When the kumite division begins, the following is the order in which to proceed;

A role is called and all competitors, after being checked off against the entrants list, move to their designated position lining up by the side of the ring (aka or shiro). Competitors should stay in their correct order
When all competitors are lined up in order, the Referee, Judge and Arbitrator move to the top of the ring together for the formal bow in. This is as follows.
a) The referee calls competitors to face the crowd "Shomini, Rei". All bow.
b) The referee calls competitors to face each other "Autogani, Rei". All bow.
c) The referee calls for competitors to sit and the first two competitors are called.


When beginning a bout, the Referee and Judge will go to their starting lines.
The Referee then calls the competitors to their starting lines - "Autogani moto no ichi". If a competitor marches on prematurely, he/she must be motioned off.
Once motioned in, competitors walk to their starting lines, bow to the Referee, then the Judge, then to their opponent.
Competitors must bow properly (a quick nod is both discourteous and insufficient).
A Referee may also call for a bow where none is volunteered.
When starting or restarting a bout, the Referee should check that both competitors are on their lines and properly composed. Competitors jumping up or down or fidgeting must be stilled before the bout can commence.


1. Following the exchange of bows, the Referee will announce 'SHOBU SANBON, HAJIME' and the bout will commence.
2. The Referee will stop the bout by announcing 'YAME' when a scoring technique is seen. The Referee will order the competitors to take up their original positions.
3. The Referee and Judge return to their positions whereby the Judge indicates his/her opinion by means of a gesture. The Referee identifies the relevant score and awards it as 'WAZA-ARI or IPPON' and indicates this with the prescribed gesture. The Referee then restarts the bout by saying 'TSUZUKETE HAJIME'.
4. When a contestant has scored SANBON (3 full points) during a bout, the score-keeper will request the time- keeper to blow his/her whistle twice, indicating the end of the bout. The Referee upon hearing this shall call 'YAME' and order the competitors to the starting line, as he/she returns to his/hers. The winner is then declared and indicated by the Referee, who raises his/her hand on the side of the winner, declaring 'SHIRO/AKA NO KACHI', the bout has then come to an end at this point.
5. If SANBON is not reached and instead time is up, the time-keeper will blow his/her whistle indicating the end of scoring time. The Referee will then call 'YAME' and order the competitors back to their starting line as the Referee and Judge return to theirs. The Referee will then look to the score-keeper who will in turn signal with the appropriate gesture who the winner is.
6. If a bout at the end of scoring time results in a draw (HIKIWAKE). The competitors will now have one minute to score. The clock is restarted and then the Referee starts the bout with 'SHOBU HAJIME'. During this time, as soon as a competitor scores, the Referee will call 'YAME' and the scoring competitor is announced as the winner.
7. If/when faced with the following situations, the Referee shall announce 'YAME' and halt the bout temporarily. The bout will subsequently be re-started.
a) When both or either of the competitors are out of the area (or when the Judge signals an exit). The Referee will order the two competitors back to their initial positions.
b) When the Referee orders the competitor to adjust his/her gi, belt or other equipment.
c) When the Referee notices that a competitor has contravened the rules, or when the Referee perceives a signal from the Judge regarding the same.
d) When the Referee considers that one or both of the competitors cannot continue with the bout due to injuries, illness or other causes. Heeding the opinion of the resident First Aid persons the Referee will decide whether the bout should be continued.
e) When a competitor seizes the opponent and does not perform an immediate effective technique, the Referee will separate them.
f) When one or both competitors fall and no effective techniques are immediately forthcoming. A Referee should always allow an opponent time to take advantage of an opponent falling or being unbalanced.


If any situations arise that are not covered by these rules, or if there is any doubt concerning their application, given the case, the Referee will immediately halt the bout and confer with the Arbitrator, Judge and the Chief Referee in order to obtain a consensus of opinion.


A number of times during a tournament, a kumite division will have an odd number of competitors. It is important that as each round passes, a different competitor is given the bye (free round).


Any occasion where an odd number of competitors exist, unless a person is injured, will eventually result in three competitors left in the final.

The following is the method by which the result of first, second and third can be best achieved.

Competitors shall be known as 'A', 'B' and 'C'.

Firstly 'A' fights 'B'
The winner then fights 'C' (NOT the loser)
If 'A' beats both 'B' and 'C', then 'A' is automatically awarded first place and 'B' and 'C' fight for second and third places.
If 'A' loses to 'C', then 'C' is automatically the first place getter and 'A' is the second place getter and 'B' is awarded third place.


