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COMPETITOR: Each competitor must present him/herself to the referee suitably attired with proper uniform and equipment and physically prepared to compete. If he/she is not prepared to compete as deemed by the center referee, the competitor may be penalized for delay of time.

RANK RULE: A competitor must compete at the highest belt level they have earned in the martial arts. A competitor can never compete in a division of which he/she had not earned that rank. Once a competitor competes as a black belt legally, he/she must always compete as a black belt. A competitor can never compete in a lower belt division than the level of belt he/she has earned in the Martial Arts.


PROOF OF AGE RULE: All competitors must have a proof of age document. If there is a legitimate reason to question a competitor’s age, he/she must present a proof of age (birth certificate, driver’s license, or other acceptable documents) to prove his/her age.


LEGAL AGE RULE: All competitors have the option of competing in the same division all year long for rating purposes, by establishing a legal competition age for the year. The age a competitor is on June 30th of the current competition year is their legal competition age for that year. They can compete all year at that age so he/she can earn rating points in one age division all year. A competitor can always compete in his/her chronological age if they chose.


UNIFORM: All competitors must wear a complete (top and bottom) traditional or professional sport karate (Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, etc.) uniform in a good state of repair. The appropriate color belt or sash must be worn in competition. Sparring: All sparring uniforms must have sleeves that reach at least to the middle of the Biceps. No T-shirts, sweats, tank tops or unapproved shoes are allowed in the sparring divisions (see sparring foot pads). Form & Weapons: T-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts are allowed in form if they are part of the competitor’s official school uniform. Uniforms in the form and weapons divisions are allowed more liberties because form is not one-on-one competition where the uniform could cause a decisive disadvantage or advantage to a competitor. Shoes may be worn in form competition if they do not damage or mark the competition floor.


COMPETITOR RESPONSIBILITIES: It is the responsibility of the competitor to know the rules and be ready for competition when called to do so. He/she must be suitably attired, weighed-in and at the appropriate ring when competition begins. Three calls will be made for competition at ringside. If the competitor is not at his/her ring ready to compete when competition begins, he/she will not be able to compete (see delay of time rule). If a competitor leaves the ring after the competition begins and is not present when his/her name is called to compete, his/her name will be called three times at ringside. If he/she is still not present to compete, he/she will be disqualified (see delay of time rule).


REQUIRED AND RECOMMENDED SAFETY EQUIPMENT: Only approved headgear; hand and footpads, mouthpieces, groin cups (for male competitors only) are mandatory for all competitors in sparring divisions. The competitor’s equipment will be checked and if it is deemed unsafe, he/she will be asked to change the equipment before he/she can compete. Hand Pads: A soft padded surface must cover the fingers, wrist and any striking surface of the hand. Foot Pads: A soft padded surface must cover the instep, sides, toes, ankle and back of the heel of the foot. The bottom of the foot does not have to be padded. Head


GEAR: The front, sides and back of the head must be covered by a soft padded surface. Chest guards and face shields are optional, but must be inspected and approved by the tournament director. Competitors not sufficiently padded; hand, feet or head, will not be allowed to compete. Equipment must be in a good state of repair and must be free of heavy taping, tears or any other repairs that may cause injury. The tournament’s official rules arbitrator (tournament director) ultimately determines the approval or denial of the equipment. A properly fitted mouthpiece is required. Shin pads, forearm\elbow pads are optional in all divisions, but must be approved.


REFEREES: The referee is the most experienced official in the ring and is thoroughly versed on the rules and order of competition. He/she promotes the safety of the competitors, enforces the rules and ensures fair play. To this end, he/she starts and stops the match, awards points, makes penalty decisions, administrates the voting of the other judges, communicates clearly with the scorekeeper and timekeeper, and announces the winner of each match. Added Powers of the Referee: 1) Match starts and ends only with his/her command (not the command of the timekeeper); 2) Has final decision on any disputes on score; 3) Has the power to issue warnings and award penalty points without a majority decision: 4) Can overrule a majority call only to issue a warning or a penalty point: 5) Automatically has power to disqualify a competitor who receives (3) penalty points; 6) Has power to issue time-outs. A competitor can ask for a time-out, but it is the determination of the referee to issue one. The disqualification of a competitor, where disqualification is not automatic, is determined only by a majority vote of the judges.


OFFICIALS: Each ring should have a REFEREE, two to four JUDGES, a TIMEKEEPER/ SCOREKEEPER. The judges call points and rule infractions as they see them. They also vote on disqualifications. The referee also calls points and rules infractions but is also in compete control of the ring and ring personnel. Referees make all final decisions on penalty points and warnings (except for disqualifications) but can consult judges before making their decisions. The majority vote of the judges and referee determines a scoring point and/or a competitor’s disqualification.


