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eBooks

Karate Kumite: How to optimize


Performance
Chapter: Performance Analysis in Karate

Edited by: Helmi Chaabane

Published Date: December, 2015

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eBooks

Performance Analysis in Karate


Emerson Franchini1*, Irineu Loturco2, Fbio Yuzo Nakamura2
1
Martial Arts and Combat Sports Research Group, School of Physical Education and
Sport, University of So Paulo, Brazil
2
Nucleus of High Performance in Sports, So Paulo, Brazil

*
Corresponding author: Emerson Franchini, Martial Arts and Combat Sports
Research Group, School of Physical Education and Sport, University of So Paulo,
Brazil Av. Prof. Mello Morais, 65, So Paulo (SP), Brazil. ZIP: 05508-030 e-mail:
efranchini@usp.br

Abstract
This chapter has as main goal to present data concerning performance analysis during
karate kumite competitions. The available data suggest that karate kumite competition is a
high-intensity intermittent combat sport, as the karate athletes typically perform 8.8 2.3s
of effort by 11.3 5.8 s of pause, generating a 1:1.5 effort: pause ratio. They predominantly
perform punching techniques and these high-intensity activities are interpersed by 16-25
s, resulting in a 1:7 high-intensity effort by low-intensity effort ratio. These characteristc
have important implication for both physical conditioning and technical-tactical training
and coaches and strength and conditioning are encouraged to consider these time-motion
characteristics to provide a specific stimulus to their athlete.

Keywords: Combat Sports; Tactics; Technique; Time-Motion


Introduction
Performance analysis has a long tradition in sport, especially in team sports, as the
understanding of actions and time structure of different game situations can help coaches
to improve the technical-tactical training and strength and conditioning professionals to
increase specificity when organizing physical training sessions [1]. However, in combat
sports, only in the last decade there was an increase in the number of investigations
analyzing time-motion and performance analysis [2]. These studies have included karate
kumite as the combat sport investigated, considering different levels of competition [3,4],
sexes [5] and age groups [6], and reported the main actions performed, the successful
techniques executed by winners compared to defeated athletes and the description of the
periods of high- and low intensity actions and intervals [3,5]. Based on this aspect, some
authors have proposed practical applications to training prescription [7].
During karate kumite competition, the two opponents execute punching and kicking
karate skills. Thus, to be successful the athlete must present a rapid programming of
adequate offensive and defensive techniques in response to the opponent actions [7]. In

1
this type of competition, punching (referred as tsuki) and kicking (referred as geri) can be
directed to the head (jodan) and to the abdomen (chudan), although punching techniques
to the head must be controlled to avoid opponent injury [8]. Kumite competition is normally
disputed individually, but there is also the possibility of team competition. In individual
competition, athletes are divided according to sex, age and weight category. The maximum
match duration is 3-min for men eliminatory matches and 4-min for finals, while the
equivalents for women are 2- and 3-min, respectively [8]. The following scores are atributted
when specific actions are executed: 3 points for ippon, when leg techniques in the head or
when sweeping and throwing techniques, resulting in opponents fall or when punching
the opponent in the ground, are executed; 2 points for waza-ari, when kicks hiting the
trunk or punches hiting the back (including the posterior part of the head and the neck)
are performed; 1 point for yuko when single arm punch to the head or body is executed.
Excessive contact when attacking is not allowed and athletes are recommended to perform
kicks and punching techniques in a controlled way or to stop the throw just before contact
with the opponents targeted area [8].
Therefore, this chapter focused on karate kumite technical actions and the time structure
of different phases of the match. When available, information concerning differences between
sex, age, weight category, competition level and phase were presented.