The result of a bout is determined by either:

a) A competitor scoring 3 IPPON'S, 6 WAZA-ARI'S or a combination of the two totalling SANBON (3 points).
b) The match runs its full duration of time. The competitor with the highest score is declared the winner.
c) Obtaining a decision, or by a HANSOKU or SHIKKAKU imposed against a competitor.


Any score, whether Ippon (full point) or Waza-ari (half point), must only be awarded by a referee when all of the following scoring criteria are present:

i. Good Form
ii. Correct Attitude
iii. Vigorous Application
iv. Zanshin
v. Proper Timing
vi. Correct Distance


i. Good Form
Any point scored must contain the elements of correct karate technique. The technique delivered should be precise in its technique both on the way to and from the target area. Good stance is also taken into account where it applies. For example a person showing good form in their punch, but is running backwards in its delivery will not have probable effectiveness and therefore should not be scored.

If a Referee and Judge are strict on only scoring those techniques that show good form, competitors will see this and aim to keep their kumite as clean as possible.

ii. Correct Attitude
Is a component of good form and refers to a non-malicious attitude during delivery of the scoring technique.
iii. Vigorous Application
A technique to score must be delivered with commitment and focus; nothing is held back. This area is often missed when a score is assessed. To score, any punch or kick delivered must have the competitor's full 'kamai'.
iv. Zanshin
Is the state of continued commitment which endures after the technique has landed. The competitor with Zanshin maintains total concentration and awareness of the opponent's potentiality to counter attack.
v. Proper Timing:

This means delivering a technique when it will have the greatest potential effect.
vi. Correct Distance:

For example, a punch which comes somewhere between the skin touch and 2-3 cm from the face and where the punching arm is not fully extended has the correct distance.

Similarly correct distance means delivering a technique at the precise distance where it will have the greatest potential effect. Thus, if the technique is delivered on an opponent who is rapidly moving away, the potential effect of the blow is reduced.

Relates to the point at which the completed technique comes to rest on or near the target. To score, the technique must have the potential to penetrate deep into the target. Therefore, a straight arm punch will rarely score as it has a low potential to do this.


Attacks are limited to the following areas:

a) Head
b) Face
c) Neck (but excluding the throat)
d) Abdomen
e) Chest
f) Back (but excluding the shoulders)


In scoring, it must be noted that an IPPON is worth 2 WAZA-ARIS.
To score an IPPON, a technique must meet the following criteria.
a) Jodan Kicks (Round or hook kicks only)
b) Successfully scoring (picking off) at the precise moment the opponent attacks
c) Deflecting an attack and scoring to the unguarded back of the opponent
d) Sweeping followed by a scoring technique

A sweeping technique need not require the competitor to fall on the floor to merit scoring. It is simply sufficient if he/she is merely unbalanced, as the scoring technique is delivered. If the sweep does not unbalance the opponent it is ignored when considering the point and the follow up technique is all that is scored.

Note: Referees must not be too quick in halting a bout. Many potentially successful sweeps and strikes have been defeated by the Referee calling 'YAME' too early. 2 seconds should elapse after a sweep for it is during this time that the committed and co-ordinated attacker will have demonstrated his/her follow-through.

In awarding IPPON (full point) scores, a judge must often use their discretion and experience.

It must be noted that an IPPON represents a technique that would have totally incapacitated your opponent. For example a Jodan (head level) kick may be executed with good form but may lack precision of timing and balance, and in reality, would only have stunned an opponent (as opposed to knocking them out). In this instance, it would only be awarded with a WAZA-ARI (half point)


A WAZA-ARI is awarded for a technique almost comparable to that needed to score an IPPON.
In the cases noted above the Referee must look for IPPON'S in the first instance and only award a WAZA-ARI in the second instance.

Examples of WAZA-ARI's are:

a) Hand techniques to body and head.
b) Kicks to the body and some to the head.


1. Competitors scoring at the same time
Simultaneous effective scoring techniques delivered by both competitors, shall be recognised as AIUCHI and no point will be awarded.

NOTE: True AIUCHI'S are rare

Not only must two techniques land simultaneously but both must be valid scoring techniques - each with good form, vigorous application etc. Two techniques may well land simultaneously, but seldom are both - if indeed either - effective scores.

In a situation where only one of the simultaneous pair is actually a score. THIS IS NOT AIUCH and only the competitor who met all of the scoring criteria is awarded the point.