CALLS AN OFFICIAL MAY MAKE: When the referee believes there has been a significant exchange of techniques, or when signaled to do so by a corner a judge/s, he/she shall call out the word, “STOP!” in a loud voice. The referee shall then returns the competitors to their starting marks and addresses the judges by saying “JUDGES CALL!” All judges and the center referee cast their votes simultaneously and assertively in the following manner.

Judge Sees a Point – He/she should hold up both colors or hold up one arm if colors are not being used. At the same time, he/she yells out the word “CALL!” in a loud, clear voice to let the referee know he/she has a call.
Point Calling – When signaled by the referee (referee says “Judges Call” in a loud clear voice) a judge raises the appropriate color (red or white usually) if colors are being used or points to the competitor who scores the point. If a competitor scores a two point kick, the officials should hold up or point with two fingers (index and middle fingers). If only one point is being called, the judge should point with only one finger (Index finger).

No Point Scored – An official crosses his/her wrist at waist level or holds both colors down to indicate that he/she believes that a point was not scored.
Did Not See If A Point Was Scored – The officials holds his/her hand over his/her eyes indicating that he/she could not see whether a point was scored or not. Indicates the official

was not in position to see if a point scored. (When using this signal, it has the same effect as saying “no point”, but it indicates to the referee, competitors and fans the reason why you are not calling the point).
Clash – Officials make a motion as though they are hitting both fists together, indicating that both competitors scored at the same time.

Penalty – The judge waves the color of the offending competitor in a circular motion. If no colors are used the judge waves the hand and arm in a circular motion while pointing at the offending competitor.
Disqualification – A disqualification vote is taken separately from any other vote. When a disqualification vote is asked for, the referee will say, “JUDGES CALL”. The judges will then hold the color or point to the competitor who is to be disqualified. If the judge does not feel the competitor should be disqualified, he/she crosses his/her wrist or holds both colors down at waist level.

LATE CALLS: All officials should make their calls at the same time. If, in the opinion of the referee, the corner judges are making a late call intentionally, the referee can disqualify the call and/or judge (noise not allowing the judges to hear the referee and the honest mistake of raising the wrong color or pointing at the wrong competitor should be taken into consideration not to disqualify the call or judge).


NUMBER OF OFFICIALS: 2 or 4 judges and one referee is allowed in all weapon, form and sparring divisions (4 or 6 judges and 1 referee is allowed in weapons and form grand championships, when applicable). If only two judges and one referee are used in the weapons and form divisions, the “Maximum Deviation Rule” will be used in all form and weapon divisions.


MAXIMUM DEVIATION RULE: Since the high and low scores are not dropped when three officials are used in form and weapons, the maximum deviation rule limits the impact of a single judge’s score to control with his/her high or low score the outcome of placement. The judge’s score that is between the other two judges scores (middle score) is considered the middle score. Once that score has been determined, the other two judges cannot be higher or lower than .02 points of that middle score. If their score is higher or lower than .02, they must adjust their score up or down accordingly to that .02 maximum deviation. See complete Maximum Deviation Rule for more details.


REMOVAL OF OFFICIALS: If a competitor feels that an official should be removed from a form or weapon division for good reason, he/she must file a protest before the division begins. If a competitor feels that an official should be removed from a sparring division, he/she may file a protest at any time. It is totally up to the center referee and the rules arbitrator to determine if an official should be removed.


PROTEST: A competitor has the right to protest an infraction of the rules or if a possible mistake was made (not a judgment call). If a competitor wishes to protest, he/she should first let the referee know he/she believes there has been an infraction of the rules or a mistake has been made. The referee will summon the arbitrator to the ring (if the referee cannot properly settle the protest to the players satisfaction) to render a decision. All protests must be made in an orderly, proper and sportsmanlike manner. All protests must be made immediately. Protests are not allowed once competition has resumed (after the fact protest). A competitor may be penalized or even disqualified if he/she is protesting improperly or without proper cause.


LATE ENTRIES: Once a division has started (the first competitor has started his/her form/ weapon routine or the first divisional fight has started) no competitor/s can be added to that division. BE ON TIME! Only exception to this rule is the “Fairness Rule” at the end of this rules summary.

THE RING: The size of the fighting and form adult black belt rings shall be approximately 20’ x 20’. Starting lines should be marked approximately six feet apart in the middle of the ring. Additionally, each ring should be posted with a ring number visible to competitors, officials, and medical personnel from across the floor. All youth and under black belt adult rings can be a minimum of 16’ to a maximum of 20’.