Temporal Structure and Type of Technique during Simulation Matches


The knowledge of effort and pause periods can be used to direct the athletes focus of
attention during technical-tactical training and to improve the knowledge concerning the
energy systems demands during the typical karate kumite actions [5].
Beneke et al. [9] analyzed simulated karate kumite contests and reported an effort period
of 18 6 s and pause duration of 9 6 s, generating na effort-pause ratio of 2:1. The period
of effort was analyzed concerning the type of action conducted and it was observed that
high-intensity actions (e.g., punching or kicking techniques) lasting 1 to 3 s were performed
16.3 5.1 times during the entire combat, resulting in 3.4 2.0 high-intensity action per
minute. Subsequently, Iide et al. [6] compared the time-motion patterns during simulated
karate kumite lasting 2- and 3-min and observed that short-duration high-intensity actions
lasted 0.3 0.1 s in both durations, while the long duration ones were 2.1 1.0 s long in the
2-min combats and 1.8 0.4 s in the 3-min combats. When the total time of high-intensity
actions was calculated the authors reported 13.3 3.3 s for the 2-min combats and 19.4
5.5 s for the 3-min combats. Thus, a mean of 6.5 s of high-intensity per minute of combat
is conducted during kumite simulations.
The analysis of combat simulation is important, because coaches can compare the time-
motion and performance during this condition with those found in official competitions,
allowing the introduction of specific modifications to better simulate the competition
demands. For instance, the insertion of some high-intensity actions after the breaking
phases can be suggested to increase the physiological demands of the match, according to
the conditions/metabolic responses observed in the match analyses.

Temporal Structure and Type of Technique Executed During Official


Matches
Due to the fact that in official matches athletes try to perform as high as possible,
Chaabene et al. [3] compared the time-motion and technical actions executed by the same
karate athletes during simulated and official matches to verify the main differences in these
variables. They found that - independently of the match condition the karate athletes
execute upper-limbs techniques more frequently than lower-limbs techniques (Figure 1).
During the execution of attack techniques, athletes use upper-limb techniques during

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official matches more frequently than during simulated combats. Kizami-zuki represented
52.4% and 34.5% from all attacks executed during official and simulated matches,
respectively. When all techniques were considered, it represented 33.3% and 15.1% and
when upper-limb attack techniques were considered it represented 81.5% and 61.3% for
official and simulated matches, respectively. The execution of more upper-limb during
official matches can be due to the fact that athletes try to use techniques that provide more
probability to score and these techniques are faster and more difficult to intercept than
kicking techniques.
In fact, Jovanovic [10] reported that the time needed to exectute kizami-zuki was 0.11s,
which is shorter than the time necessary for the gyaku-zuki execution (around 0.15s). When
analyzing lower-limbs techniques [3], mawashi-geri-chudan represented 30% and 16.7%
of techniques used during official and simulated matches, respectively. The fast execution
of this kicking technique (0.177s) compared to other types of kicks [11] may explain the
preference of the athletes for this specific action, especially during official combats. Gyaku-
zuki-jodan represented 50.0% and 55.3% of the counterattacks executed during official and
simulated matches, respectively [3]. When only upper-body counterattacks were considered,
it represented 61.1% and 66.7% for official and simulated matches, respectively. From
attack combinations, kisami-kyaku-zuki-jodan represented 53.8% and 29.1% for official
and simulated matches, respectively. The use of upper-limb techniques was higher than
the use of lower-limbs ones either during simulated or official matches. The longer limb
trajectory and time required to the execution of kicking techniques compared to punching
techniques can be an explanation for this result.

140
120
*
Execution (% of total)

100
80
60
40
20
0
All techniques Attacks Counter attacks Combination of
attacks
Type of techniques

Simulated upper-limbs Simulated lower-limbs


Ocial upper-limbs Ocial lower-limbs
* Significantly different from simulated match (P < 0.05)
Figure 1: Percentage of upper- and lower-limbs technique execution in simulated and official karate
matches (Adapted from Chaabne et al., [3]; values are mean and standard deviation).

The temporal structure of both matches is presented in Figure 2.

3
25
Simulated Ocial *

20

15
Time (s)

10

0
Fighting Preparation Stoppage
Phases
* significantly different from the simulated match (P < 0.05)
Figure 2: Duration (s) of preparatory, fighting and stoppage phases in simulated and official
matches (Adapted from Chaabne et al., [3]; values are mean and standard deviation).

