Full contact karate
|Country of origin||Japan USA (for American Full Contact Karate)|
|Creator||Varies depending on subtype.|
Legends:Terutomo Yamazaki, Akira Masuda, Hajime Kazumi, Andy Hug, Glaube Feitosa, Francisco Filho, Ewerton Teixeira, Musashi, Semmy Schilt, Masaaki Satake, Howard Collins, Nicholas Pettas, Jōkō Ninomiya
|Parenthood||Varies depending on subtype.|
Full contact karate is a broad term used to differentiate competition formats of karate where competitors spar (also called Kumite) full-contact and allow a knockout as winning criterion, and those competitions which use light contact/semi contact point sparring where a knockout is regarded as a foul.
The term is also used by extension to differentiate between schools/styles of karate dedicated to such full contact competitions, and schools/styles that are not.
Full contact karate competition comes in several, and sometimes very different, formats. These different formats have different histories and were developed for the art of karate at different times in different places. Some developed independently, others developed out of other full contact rule systems or from light contact rule systems.
There are no major unifying organizations in any of the different formats, and the rule details may change drastically between the many rival sport/style organizations and different promoters. Some organizations stick rigidly to one set of rules. Other use several rule formats harmoniously side by side. Some even have tournaments that switch rule formats between rounds of the same bout. Sometimes the differences between the different rules are large, and sometimes the only significant differences between different sport rules are the organizational structures that use them.
One major format of full-contact sport karate is known as knockdown karate or sometimes Japanese full contact karate. This style of sport fighting was developed and pioneered in the late 1960s by the Kyokushinkai karate organization in Japan, founded by Masutatsu Oyama. In fighting the competitors traditionally wear no gloves, padding or body protection other than groin guards (although local regulations sometimes enforce exceptions to this tradition), but it is bare knuckle fighting. Punches to the face, groin, and joint are prohibited but all bare-knuckle and elbow strikes to the body and limbs (with the exception of joints), and kicks (including kicks with the knee) against legs, arms, body, head and face are permitted, as are sweeps. Grabbing and holding the opponent, including clinching, is not allowed under the basic knockdown karate rules as used in Kyokushin, but are occasionally allowed in some variations used in other styles. Scores are only made by knocking your opponent out, down to the floor, by sweep and controlled follow-up for half a point, or by otherwise visibly incapacitating them. Unless there is a knockdown or sweep, the bout is continuous, with stoppages only to break up locked clinches or if the fighters leave the fight area. Unlike American full-contact karate, or point karate, clean hits are not counted in and by themselves, as the scoring depends entirely on the effect of the hits, not on the formal or stylistic appearance of the techniques. No matter the perfection in execution of a technique, it will not score unless it visibly affects the opponent. In the same manner, if a technique does show a visible effect, it does not matter if it is executed in a manner regarded as inferior.
Common minor variations to the basic knockdown rules include Shidōkan karate knockdown that allows clinch and throws (as well as very brief attempts to follow up a throw with a submission technique), and Ashihara Karate and Enshin Karate knockdown rules that allow one handed grabbing in order to execute throws to score points. Many other variations exist, some so extensive that they can no longer be classified as knockdown rules, and several other branches of full contact karate (typically included in the "gloved", "MMA inspired" and "others" groups) originate as such a variation of the Knockdown karate rules.
Although this sport format originated with the Kyokushinkai karate organization, it has spread until it today is used by many karate styles and organizations. Karate styles embracing these rules are often called knockdown karate styles, and these include both organizations that originated from Kyokushin, such as World Oyama Karate, Ashihara Karate, Enshin Karate, Shidōkan, and Seidokaikan (the style that originated the K-1), as well as styles that originated independently from Kyokushin.
Though severely divided by rivaling styles and organizations (several of which use their own minor variations of the basic rules), and lacking a unifying sport organization, the sport of knockdown karate is today common all over the world. Despite the lack of a unifying sport organization to hold unifying championships (and the friction between the different styles and organizations), there is a long tradition in most knockdown karate organizations to hold special open tournament knockdown karate events, where fighters from any knockdown karate (or any other) style and organization are welcome to participate.
A second full contact karate competition format is American full contact karate which was developed in USA during early 70s by borrowing rules, settings and gloves from western boxing, and adapting it. It is continuous fighting, where you do not break the bout for scoring, but sum up point scores at the end of the bout. Protective equipment used is boxing gloves and often foot-pads, shin pads, and amateur boxing helmets.
American full contact karate is closely related to American kickboxing, and it is often difficult to separate the two sports. As a guideline, both do not allow kicks below the waistline, or the use of knees or elbows.