2. Competitors scoring outside the ring
No technique, even if technically correct, will be scored if it is delivered while both competitors are outside the competition area.

However, if one of the competitors is outside the ring and the competitor inside the ring delivers an effective scoring technique before the referee can call YAME, the technique shall be scored. This is a rule often missed by referees.

3. Competitors scoring on, or after time
An effective technique delivered at the same time that the end of the bout is signalled, is considered valid. An attack, even if effective, delivered after an order to suspend or stop the bout, shall not be scored and may result in a penalty being imposed on the offender.
4. Competitors grabbing
It is permissible for a competitor to seize the opponent as long as an effective scoring technique is immediately forthcoming. This may include catching a kick or punch and proceeding immediately after with a scoring technique. It may also include the pulling down of the opponent's guard before making a strike.

It is not permissible to grab at the opponent's body or head even if an effective scoring technique follows.


Each bout that runs must have a score sheet filled out by the score-keeper.
Each time a competitor receives a score, a cross (X) is put in the box on their accumulative score.
Each time a foul is committed that is penalised by the Referee, a cross is marked on the opponent's score total, plus the foul is recorded in the box below the score.

For example:

- If AKA receives a WAZA-ARI. A cross is put in the 0.5 box for AKA.

- If AKA then receives an IPPON. A cross is put in the 1.0 and 1.5 box for AKA.

- If AKA then receives a KEIKOKU for contact. A cross is put in the 0.5 box for SHIRO and the letter 'K' is written in the foul box directly below.


Foul abbreviations

K - Keikoku Half point penalty
HC - Hansoku chui One point penalty
H - Hansoku Disqualification through fouls
S - Shikakku Disqualification through attitude

Note: Fouls are to be written under the column of the victim, not the perpetrator.


The following techniques are forbidden: -

1. Techniques which make contact with the throat
2. Techniques which make excessive contact, without having regard to the scoring area attacked.
3. Attacks to the groin, joints and instep
4. The use of open handed techniques such as HAITO, NUKITE or SHUTO (inside and out)
5. Throws of any kind
6. Spinning hook kicks and spinning back fists
7. Sweeping techniques and spinning back kicks (for 4th kyu and below divisions)
8. Techniques, which by their nature, cannot be controlled for the safety of the opponent.
9. Repeated direct attacks to the opponent’s arms or legs
10. Repeated exits from the ring (JOGAI) or movements, which waste too much time.
11. Purposeless grabbing of the opponent or violent pushing or wrestling
12. Any discourteous behaviour such as provocation and un-called for remarks. Any competitor, coach or official member of a team, who behaves discourteously towards any member of the group of officials including Referees, Judges, time-keepers and score-keepers by means of gestures or words etc, can earn the immediate disqualification from the tournament.
13. Feigning of injury in order to gain the advantage.
14. Control to the scoring area must be reasonable. Techniques which touch the areas may be scored, but those that use excessive contact may not be scored and could incur a penalty for lack of control. In the case of a kick technique, a greater tolerance is allowed, provided the attack does not cause obvious injury.
15. MUBOBI: Relates to a situation where one or both of the competitors display a lack of regard for his/her own safety.

Note: Just as with scoring points, when it comes to giving warnings or penalties to a competitor, the Referee must use his/her own discretion and experience. Thus the following points apply;


One of the most difficult decisions a Referee will face is in the judging of contact made.

In the evaluation of excessive contact, there is no substitute for an experienced Referee. Techniques to the face may TOUCH and still score, but touch does not mean solid impact. When assessing the contact force used, the Referee must take the following circumstances into account.

1. Where contact was made:

Contact to the body
The trained karateka can absorb a stronger impact over muscled areas such as the stomach. However, the breastbone and ribs are vulnerable to injury. For this reason, reasonable control over body contact must be exercised.

b) Contact to the face

The Referee must assess if contact was severe enough to warrant a warning or penalty by way of assessing any redness, bruising, swelling or bleeding to the area that was contacted.

As face contact is deemed more dangerous, it may impose a more severe penalty.
c) Contact to the groin

The accidental kick to the groin area can reduce the opponent's potential for winning as surely as a deliberate one. Therefore the Referee should award a penalty in either case and allow the opponent time to recover.
d) Contact to the leg

In the case where it has caused pain or injury, a penalty should be imposed immediately.