ORDER OF COMPETITION: Form: Once the final call for the form and weapon divisions has been made at ring side and the divisional seeds have been taken out (see seeding rules) the competition cards will be collected and shuffled thoroughly. The competitor cards will then be drawn randomly for the order of competition. As per the Relative Ranking Rule the judges will look at all the competitors before they give their final scores. This rule allows judges to adjust their scores if they feel other competitors that come later are better or worse than the competitors who came first (See Relative Ranking Rule Sheet). Sparring: Once the final call for the sparring division are made at ringside and the seeds have been taken out (See Seeding Rules) the division is ready to be set up. The competition cards should be collected and counted (if competition cards are not used, count the competitors) to see if byes are needed. If byes are needed, they will be picked randomly (seeds may have first priority for bys, see seeding rules). Matches should always be selected by random, but certain allowances may be given to competitors from the same school or team that is matched up in the first round of competition. They may be separated randomly from each other in the first round if possible. (Competitors cannot pick whom they want or do not want to fight.)

Optionally, in the youth division, the competitors may be lined up by height (Smallest to the tallest), to give an equitable division by size in the first round. All division fights will be by random draw. Consideration should be given to competitors who are from the same school or team that have been drawn to fight each other in the first round.

LENGTH OF MATCH: A running time of Two or Three minutes will be used, unless a competitor has earned 3 or 5 points before time has expired, in which cade the match will be declared over. At the 1 minute 30 second mark of a sparring match, the time keeper will shout out “THIRTY SECONDS”. If a match is tied at the end of two minutes, sudden victory (first person to score a point) overtime period will determine the match. The first competitor to score in overtime, by scoring a point by technique or earning a point by opponent’s penalty, will be declared the winner. Overtime period will be a maximum of two minutes.


POINT VALUES AND WINNER DETERMINATION: All legal hand techniques that score will be awarded one (1) point. All legal kicking techniques that score will be awarded one or two (2) points depending on division. All penalty points awarded will be awarded one (1) point. The competitor who is ahead 3 or 5 points before the two minute time period is automatically declared the winner or whoever is ahead at the end of the two minutes is declared the winner. Down is when any part of your body is touching the competition floor except your feet and/or one hand.

OUT OF BOUNDS is If a competitor has both feet outside of the boundary line without be pushed or shoved out. First infraction will be a warning, while each time after will result in a point being awarded to his/her opponent. An out of bounds competitor cannot score a point while out of bounds. In bounds competitor can score on an out of bounds competitor if the center referee has not called stop.


MAJORITY VOTE: Points are awarded by a majority vote of all judges. The majority of judges must agree on the same technique being scored, only that a point will count as a score. When applicable, a majority of the judges calling the point must call a two (2)-point kick before two points can be awarded. Otherwise only one point is awarded.


WHAT IS A POINT: A point is a sport karate technique that is scored by a competitor in-bounds and up-right (not considered down) without time being called that makes contact to a competitor with the allowable amount of focused touch contact to a legal target area. Focused Touch Contact: the legal amount of contact allowed to certain scoring areas. A scoring technique must be controlled and executed with proper targeting, focus, distance, and timing. It must show proper mental focus before, during and after the execution.


LEGAL TARGET AREAS: Entire head and face, ribs, chest, abdomen, and kidneys. ILLEGAL TARGET AREAS: Spine, back of neck, throat, sides of the neck, groin, legs, knees and back.
NON-TARGET AREAS: Hips, shoulders, buttocks, arms, and feet.


LEGAL TECHNIQUES: Legal techniques are all controlled sport karate techniques, except those listed as illegal.


ILLEGAL TECHNIQUES: Head butts, hair pulls, bites, scratches, elbows, knees, eye attacks of any kind, open handed techniques to the face, take downs on a hard surface floor, ground fighting on a hard surface, any stomps or kicks to the head of a downed competitor, slapping, grabbing for more than one second, uncontrolled blind techniques, any uncontrolled throws, takedowns or sweeps and any other uncontrolled dangerous techniques that are deemed unsafe in sport karate.

GRABBING: A competitor may grab the uniform top of his/her opponent in an attempt to score with a sport karate technique for only one second (immediately), after which time he/she must release the uniform. Likewise, the uniform pants may be grabbed for one second to an upright opponent in an attempt to score.


SWEEPS, TAKEDOWNS, GRABS AND GROUND FIGHTING: Sweeps not to take down an opponent, but only to obstruct the balance so as to follow up with a sport karate technique can only be executed to the back of the front leg at mid-calf or below. A sweep must be deemed a proper sweep and not a kick, to be legal. Controlled Takedowns and sweeps that are meant to take down an opponent and have no follow up technique are not allowed. A point is awarded only when the controlled, legal sweep or takedown is followed up effectively legally and immediately with an appropriate sport karate technique.


