors aged 45 and over. Competitors are not matched by height or weight. Competitors aged over 13 are usually matched by gender, so males and females do not compete against each other. On rare occasions, if there are not enough competitors of a particular age group or gender, competitors may be entered into the division above or below there own, at the tournament organiser's discretion.

Can I enter multiple divisions if I qualify?

Can I choose which division to enter?
In certain cases. Senseis may enter the sensei division, or their grade division.

If you are over 35 or over 45, you can choose to enter a harder age division.

How should I enter the ring for my fight?

You should stand when your name is called. Someone will usually tie a red or white sash to the back of your belt. You stand at the edge of the ring waiting for the referee to call you in. He will then say "Autagani moto no ichi", and gesture you to take your starting positions. You should bow, then enter the ring and walk up to the line taped on the floor. Without waiting to be asked turn so that you are facing the referee. Wait for him to bow, and bow back to him. Turn to face the judge. Wait for him to bow, then bow to him. Turn to face your opponent. Bow to each other, then stand in heiko dachi (parallel stance). Do not fidget! Do not bow to your opponent when the referee says "hajime!"

Should I bow to my opponent each time a bout is restarted?

Should I bow to my opponent if I accidentally hurt him?
Stay aware and alert, ready to keep fighting You can bow to show apology or respect after yame has been called, and apologise verbally after the bout is completed. If the referee has stopped the bout, return to your starting line and stand in heiko dachi. If your opponent is visibly hurt, you should turn your back and face the other way. When he has finished checking that your opponent is alright, the referee will tell you to turn back around, and he will then give out any warnings or penalties he deems necessary before resuming the bout.

How do I win a bout?
By being the first person to win three full points before the time is up. This can be made up of six half points (waza aris), three whole points (ippons), or any mixture of the two.

Usually neither competitor has scored three points by the end of the time, in which case, the person with the highest score wins.

How is team kumite scored?
There are five competitors. The competitors fight in whichever order the teams see fit. The first person to win two half points or one whole point, wins each bout. The first team to win three bouts wins the round.

If time on the day is running short, the event organiser may decide that each bout is "sudden death", in which case, the first to win a half point wins each bout.

What happens if my bout ends in a draw?
You will have another minute in which to fight. The first person to score within the minute is declared the winner.

How long is a bout?
It varies. Divisions below the Opens last for 1.5 minutes. The Open last for 2 minutes and team kumite lasts for 1 minute per fighter.

Generally, in divisions below the Opens, the time runs continuously, even when the referee is talking. At the even organiser's discretion, non-Opens divisions may run with a stop-start timer, which means that the time stops whenever the competitors are not fighting.

In the Opens, the timer is only running whilst the competitors are fighting. Thus, a 2 minute Opens bout may easily run for 4 or 5 minutes of real time.

What do the whistles mean during a bout?
The whistle is blown to let you know that your time is almost up. In every division and event except team kumite, the whistle blows 30 seconds from the end of the bout. In team kumite, the whistle blows 15 seconds from the end.

Should I stop fighting when I hear the whistle blow?
No, under no circumstances. You should only respond to instructions from the referee. Stop when he says "yame", otherwise remain alert and keep fighting.

What must I do to score a half point?
There are many criteria for scoring a half point (waza ari), but a simplified answer would be to say, "You must perform a legal technique to a legal scoring area of your opponent's body, demonstrating control and focus, and with sufficient posture and awareness afterwards to enable you to continue fighting." Although a kiai (shout) is not specifically mentioned in the rulebook, most refs consider a kiai to be a sign of focus, thus if you do not kiai, you may not score the point.

What do you mean by "focus"?
Focus is concentration and sharpness. It's an awareness of your opponent, yourself and the way that your technique will interact with you both.

What must I do to score a full point?
You'll need to perform a technique which, had it been for real, would probably have ended the fight there and then. In the past, this was interpreted primarily as unblocked round kicks to the head, or any legal strike to the back. These will still score a full point. Now the definition has expanded to include any potentially fight-winning strike. Probably the easiest way to score an ippon is to turn your opponent around (probably by blocking an over-extended front kick,) then striking to their back. Theoretically, you can score an ippon with any combination of scoring techniques (all of which must score), or by performing a perfectly timed block and counter attack, to any legal target. Thus a rising head level block swiftly followed by a reverse punch to the face, may now score an Ippon. In practice, in thousands of bouts, I've never seen a point awarded for either of these.

What scoring techniques are allowed?
As a general rule of thumb, you can use punches, backfists, front kicks, round kicks, hook kicks. Some sweeps and grabs are also allowed for strategic (non-scoring) purposes, but only if they are immediately followed by an attempt at a legal scoring technique.

What areas are acceptable targets for scoring techniques?
Anywhere above the waist, except the back of the shoulders, the throat, and any joints, such as elbows. Front kicks must be used below the chest. Head height round kicks MUST be delivered using the instep not the ball of the foot.

