Karate Kumite – Maximizing the 6 Criteria for Scoring (part 2)

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In the last article about WKF karate kumite we investigated some ways to improve your chances of having your points paid by the referees in. With so much confusion amongst karate competitors, coaches and referees themselves, it’s no wonder people become easily frustrated when decisions don’t go their way…

Emotions rise, blood boils and tempers flare.

The result?

At best the referee might let you off with a warning.

At worst, you’ll be disqualified and your reputation (and your team’s) will be tarnished. And at that point it takes a lot of work to have it shine again, as people tend to remember the negative things longer than the positive.

Repeat offenders of course may be suspended for a year or more, perhaps forever depending on the severity of the outburst. And this of course brings us to the 2nd part of the WKF criteria…


As karate competitors wanting to do our best, we must do everything in our power to maximize our “sporting attitude”. As one of the six criteria required for a score to be awarded, the WKF rules define sporting attitude as follows…

Sporting Attitude is a component of good form and refers to a non-malicious attitude of great concentration obvious during delivery of the scoring technique.

This means that our mission is not to hurt or injure our opponent whether intentional or through carelessness. To maximize our sporting attitude, treat each bout as a complex game of tag. The key to maximizing sporting attitude lies here…

Operate from the perspective of CHALLENGE instead of FEAR.

Once we change our mind set to treat it as a game rather than a fight where FEAR is the driver, the sporting attitude can easily exist because challenge pushes your personal limits of skill, while fear does the opposite.

Fear of defeat, fear of being hurt, fear of embarrassment, and fear of punishment are all powerful negative drivers that produce negative emotions and unsupportive actions of the sporting attitude.

A direct result are behaviors like uncontrolled, careless and sometimes malicious techniques in order to “get even” with the opponent or referee.

I remember a fight many years ago where my opponent became frustrated because I had scored twice when he did not. He was upset because he felt his points should have been paid, but mine were instead. He was unable to control his emotion and the next chance he had, he “took one to give one”, meaning he allowed me to hit him first just so he could knock me out.

Clearly this was a case of poor sporting attitude, with an uncontrolled and malicious technique. He was disqualified and I won the fight by default.

So remember when fighting in a tournament, consider it a game of tag. This changes your physiology and helps you operate from CHALLENGE instead of FEAR. When you eliminate fearful emotions you maximize your skill level, your sporting attitude and the chances of having your points awarded.


The WKF rules define Vigorous Application as follows…

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

I understand this to mean that the technique must be executed at full combat speed. It must be completely and plainly obvious that the kick or punch had the speed and power to be effective.

Any technique lacking in power should therefore not be awarded. Any technique lacking in speed should be ignored. However does this mean that every technique should be executed at full combat speed with full force to the opponent?


Remember that any technique in WKF competition must also be controlled. The controlling of techniques is repeatedly emphasized in the rules. In Article 6 under the scoring criteria the rules state the following…

The technique must be appropriately controlled with regard to the area being attacked and must satisfy all six scoring criteria.

So as competitors how do we maximize our vigorous application without hurting our opponent? The first step is to understand what areas you can hit with more force than others, and also what areas are illegal to make contact with altogether.

While most people are familiar with the fact that joint and limb attacks are illegal, did you know that it’s actually LEGAL to attack the throat? The caveat is that you CANNOT make contact whatsoever. Vigorous application with control is what the referees are looking for.

And depending on the age group of the competitor, the rules are also different. For example, for adults light face contact is permitted so long as the referee doesn’t consider it too hard. Excessive contact should always be penalized. For cadets and juniors no contact is permitted to the face whatsoever, and any touch must be penalized.

karate kumite

The point to all this is as competitors wanting to do our best, we must understand and be familiar with the scoring areas. We must know what techniques are safest to throw in order to minimize our chances of being penalized and maximize the opportunities to score.

That’s why in part one of this article I suggested you stay away from techniques to the front of the face due to the high probability of it being penalized for contact and it’s reduced chance of scoring since the line between skin touch and excessive contact is so thin.

Instead, stick to techniques that target the muscular parts of the body where firm contact with vigorous application isn’t going to get you penalized. Learn karate kumite the right way, fight within the rules AND be sure to maximize each and every aspect to ensure your success.

In the next article we’ll dive right into the 4th and 5th criteria, Zanshin (awareness) and Good Timing. Plus I’ll give you specific drills on how to develop both… but for now remember that maximizing EACH of the six criteria makes a HUGE overall difference to you winning the fight.

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