A longer stoppage time was found for the simulated match compared to the official one.
However, no difference was found for fighting or preparation phases. Conversely, the percentages
of preparatory (official = 45.8 12.2%; simulated = 55.2 9.3%) and fighting times (official =
6.8 2.3%; simulated = 10.4 3.3%) were lower during official compared to simulated combats,
while the percentage of stoppage time was higher during official (47.4 12.5%) compared to the
simulated match (34.4 7.5%). When the sum of each phase during the match was considered,
the fighting time was shorter for official (20.9 8.1 s) compared to the simulated match (30.4
9.9 s). Overall, these results suggest that the athletes seem to be more cautious during official
compared to simulated matches. The number of high-intensity actions was 14 6 for the official
and 18 5 for the simulated match, both lasting from 1 to 5 s, with no significant difference
between these conditions. The number of techniques applied by the athletes was 13 4 and
13 6 for official and simulated matches, respectively. One important aspect for intermittent
sports understanding is the effort-pause ratio, in order to enable coaches resembling simulated
training sessions for improving the specific endurance of the athletes. In this study, authors
reported that the effort-pause ratio for the simulated match was 1:1 (effort = 10.0 28s; pause =
11.9 2.7s), while for the official combat it was 1:1.5 (effort = 10.0 3.4s; pause = 16.2 4.1s).
The high-intensity action and rest ratio for simulated matches was 1:7 (high-intensity actions =
1.6 0.3s; rest = 11.9 2.7s), while for official it was 1:11 (high-intensity actions = 1.5 0.3s;
rest = 16.2 4.1s). The interval between two successive high-intensity actions also differed
between conditions, with shorter period for the simulated (16.2 4.1s) compared to official
matches (25.7 10.2s) of the majority of the fighting periods during both conditions lasted less
than 2s (official = 78.6 15.4%; simulated = 76.0 14.7% of total fighting time).

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Certainly, a very important aspect in the time-motion studies is the possibility to detect
which factors differ between winners and defeated athletes in a sport competition. This was
investigated by Chaabne et al. [4] during official matches. Although the results of the time-
motion and techniques execution analyses were similar to those previously reported [3], the
authors did not find any difference between winners and defeated athletes (Figure 3 and
Table 1). Briefly, winners and defeated athletes executed a similar number of techniques
during the match: 14 5 and 12 4, respectively. Total fighting time during the match was
similar between winners (24.1 6.0s) and defeated (22.6 13.9s), as well as the interval
between successive high-intensity actions (winners = 24.1 10.5s; defeated = 19.1 10.7s).
A 1:1.5 effort-pause ratio was found and the high-intensity action-pause ratio was 1:10 for
both groups. Preparatory, fighting and stoppage times represented 34.1%, 5.8% and 60.1%
of the total match time and the majority (83.8 12.0%) of fighting time lasted less than 5 s.

25
Winners Defeated
20

15
Time (s)

10

0
Fighting Preparation Stoppage
Phases
Figure 3: Duration (s) of preparatory, fighting and stoppage phases for winners and defeated athletes during
official matches (Adapted from Chaabne et al., [4]; values are mean and standard deviation).

Winners (n = 7) Defeated (n = 7)
Upper-limb attacks (rep) 21 21
Lower-limb attacks (rep) 21 10
Upper-limb counterattack (rep) 20 21
Lower-limb counterattack (rep) 10 20
Combination attacks (rep) 21 11
Table 1: Type of attacks, counterattacks and combinations performed during an official match by winners and defeated
athletes (Adapted from Chaabne et al., [4]; values are mean and standard deviation).