Foot sweeps that land high on the leg can cause knee injury. The Referee must assess the validity of any sweep attack to the leg. An ineffective sweep high on the leg must be warned and if repeated, penalised.
2. The result of the contact on the competitor

Before imposing penalties for contact the Referee should take into account the following:

a) Exacerbating injury

Did the victim increase the impact of an otherwise controlled technique by a sudden movement; e.g. by charging forward? This must not be used however, as an excuse by the Referee for repeated cases of excessive contact in his/her ring.

b) Size difference

The Referee must consider the effects of a large difference in size between competitors as can often occur in a team match. What is controlled contact for someone weighing 100 kilos may be a hammer blow for the 65 kilo opponent.

c) Assessing the true result of the injury

The Referee must constantly observe the injured competitor because their behaviour may assist him/her

in their assessment. A short delay in giving the assessment allows injury symptoms such as nosebleeds or bruising to develop. At this point the clock should be ordered to stop by the Referee. Observation will also reveal any efforts by the competitor to aggravate slight injury for tactical advantage.

d) Potential feigning of injuries

Feigning of an injury, which does not exist is a serious infraction of the rules. Exaggerating an injury which does exist, is less serious - but still prohibited.

Examples of this are the blowing strongly through an injured nose to promote bleeding or rubbing the face roughly with the back of a mitt.

"SHIKKAKU" can be imposed on any competitor feigning injury. For example: When such things as, collapse and rolling around on the floor are not supported by a neutral First Aid Attendant.

Warnings or a penalty can be imposed for exaggerating injury.

e) Pre-existing injuries

A pre-existing injury can increase the symptoms and throw the degree of contact used totally out of proportion. For example: If a person has been injured during a previous bout and contact is made again to the same area, a referee must effectively assess the true contact made in this particular instance before giving any warnings or penalties.

f) Belated symptoms

After a competitor is contacted during a bout and receives a penalty, if they are able to fight on then this infraction has now been penalised and cannot be then further assessed later in that bout.

This means that if their injury prevents them from proceeding on (e.g. they are in too much pain or the nose starts to bleed), no further penalty can be given.

If they choose not to continue they will have to forfeit the bout. This rule discourages people showing little karate spirit by pulling out due to slight pain and winning by the disqualification of their opponent.

This is why a referee should take time to assess the extent of injuries before awarding penalties and recommencing the bout.


The point at which YAME is called is helpful in determining if JOGAI has occurred.

Examples of this are as follows:

If AKA delivers a successful technique and then exits immediately afterwards, YAME should be called at the instant of score and the exit therefore occurs outside of bout time and may not be penalised.
If AKA's attempt to score is unsuccessful, YAME will be called for JOGAI and the exit will be recorded.
If SHIRO exits just after AKA scores with a successful attack, then YAME will occur immediately on the score and SHIRO's exit will not be recorded.
If SHIRO exits the ring and AKA scores before YAME is called, then AKA's point will be awarded instead of SHIRO's JOGAI warning.


The true/real essence of MUBOBI is when a competitor shows little or no regard to their own or their opponent's safety. The simplest way to assess this act is when a competitor rushes in with a flurry of techniques that show no form, balance or control, therefore putting both competitors at risk of injury - (i.e. it is reckless, uncontrolled behaviour).

MUBOBI is a rare but serious infraction. Where a referee believes MUBOBI has been displayed, they are to notify the Ring Co-ordinator or a Senior Official who must then be present to watch the remainder of the bout. In the event where the competitor continues to display dangerous behaviour (MUBOBI) the ring coordinator is now present and can help the Referee/Judge make a decision for a second warning. In the event of a second warning, immediate disqualification is the penalty.


Every fighter who contravenes the rules shall be warned or penalised.
The nature of the penalty will be announced by the Referee.
Warnings may also be imposed for the first instance of any minor infractions.


When it comes to giving penalties, the following descriptions apply:


This is a penalty in which WAZA-ARI is added to the opponent's score.

1. A KEIKOKU is imposed for minor infractions for which a warning has previously been given in that bout for the same infraction. Warnings such as Jogai, Mubobi, Contact, Illegal technique etc.
2. It may be given out immediately without a warning where infractions not sufficiently serious enough to merit HANSOKU-CHUI occur.


This is a penalty in which an IPPON is added to the opponent's score.

1. This is usually given for a major infringement on the rules or heavy contact.
2. Alternatively it can be given to a competitor who has had repeated infractions for which a KEIKOKU had previously been given in that bout.
3. Generally it is used when a competitor's potential for winning has been seriously reduced by the opponent's foul.


