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Rules & Regulations of Karate

By Faith Davies

The World Karate Federation encompasses six continents and holds international tournaments. To maintain the integrity of the sport and promote safe competition, there are specific rules that govern them.

Required Dress

Contestants must wear a regulation karate gi with no embellishments except for an emblem representing their country. No jewelry of any kind is permitted.

Duration of Matches and Tournament Ring

Non-skid mats must be used in all competitions, and all advertising media must be at least 1 meter from the competition area. Male tournaments can last between 3 and 4 minutes while female matches between 2 and 3 minutes.

Judges and Scoring

There is one referee, three judges and an arbitrator for each tournament. Scoring is based upon the form, attitude, timing and distance of each competitor, and the winner is determined by who receives the highest score.

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Prohibited Behavior

Blows cannot be made to the throat, arms, legs, groin, or instep, nor can an open-handed blow be made to the face. Certain throwing techniques are forbidden as is clenching, wrestling, pushing or attacks made with the head, elbows or knees. Penalties of extra points to the opponent's scores can be given.


A contestant can be required to forfeit the game if injured. Players who are injured during a bout cannot return to the tournament unless cleared by a doctor, and there is a penalty for feigning or exaggerating an injury.


Judges' decisions can be protested by contestants, but discipline can be given for frivolous protests.

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