In spite of the accumulated data concerning the average performance of athletes during
simulated/actual combats, it would be important to know more about the performance
of the outlier athletes during top-level competitions (e.g, World championships). In
this regard, for instance, in karate only two studies investigated athletes during World
Championships [5,12].
Vidranski et al., [12] studied the 2008 Karate World Championship and reported that
nearly 91% of actions during the matches were non-scoring techniques, indicanting that
the efficiency to score points during attack actions is lower than 10%, although they did not
consider techniques that were used as feint or in combination to techniques that resulted
in scored, which highly compromises the interpretation of the data. They also reported that
the gyaku-tsuki-jodan and gyaku-tsuki-chudan were more used by winners (compared to

5
defeated athletes), as well as kicking and throwing techniques. From an applied perspective,
these data suggest that winners are capable of performing more precise and varied combat
actions than defeated athletes, which could have important implications in determining the
appropriate training and competitive strategies.
Tabben et al., [5] analyzed the final matches of the 2012 Karate World Championship
and reported no difference for sex, match outcome and weight category concerning the
combat phases (preparation, fighting and stoppage) when considering the time per sequence
(Figures 4 and 5) or the percentage of total time (preparation: 50.7 12.3%; fighting: 14.8
4.1%; stoppage: 12.8 1.6%). These time-related data indicate that the distribution of
the specific actions during the karate match is independent of sex and weight category, at
least when karatekas from the same technical-tactical level (i.e., WC finalists) are analyzed.
Taken together, the data from Tabben et al. [5] resulted in a effort-pause ratio of
approximately 1:1.5 (8.8 2.3s of action by 11.3 5.8s of pause), with 33 8 high-intensity
actions per match, lasting 1 to 3s each, generating a high-intensity action to pause ratio of
1:8.

20

15
Time (s)

10

0
Fighting Preparation Stoppage

Phases
Male Winners Male Defeated Female Winners Female Defeated

Figure 4: Duration (s) of preparatory, fighting and stoppage phases for male and female winners and defeated athletes during
the 2012 World Karate Championship (Adapted from Tabben et al., [5]; values are mean and standard deviation).

20

15
Time (s)

10

0
Fighting Preparation Stoppage

Phases

Light Middle Heavy

Figure 5: Duration (s) of preparatory, fighting and stoppage phases for light, middle and heavy weight athletes during the 2012
World Karate Championship (Adapted from Tabben et al., [5]; values are mean and standard deviation).

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When the type of technique applied was considered, they found lower values for
counterattack and graps actions in the female group compared to the male group (Figure 6),
but no differences were found for attack, time-attack and block times. For these variables,
no difference was found when winner and defeated athletes were compared (Figure 7) or
when the different weight categories were considered (Figure 8). However, the effort-pause
ratio differed between weight categories, with lower values to middle weight categories (1:2)
compared to light (1:1.5) and heavy categories (1:1). Moreover, the number of high-intensity
actions was lower for females (31 9) compared to males (35 6).

3
Time (s)

2
*

0
Male Female
Phases

Attack Timed-attack Counterattack Block Grasps

* significantly different from males (P < 0.05)


Figure 6: Duration (s) of different technique execution for male and female athletes during the 2012 World Karate Championship
(Adapted from Tabben et al., [5]; values are mean and standard deviation).

3
Time (s)

0
Winners Defeated
Groups

Attack Timed-attack Counterattack Block Grasps

Figure 7: Duration (s) of different technique execution for winner and defeated athletes during the 2012 World
Karate Championship (Adapted from Tabben et al., [5]; values are mean and standard deviation).

7
4
3.5
3
2.5
Time (s)
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
Light Middle Heavy

Groups
Attack Timed-attack Counterattack Block Grasps
Figure 8: Duration (s) of different technique execution for light, middle and heavy weight athletes during the 2012 World Karate
Championship (Adapted from Tabben et al., [5]; values are mean and standard deviation).