HANSOKU is a disqualification by way of receiving too many penalties.

This is imposed following a very serious infraction or after a number of penalties have already been given for the same infraction. If a competitor has already received a KEIKOKU and HANSOKU-CHUI for the same infraction, the next penalty will be HANSOKU.
HANSOKU is also invoked when the number of HANSOKU-CHUI's and KEIKOKU's for various penalties imposed have raised the opponent's score to SANBON.
Generally it is used when, in the opinion of the Referee for that bout, the competitor's potential to win has been reduced to virtually zero by the opponent's foul/s.


This is a disqualification from the actual tournament, division or match.

In order to define the limit to SHIKKAKU the Chief Referee must be consulted. SHIKKAKU may be invoked for the following:

a) When a competitor commits an act, which harms the prestige and honour of KARATE DO.
b) When a competitor does not obey the Referee's orders.
c) When an action and/or actions, of a competitor are considered to be dangerous and deliberately violate the rules concerning prohibited behaviour.
d) When other actions are considered to violate the rules of the tournament.


1st time Warning, no penalty
2nd time Half point penalty
3rd time Full point penalty
4th time Hansoku (disqualification)


1st time Warning and notify Ring Co-ordinator or Senior Official.
2nd time Disqualification (Ring Co-ordinator or Senior Official present to make final decision)


Because of the seriousness of a MUBOBI penalty, it is imperative that a Referee make a proper judgement.
The Referee must be sure that any real threat of subsequent injury to any competitor is eliminated. Remember, "Prevention is better than cure."


Contact is often the most common penalty a Referee must deal with and as stated in section 5.3, there is no substitute for experience.

Although a Referee must use his/her own discretion for each situation, the most logical penalty system for contact is as follows. This is to be used only as a guide:

a) A competitor is hit but not hurt (first time) A warning is given
b) A competitor is hit and slightly hurt (first time) Half point penalty (Keikoku)
c) A competitor is hit hard enough to reduce their chances of winning (first time)
Full point penalty (Hansoku-chui)
d) A competitor is hit but not hurt (second occasion) A half point penalty (Keikoku)
e) A competitor is hit and slightly hurt (second occasion) Full point penalty (Hansoku-chui)
f) A competitor is hit hard enough to reduce their chances of winning (second occasion)
Hansoku is called


a) When to give a warning
Warnings are given where there has clearly been a minor infraction of the rules, but the competitor's potential for winning is not diminished (in the opinion of the Referee/Judge) by the opponent's foul.
b) Penalties increase in severity
A penalty can be directly imposed for a rules infraction, but once given, repeats of the particular infraction must be accompanied by an increase in the severity of the penalty imposed. It is not, for example, possible to give a KEIKOKU for excessive contact and then give a warning for a second instance of excessive contact.
Penalties do not cross accumulate
This is to say a warning for the first instance of MUBOBI will not be followed by an automatic KEIKOKU for the first instance of JOGAI.
d) Penalties are explained to the competitor
Any occasion where a penalty is given, a brief explanation is given to the competitor. For example "Aka, contact, second warning, Shiro, Waza-ari".
e) Declaring a winner through penalties
When the penalties incurred in any one bout through various infractions total SANBON, the offender will be declared HANSOKU and the winner will be announced as "AKA/SHIRO NO KACHI"
f) Understanding the difference between HANSOKU and SHIKKAKU
A SHIKKAKU is very rare and is the disqualification often from the entire tournament. It occurs when a competitor shows uncontrolled aggression and maliciousness towards their opponent or disregard for tournament protocol or the spirit of Karate-do (i.e. it is attitude orientated).

Where an opponent's score is raised to SANBON through continual penalties due to accidental reasons by a good natured person, then HANSOKU is correct call. The Referee would call for example "AKA, HANSOKU, SHIRO, NO KACHI".

Both the penalties of HANSOKU and SHIKKAKU result in the disqualification of the offender. Because of this, they may often be mixed up by a Referee.

Referee & judge levels
Competition Area
Powers & Duties
Chief Referee
Score keeper
Time keeper
Kumite time-keeping summary
Tournament Kata
Important points
Competitor's guide
Scoring kata
Tied scores
Scoring sheet
Score ranges
Tournament kumite
Starting, suspending & ending matches
Injuries & accidents
Dress requirements
Tournament terminology
Referee hand signals
New Rules
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