One more recent system of full contact karate that has gained in popularity is Gloved karate or Glove karate. Sometimes called Shin-karate/Shinkarate (or "new" karate, in a partial translation) depending on sport organization and promoter -with the largest sport organizations being Shinkaratedo renmei and All Japan Glove Karate Federation This system originates in Japan where it has become a popular amateur sport for karate fighters wishing to enter professional kickboxing. Outside of Japan it has gained some momentum in Europe, but is still very small compared to other forms of karate.
The rules are based on the knockdown karate rules explained above, but modified to use boxing gloves and allow punches to the face, although it may be argued that it is unclear where this karate competition format ends and kickboxing begins. This is especially true since many gloved karate fighters seamlessly go on from their amateur gloved karate career to professional kickboxing careers. Many Japanese gloved karate fighters have in recent years become well known as pro-kickboxers, and many of the most successful Japanese kickboxers in K-1, such as Kozo Takeda, Yoshihiro Sato, Yasuhiro Kido, Hinata, Yuya Yamamoto, originated in gloved karate.
Still another form of full contact karate is Bogu kumite, which is most often associated with a few traditional Okinawan styles of karate. This format of continuous competition uses heavy protective padding to avoid injuries. In the beginning, this protective padding was based on the helmet and armor of Japanese kendo with gloves to protect the knuckles from the helmet's steel bars, although in modern days more specific padding has been developed. While allowing knockout as winning criterion, the protective equipment reduces the chances for it, and points are usually scored for clean techniques and techniques knocking the opponent off his feet.
Originally just a training method and never scored, this has developed into a small but growing sport format used in several variations in different organization. At the moment the largest Bogu sport organization is the All Japan Koshiki Karate-Do Federation who calls their specific Bogu format Koshiki Karate.
Nevertheless, compared to most other major full contact karate sports, Bogu and Koshiki is still very small.
Full contact point karate
One format of full contact karate competition is full contact point karate. It is similar to non full contact competition karate; the only difference from light contact and semi contact karate bouts is that if you knock your opponent out, you win instead of being disqualified for excessive contact. Points are scored for clean hits to the specified target zones, and unless there is an evident knockout or knockdown, the referee breaks the bout after each exchange to score the hits. The blows are delivered with full contact, although gloves, foot-pads, and in some cases body padding, are worn. This form of full contact karate competition is mainly found in North America where it originated, although it has a minor following in Europe. It is also similar to the competition format used in Taekwondo, and the sport karate competitions using this format often blur the line between these two related arts.
One growing trend is MMA inspired karate, where grappling on the ground plays a big role, in addition to stand-up fighting which is more traditionally associated to karate. One example of a style engaged in this form of karate is the Japanese style organization ZenDoKai who calls their rules vale tudo karate.
Other sport rules, including versions allowing full contact bare knuckle strikes to the unprotected head, exists, but tend to be small and obscure compared to the above listed major formats. These rules tend to be restricted to a single small style organization or even individual sport event promotions.
Examples of minor full contact rules system are the Shinken shobu rules of Kyokushin-kan, Irikumi Go as used by some Gōjū-ryū organizations (most notably the International Okinawan Gōjū-ryū Karate-dō Federation and the Jundokan Goju-Ryu organization), and the rules of Mumonkai Karate. Kyokushinkan shinken shobu uses a variation of knockdown karate using thin gloves, and allows headpunches, clinching and throws. Irikumi Go is a traditional continuous fighting using full contact, gloves and facepunches, used in Gojuryu karate. Mumonkai use rules similar to knockdown karate, but modified to allow headpunches with protective headgear and thin gloves.
In France, a full contact karate promotion called pro fight karate, has been formed for professional karate with MMA style gloves, clinching and limited grappling.
A example of full contact karate rules unique to a single promotion is the now defunct Chaos Madmax special event in Japan, arranged by the FSA Kenshinkan style organization. Here fighters fight without gloves or protective equipment, and headpunches allowed. Chaos Madmax has been replaced by Pro KarateDo, an organization using similar bareknuckle rules.
- Springer, Steve (1986-05-04). "A Different Way to Get Their Kicks". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- McGavin, Patrick Z (1996-02-09). "Try Shidokan Karate For Full-body Workout". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
- Shinkaratedo Renmei
- All Japan Glove Karate Federation
- World Koshiki Karatedo federation
- "Pro Karate Makes Debut". The New York Times. 1981-05-01. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Zendokai karate
- Mumonkai karate
- Pro fight Karate
- Chaos Madmax
- Kenshinkan Karate
- Pro KarateDo