Forbidden to bear weapons by their Japanese rulers in the 17th century, the inhabitants of the Okinawa Island started to practise methods of self-defense with “empty hands”, which is the actual meaning of the word karate in Japanese. Today, more than 10 million karate practitioners from 168 countries are members of the World Karate Federation.
Karate consists of two events: Kata, which is performed individually, and Kumite, which is a combative event between two competitors.
In the Kata event, competitors perform a series of offensive and defensive karate techniques against imaginary opponents, marked by a panel of judges. Techniques are expected to be performed with proper timing, distance, power, balance and speed. Within the philosophy of karate, each technique stems from an idea, so judges are also looking for the expression of that idea in the way a technique is performed.
A Kumite bout lasts three minutes for men and two minutes for women, during which combatants try to dominate each other using a free combination of karate techniques. Points are scored when a technique is applied to an opponent vigorously and with precision and good form. Depending on the technique and the way it is executed, judges award sanbon (three points), nihon (two points) or ippon (one point).
The outcome of a bout is determined when a combatant has an eight-point advantage over the opponent or, once the time has elapsed, one of the karatekas has a point lead. If the combatants are equal once the time has elapsed, the match goes into “sudden death” in which the first combatant to score a point wins the bout.