Concerning the specific techniques used, the most used upper-limb techniques was the
gyaku-zuki-jodan (35.1% for male and 34.8% for female of the total upper-limb techniques),
while the most used lower-limb technique was the mawashi-geri-chudan (24.1% for male)
and kisa-mawashi-geri-jodan (39.2% for female). The most used upper- and lower-body
technique combination was the kisami-mawashi-geri-gyaku-zuki (38.5% for the male group)
and the gyaku-zuki-mawashi-geri-jodan (37.5% for the female group). Ligth weight athletes
executed more combinations (6.2 2.7%) than middle weight athletes (1.9 1.6%). When the
outcome was considered, winners executed blocking actions more frequently than defeated
athletes (Figure 9), but no other differences were detected. Additionally, the type of actions
during the matches did not differ between sexes (Figure 10) and weight categories (Figure
11). However, it is important to mention that men produce higher punch acceleration than
women, which is probably related to their greater ability to produce force and power in
upper- and lower-body exercises [13]. Most of the techniques executed were directed to the
head (79.1 15.1%) in comparison to techniques directed to the body (20.9 15.1%).

60

50

40 *
Frequency (%)

30

20

10

0
Winners Defeated
Groups

Attack Timed-attack Counterattack Block Grasps

* significantly different from winners (P < 0.05)


Figure 9: Frequency (%) of different technique execution for winner and defeated athletes during the 2012 World Karate
Championship (Adapted from Tabben et al., [5]; values are mean and standard deviation).

8
60

50

40
Frequency (%)
30

20

10

0
Male Female
Groups

Attack Timed-attack Counterattack Block Grasps

Figure 10: Frequency (%) of different technique execution for male and female athletes during the 2012 World Karate
Championship (Adapted from Tabben et al., [5]; values are mean and standard deviation).

50
45
40
35
Frequency (%)

30
25
20
15
10
5
0
Light Middle Heavy
Groups

Attack Timed-attack Counterattack Block Grasps


Figure 11: Frequency (%) of different technique execution for light, middle and heavy weight athletes during the 2012 World
Karate Championship (Adapted from Tabben et al., [5]; values are mean and standard deviation).

Conclusions and Practical Applications


Considering the studies that investigated official competitions it is possible to conclude
that: (a) there was a longer period of fighting activity in percentage of total for the matches
in the World Championship [5] compared those reported by Chaabne et al. [3] and
Chaabne et al. [4], which can be related to longer duration in the final matches in the World
Championship (4-min) compared to the matches analyzed in the other studies (3-min), and
especially because of the level (international versus national) and the phase (finals versus
eliminatories/finals) of the competitions; (b) the general effort-pause ratio is around 1:1.5
[3,5], although slightly different ratios were observed for middle (1:2) and heavy weight
categories (1:1) [5]; (c) the high-intensity action to pause ratio was around 1:11 [3] to 1:8
[5]; (d) the time-motion match structure (i.e., time of preparation, fighting and stoppage per
sequence of combat) is similar between winner and defeated athletes in national [4] and
international competitions [5]; (e) punching techniques are applied more frequently than
kicking techniques [3-5,12], which seems to be related to the fact that punching techniques
are faster, demand less energy [14] and during these techniques execution it is easier to

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avoid counterattacks compared to kicking techniques execution; (f) techniques are directed
mainly to the head [4,5], probably as an attempt to achieve higher scores as per rules; (g) the
gyaku-tsuki-jodan is the most used punching technique [4,5,12], while kisa-mawashi-geri-
chudan [3,5,12] is the most used kicking technique, although international-level females
seem to prefer the kisa-mawashi-geri-jodan [5]; (h) in international-level competition winners
executed blocks more frequently than defeated athletes, and females counterattacked less
frequently than males [5].
These data can be used to organize technical-tactical as well as physical conditioning
sessions, considering the specificity of actions for athletes from different competitive levels,
sexes and weight categories. Still, due to the importance of speed-power related abilities
in karate performance, strength and conditioning professionals are encouraged to develop
neuromuscular programs capable of improving lower and upper limbs muscle power in
top-level karate athletes. Finally, coaches and sports scientisits should also determine the
specific demand of their athletes matches to improve training organization and to identify
aspects needing improvement.

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