Am I allowed to hit to the back?
Definitely. If you've moved around your opponent, or have turned him, or are performing a hook kick, strikes to the back are perfectly acceptable, and in most situations will earn you double the points. However, you may NOT strike to the shoulders as this has the potential to cause whiplash or even break your opponent's neck. Hits to the back usually score an Ippon.

Can I use open handed techniques?
Open hand blocks are permitted, although are not generally encouraged below brown-belt level due to the risk of breaking your fingers if you misjudge. Some referees will penalise for using open-handed blocks, although the rules do not explicitly prohibit it at any grade.

Open handed strikes, such as haito, shuto and nukite are prohibited at all grades.

Can I grab my opponent?
Yes, but only by the arm or leg, and only if the grab is followed an immediate attempt at a scoring technique, or the grabbed limb is throw away. Body grabs are prohibited under all circumstances. Leg grabs only come as a result of catching or blocking a kick. Reaching down to grab a leg that an opponent was standing on, would probably be considered reckless as it endangers you. You could get penalised for it.

Am I allowed to sweep?
Yes, you can sweep at any grade, although because of the potential for injury to you opponent, this technique is rarely taught to lower grades. Sweeps must be delivered to the ankle, and the accepted method is using the sole of the foot. The sweep MUST be immediately followed by an attempted scoring technique. The sweep does not necessarily have to take your opponent to the floor to be effective - it may be that a tap to the ankle sufficiently unsettles or unbalances him for you to score a point with your follow up technique.

Sweeps to the knee will probably be penalised.

Many refs will penalise dead weight sweeps whereby you attempt to unbalance someone by sweeping their supporting leg. Such referees may or may not allow timed sweeps whereby you sweep someone's foot as they step forward onto it or land on it after a kick.

Can I do throws?
No. Under no circumstances. We rarely use mats in our tournaments. We don't learn how to do breakfalls in GKR, so it would be dangerous to throw people. Leave that to the Judo students...

How much contact is allowed?
The amount of contact allowed depends upon the grade of the competitors, but a good rule to follow is that no contact is allowed. In fact, young competitors and low grades will score techniques that fall six inches or more from the target, provided they exhibit the potential to reach.

Brown belts and open division competitors are expected to demonstrate finer control, and thus are allowed to punch much closer, perhaps even using touch control, where the mitt literally touches the opponent. There is virtually no tolerance for mistakes with techniques to the head, and any contact sufficiently firm to move a relaxed head will receive a warning or be penalised. There is a slightly greater tolerance with body techniques, but not much.

Having said that, it's entirely up the referee. I've seen competitors kicked six feet from the ring only to see the kicker receive an ippon for it.

British refs seem to allow far more contact than Australian ones.

Can I be disqualified?
Yes. There are lots of things that can get you disqualified, but they fall into two categories: infringements of the rules of engagement, i.e., too much contact, repeated stepping out of the ring, using illegal techniques, or ignoring the referee's instructions (no matter how misguided they are); and breaking rules of etiquette, such as swearing, threatening your opponent, and even rude chanting by your fans.

Are any types of mitts or pads not allowed?
Yes. Many types are not allowed, particularly vinyl or leather covered ones. These are often designed for different types of combat, and they can mask or distort true karate techniques. You can buy protective equipment from your sensei, then you can be sure what's legal to use.

Do females have to wear chest guards?
No, but they are highly recommended. There is evidence to suggest that repeated strikes to the breasts can cause serious, and even life-threatening long-term injuries.

Do males have to wear groin guards?

Does everyone have to wear mitts, pads and mouth guards?

Can I wear glasses?
The answer used to be an unequivocal no. Recently, it has been down to each event organiser's discretion, so you won't know for sure until the day. Regardless, if you plan to compete, you should definitely consider investing in a pair of sports glasses. These are worn like goggles and have no breakable parts, and are relatively inexpensive to buy.

Does it matter what gi I wear or how I wear it?
Your choice of gi makes no difference. You may feel freer in a light-weight one, especially if you get sweaty as you progress through the rounds. However, if the arms or legs of your gi are rolled up, it should be no higher than elbows and mid shins, with no loose bits that could catch and injure your opponent’s fingers and toes.

What should I do about biased or incompetent refs or judges?
It's unlikely (even with video evidence) that any complaints you make will affect the outcome of your bout. It's virtually impossible for an independent adjudicator to assess the honesty or competence of events he did not witness, and in such cases, he 999 times out of a 1000, he will come down on the side of the official. Nevertheless, it is worth complaining, because if the organisers hear repeated criticism of particular judges or refs, they will work hard to ensure that that official's skills are brought up to scratch for future events.

It is worth remembering that refereeing is far from being a science, and mistakes do occur even to the best, most impartial refs. Furthermore, spectators and competitors very rarely understand all of the scoring criteria, or are best positioned to assess them.