What is Full Contact Karate?

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Competitors wear protective gear like headgear, mouth guards, and padded clothing in semi-contact sparring. Full contact karate goes further in that the participants wear no protective gear (no headgear). These students use more advanced techniques like full power kicks and punches without gloves.

Some people have misconceptions about karate due to the rules of semi-contact karate tournaments in which competitors are not allowed to hit each other with full force. Optically it may look ‘soft’ to some other martial artists when compared with other disciplines.

Those people would probably change their minds after watching or participating in full-contact karate tournaments where competitors can use punches and kicks with full power without getting hit with a penalty.

Karate is a Japanese martial art growing in popularity as an exercise and as a form of self-defense. There are different forms of karate, but one type, called full-contact karate (also known as knockdown karate), has been growing in popularity among practitioners who want to compete and push themselves to their limits. 

In this post, we’ll explain what full contact karate is, how it differs from other types of karate, and what you can expect if you practice it.

What is Full Contact Karate? 

Full contact karate is a martial art that uses full power in strikes, kicks, and blocks. The karate fighters wear no gloves, padding, or body protection other than groin guards. Bare-knuckle fighting, grabbing, holding the opponent, and clinching are not allowed.

Full contact karate is also known as knockdown karate style because it allows for knockdowns, considered a point in the match. An essential list of rules that apply to all full contact karate styles are:

  1. A knockdown requires that your opponent is on the ground for more than three seconds. If he gets up before then, he will not receive any points.
  2. A sweep requires that you knock your opponent off balance and force him to his knees or lower. You can only do this method after scoring a knockdown or body blow (see below).
  3. A body blow is when you hit your opponent with enough force to cause him to fall or lose his balance.
  4. The disqualification of a competitor.

What Types Of Karate is Full Contact?

There are many different types of karate, each with its emphasis and purpose, including:

Enshin Karate

Enshin Karate is a full-contact fighting style (Sabaki) that focuses on turning your opponent’s strength against him. The method of turning the strength involves using a variety of throws and grabs from other fighting styles.

Kyokushin Karate

Kyokushin Karate is a form of karate that allows you to use your hands and feet as weapons. You can’t punch your opponent in the face, but you can kick them in the body and throw them to the ground. The goal is to protect your hands and feet rather than your face. It’s such a lethal form of karate that it actually played a huge role in the creation of Dutch kickboxing.

Ashihara karate

The most well-known complete contact karate style is Ashihara karate, developed from Kyokushin. The competitions in Ashihara karate are like those in Enshin tournaments. They feature one-handed grips and throws, which are not allowed in other types of karate.

Shidokan Karate

Shidokan Karate is often called “triadalon karate.” It includes karate with full contact, wrestling, and Muay Thai techniques. This style allows you to move forward after a takedown, making it unique among other martial arts styles.


Seidokaikan translates to “the way of the harmonious spirit.” It’s similar to Kyokushin—identical kata, identical training regimen. The only real difference between the two is that you should not confuse seidokaikan with seido—a form of incomplete contact karate.

Kudo (or Daidojuku)

Kudo (or Daidojuku) is a form of full-contact karate that is most similar to modern MMA: participants wear headgear with a plastic front cover and may use wrestling moves in tournaments. 

Kenpo / Kempo Karate

Some Kempo schools only offer point sparring, which means there is no physical contact between opponents. They can use punches and kicks in a controlled manner.

While other Kempo schools emphasize full contact sparring (with headgear and small gloves), this type of Kempo allows for full-contact grappling and striking, with the goal being to knock your opponent down.

It all depends on which set of rules in which they’re competing (mixed Kempo, semi-contact Kempo, or knockdown Kempo ).

What are The Rules in a Full-Contact Karate Tournament?

In a full-contact karate tournament, there are some rules that competitors must follow. [3]

First, competitors should present a medical certificate at the weigh-in. They need the certificate to ensure that all competitors are healthy and safely participate in the tournament.