LIGHT TOUCH CONTACT: Means there is no penetration or visible movement of the competitor because of the contact. Light touch is required to all legal target areas in all black belt sparring divisions. There is no contact permitted to the face in all junior divisions and under

black belt competition. Touch contact maybe permitted at the discretion of tournament director in ADULT Black Belt divisions ONLY.


MODERATE TOUCH CONTACT: Means slight penetration or slight target movement. Moderate touch contact may be made to all legal target areas except the headgear and face.


WARNINGS AND PENALTIES: One and only one warning is allowed for breaking the rules before a penalty point is awarded. After the first warning is given, a penalty point is awarded for each and every rules violation. If a competitor receives four warnings (three penalty points) in any one match, he/she will be disqualified. If the severity of the first rules violation is deemed by the referee to be too severe, a penalty point can be issued immediately and the first warning will be forfeited.

Other Penalty Rules: A competitor cannot be penalized and still receive a point on the same call. A competitor can receive a point for a proper technique and another point from a penalty call against his/her competitor. If, in the opinion of the referee and/or the medical personnel, a competitor cannot continue because of an injury caused by an illegal penalized attack executed by his/her competitor, the offending competitor shall be automatically disqualified.

Other Cause for Penalization: Attacking illegal and non-target areas, using illegal techniques, running out of the ring to avoid fighting, falling to the floor to avoid fighting, continuing after being ordered to stop, excessive stalling, blind, negligent or reckless attacks, uncontrolled techniques, showing unsportsmanlike behavior by the competitor, his/her coaches, friends, etc., excessive contact, and delay of time are just some examples of possible penalization. See new Limiting Contact between Officials and Competitors for other possible penalizations.


DISQUALIFICATION: Requires a majority vote by all officials, unless it is an automatic disqualification. Non-Competing Penalty: If, in the majority opinion of the officials, it is considered that one or both competitors are not making an obvious attempt to compete in the sparring match in the true spirit of competition, one or both competitors will be warned and if it continues, will be disqualified. Wrong Division: If any competitor competes in a division he/she does not qualify to compete in due to age, weight, rank, gender, style, etc., he/she will be disqualified.


COACHING: The luxury of having a coach is something that most competitors do not have access to. Therefore, it sometimes can become an unfair advantage over a competitor who does not have a coach. The rules are made and enforced so no one competitor has an advantage or disadvantage over another competitor. Therefore, coaching is allowed but only under the following guidelines:

1. Never, at any time, can a coach enter the ring without the referee’s permission, 2. No abusive, violent, unsportsmanlike or overzealous coaching; 3. Coaches cannot ask for a time out unless they are protesting a rules violation (only the competitor may ask for a time out), 4. Coaches can never, at any time, interfere with the proper running of the ring or the decisions of the judges. A Coach is defined as anyone who is trying to help one competitor in anyway. A coach could be but is not limited to a friend, parent, teammate, or an official coach. The center referee can issue a warning to a competitor for each time his/her coach is interfering with a match or disrupting fair play between contestants. A referee can ask for a disqualification of a contest, but requires a majority vote of all judges.



TIME LIMIT: Each divisional form or weapons routine must be three (3) minutes or less. The time starts once the competitor enters the competition ring. Any competitor, team form or team demo that goes over the allowed time limit is automatically disqualified. At the 2 minute 45 second mark of a competitor’s form the time keeper will shout out “FIFTEEN SECONDS”.

SCORING RANGES OF FORM AND WEAPONS: The Scoring range should always be discussed by the center referee and judges before the divisions starts.


TIES: If there is a tie for 1st thru 3rd place, the majority of the judge’s scores determine the winner. If there is not a majority of judges for one competitor and one judge or more gave the same score for the tied competitor, the judge that gave the same scores must be ask to make a decision and break the tie. All judges must make scoring decisions by giving different scores to the competitors. Ties for 4th through 8th place are never broken. They will remain tied. If there is a tie and there is not a majority judge’s decision and no judge gave the same score to any one competitor, the tied competitors will compete again and be scored again.


STARTING A FORM OVER: If a competitor starts his/her form over because of a memory lapse or any other reason due to his/her own negligence, he/she may perform the form again. The officials will score as though there was not a mistake, but the center referee will instruct the scorekeeper to subtract .50 points from the competitor’s final score in all divisions intermediate or higher. A single restart for the beginning and novice divisions will be permitted with no penalty. The three-minute time limit will start over. A competitor can only start over one time for scoring. If a competitor has to start over not due to his/her negligence, he/she will not be penalized on the start over.


FAIRNESS RULE: If a question arises that is not completely covered by this rule book, the official rules arbitrator or tournament director may at his/her discretion, overrule, modify or change a delineated rule if he/she believes that enforcing such a rule would result in a inherent unfair outcome to a competitor. However, the rules arbitrator should overrule, modify or change a delineated rule only in extreme cases. 

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