Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Key terminology for the traditional kumite match

In addition to competing, in the men’s black belt kata, at the upcoming JKA (Japan Karate Association) Kumamoto Prefecture Championships I’ll also be judging. In light of this, I thought that today I’d outline the key terminology for the traditional kumite match; furthermore, the whistle commands for match officials.


1.    Senshu seiretsu: Announcing the competitors to line up before or after a karatedo match/event).

2.    Shomen ni rei: Asking competitors to bow to the front.

3.    Otagai ni rei: Asking competitors to bow to each other.

4.    Shobu ippon hajime or Shobu sanbon hajime: Beginning either a one point (elimination) match or three point (finals) match.

5.    Yame: To “stop” a match (to award points, warnings or penalties etcetera) to or conclude it.

6.    Moto no ichi: Telling a/the competitor(s) to return their start positions.

7.    Tsuzukete hajime: To restart the match.

8.    Tsuzukete: Telling the competitors to `fight on’ (continue) if one or both stops during the match.

9.    Ato shibaraku: Alerting the competitors that there is only 30 seconds of time left in the match.

10. Aka / Shiro: Indicating the `red’ and `white’ competitor.

11. Jodan: To indicate an upper-level/head attack.

12. Chudan: To indicate a middle-level/torso attack.

13. Tsuki:  To indicate a punch.

14. Keri: To indicate a kick.

15. Uchi: To indicate a strike.

16. Renzoku-waza: To indicate a combination technique.

17. Waza-ari: To indicate a half point (“not quite an ippon”).

18. Ippon: To indicate a full point (a blow with the potential to `finish’).

19. Awasete ippon: To indicate that score added together makes a full point.

20. Torimasen:  Indicating no point is to be awarded.

21. Hayai: Indicating that one attack is faster than the other (in an exchange of blows).

22. Aiuchi: Indicating simultaneous attacks; thus, no score.

23. Maai: Indicating that distancing was wrong; hence, no score.

24. Ukete-masu: Indicating that an attack was blocked.

25. Nukete-masu: Indicating an off target attack; and therefore, no score.

26. Yowai – indicating that an attack was too weak; and accordingly, no score.

27. Keikoku: Cautioning one or both of the competitors.

28. Chui: – A formal warning.

29. Hansoku: Disqualifying a competitor. (Note – the announcement of `shikkaku’ is used for more serious disqualifications).

30. Mubobi: Indicating non-defending.

31. Jogai: Indicating out of bounds.

32. Hantei: Indicating decision time.

33. Aka no kachi / Shiro no Kachi: Indicating red or white is the winner.

34. Hikiwake: Indicating a draw.

35. Sai Shiai: Indicating a rematch.

36. Sai-Sai Shiai Indicating a secondary rematch.

37. Sakidori: Indicating a “sudden death” match, in a second rematch situation; that is, the first competitor to score will win the match.

38. Shobu hajime: To begin a “sudden death” match.

39. Shugo: Indicating a call a meeting between the corner judges and centre referee.

40. Kiken: To indicate a withdrawal of competitor/competitors.



a) Long whistle blow followed by a short whistle blow (Start / Hajime).

b) Two short whistle blows (Stop / Yame).

c) Three short whistle blows (Call to have a judges meeting / Shugo).

d) Long whistle blow followed by a short whistle blow (Decision time / Hantei).

e) Short whistle blow (Lower flags or score boards).


a) Five short whistle blows to stop the match.


a) Long whistle blow (Full point / Ippon has been scored).

b) Short whistle blow (Half point / Waza-ari has been scored).

c) Five short whistle blows (Attention call to the Head Judge).

I have been slowly going back and renewing my qualifications with the JKA and hope to increase my judging skills this year. My target, in this regard, is to return to being an A-Kyu Shinpan (Judge) and also `reach the roof’ with my other qualifications (as a JKA Godan). But, of course, training is always the `number one’ priority. Step-by-step… All the very best from sakura covered Japan. Osu, André

 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

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