Competitors must also be at least 18 years of age and have a rank of fourth Kyu or higher. This requirement is to prevent inexperienced people from competing.

Competitors must provide information and registration forms to participate in the tournament. Only official Branch Chiefs can enter requests for enrolments into the tournament. Competitors are responsible for ensuring they have all their paperwork filled out correctly before turning it in at registration.

Participation in full contact karate is the competitors’ responsibility only. If there is any damage during the tournament, the competitor must ensure that they have insurance coverage for knockdown fighting.

 Waza-Ari: Half Point Score 

  1. A legal technique that knocks an opponent down, who can return to his feet in three seconds
  2.  A competitor who does not seem eager to fight quickly resumes the battle within three seconds.
  3. When a competitor goes down, the referee and the doctor may decide that the competitor can continue.
  4.  If no one scores in a bout, a half-point scorer will win the match.

Ippon Gachi: Full Point Victory

  1.  A move that results in an immediate knockdown of the opponent for more than three seconds.
  2.  If the opponent refuses to engage in combat after three seconds or more because of a legal technique
  3.  A Waza Ari is worth half a point, but if you get two of them in a row, it’s worth a full point (Awasete Ippon).
  4.  The disqualification of a player will automatically award the victory to their opponent. 

Hantei Gachi: Winner By Decision 

  1. Suppose neither contestant has scored either a decisive point (Ippon) or a half-point (Waza Ari), or more than a half-point (Hansoku). In that case, the referee’s decision of the bout will be final as the main priority in the decision.
  2.  If the overall damage is low, efficient attacks will be the criteria for the decision.
  3.  In the case of a tie score, the winner will be the one who was more forceful and dynamic during the bout.
  4. If a referee awards a Genten, or penalty point, to a competitor during Encho-sen, the final match extension, his opponent will win the victory.

Where can I watch Full Contact Karate?

Karate Combat Season 4 – Atamov vs. Levine: This event will be live at Universal Studios, Florida, on Saturday, June 25. The middleweight and bantamweight championship fights will occur, along with the Kyokushin Karate debut of Gabriel Varga.

International  Championship “Reunion Open 2022” (IKO): This event will take place on October 16th, 2022. [3]

The 2nd European Full Contact Championship (EFKO): This event will occur on June 10th, 2022, in Eilat (Israel).[3]

The best way to watch full contact karate combat is on the official Karate.com website, but you don’t have to stay there. You can also watch it on ESPN Player and various other apps. If you want to see it on UFC Fight Pass or Eleven Sports, you’ll need to pay for a subscription.

Famous Full Contact Karate Practitioners 

Guy Mezger:  He was the 1993 and 1994 World Full-Contact Karate Champion. Mezger is a 6th Dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate who has an incredible martial arts career with a 42–1 (40 KO’s) record.

Robert Whittaker:  He uses his movement and explosiveness to great effect. This combination of power and technique often results in spectacular knockouts.  Whittaker switched his focus to mixed martial arts after eight years of training in Goju-Ryu and Hapkido.

Bas Rutten:  Rutten studied taekwondo as a young man. He holds the 5th-degree black belt in Kyokushin Karate and a second-degree black belt.  He put his whole heart into the sport.

Stephen Randall Thompson: He is a professional mixed martial artist and model from the United States and a former full-contact kickboxer with 37 wins and 20 knockouts. Thompson is one of the UFC’s Welterweight division’s top fighters and had a draw for the UFC championship belt.


Full contact karate is a lot more than just kicking and punching. While full contact karate strikes and kicks are powerful enough to knock someone out, they have their place in martial arts. Just like in most other martial arts, full-contact karate teaches discipline, respect for authority, and how to defend yourself if necessary. 

If you’re curious about it, we recommend checking out the style that you’re the most interested in learning about through the internet or finding a local school that specializes in it near you.

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