The countdown to the IOGKF World Friendship tournament is on and with over 400 participants expected to grace South Africa, the event is starting to heat up. Below is your exclusive preview to a once in four year event, the IOGKF International World Championships...


General outline of how a match takes place:

IRI KUMI is performed first and a winner announced.

(Fights are one (1) minute non-stop fighting time. Points are scored continuously on a differential basis and awarded as labelled in the official rule document.)

KATA is performed immediately after the IRI KUMI and a winner announced:

The Overall winner is decided as follows:

  • If a person wins IRI KUMI and KATA, they are the winner;
  • If a person wins either IRI KUMI or KATA, the winner is decided by a play-off KATA. 
  • The centre referee will announce the KATA to be performed from the specifications in section 7.1.2 of official rules document.
  • A contestant may only win on KATA in one consecutive round - the next round he/she must win the IRI KUMI.
  • A contestant winning a round on KATA, will wear a Blue ribbon around their arm until the next round, which, if they win the IRI KUMI, will be then be removed again.
  • The centre referee must warn the contestant winning on KATA that he/she has to win the IRI KUMI in the next round.
  • If such a person loses the IRI KUMI in the next round, no KATA will be done.

See below the highlights of IOGKF South Africa’s most recent tournament below, including a full match scenario to paint the clearest possible picture of how the IOGKF World Friendship Tournament will play out...

Address from IOGKF World Tournament Chief Referee

Event host, Sensei Bakkies Laubscher, will be personally overseeing all of the refereeing and judging at the IOGKF World Friendship tournament...

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Why do we have regular tournaments in South Africa, and have had for the last 25 plus years? I stated my personal opposition to in the Ubuntu preview article (Breaking news section of the newsletter) – what made me go along with it in our association in South Africa?

Firstly, I realized that about 80% of our members in South Africa are juniors, and from my experience as a school teacher, I know that juniors do not have long term objectives (contrary to what Dr. Phil says!) – They need very visible, short term objectives, such as regular grading assessments and competitions to keep their interest and motivation.  Eventually they grow older and hopefully they will then identify new horizons in their Karate training.  I reflected back on my own career and realized that my performances in tournaments in my junior years  - I started at 14 - probably helped as motivation to continue training to the stage where I started sensing something more permanent, substantial, real, and the pursuit of a real Art.

Secondly, most young adults also need short(er) term objectives before they establish more substantial motives.   They have more personal reasons for practicing but there is still a need to evaluate themselves against others – in South Africa especially, we have a very competitive culture, as our sports teams have proved over the years.

So I decided, if we do competition, it had to comply with certain criteria:

 1.   It had to be in line with our traditional objectives – self defense in a civilian environment using mainly punching, striking and kicking techniques - and the development of the total spectrum of Goju Ryu – not only Kata, and not only fighting, but a combination of both.  I have seen international Kata champions, who could not sneeze their way out of a wet paper bag, and I have seen tournament fighters who could be doing boxing or anything else – no one would know the difference or classify what they are doing as a martial art.

So, it had to be something that enhances the total development – Kata skill and fighting skill, as close as possible to a real situation, where there’s no stoppage and constant interference from a referee.  We included take downs as a scoring opportunity, and the more difficult and higher level of skill techniques used, the more reward is given with a differentiated scoring system.

2.   It has to be Karate!   Not Ju Jitsu, not Kick boxing, not Grappling, not K1, not Full contact, not ‘Ring of Death’ - KARATE!

3.    It had to be a fair opportunity where the better person has enough chance to prove his/her superiority in the two main aspects of our system – Kata and Iri Kumi.  Unfortunately, it’s difficult to incorporate Hojo Undo (I actually liked Kyokushinkai’s method where you had to qualify for the tournament by breaking a certain number of boards.  This indicated that the techniques were of a pretty severe nature, were they followed through!).

4.    It has to be safe for competitors!  No parent likes to see a child get injured because of negligence, incompetence or uncontrolled actions by officials and opponents.  In our recent Cape (or State) championships, we had 13 competitors in the Men’s black belt division and 10 in the Ladies black belt division and not once was the Medical personnel called to the floor!  (See the Men black belt final clip on YouTube and at the top of this page).

5.    It had to be inexpensive!  No expensive hand mitts (USA$35), shin guards (USA$25-65), headgear (USA$95), protective clothing, etc. – just a mouth guard (USA$2) and groin guard (USA$12) is sufficient.

6.    It had to be economic in a time sense.  Both types of contest are judged with a show of flags – in less than 10 seconds you have a decision!

7.    It had to be relatively easy to understand by non-Karate persons, such as parents. Otherwise it loses its appeal for parents, who are our biggest clients!

I am the first to admit that the system is not perfect, but it is a step away from the boring Shobu Ippon type contests, the nature which I have not seen changed in 47 years since my first competition! 

We have used this system it in South Africa since the mid eighties and keep on improving where necessary - our members and parents are satisfied.  It was used in the Team contest in 2006 in Canada and favorable feedback was received from competitors and Sensei’s.  Interestingly, I noticed that the World bodies are starting with a similar system, which means we were on the right track all along.

I have circulated the Rules to all countries already and it’s also available in the March 2010 Edition of the IOGKF International Newsletter. Please feel free to contact me if you need another copy.

If you have a look at the official events website:, you will notice a referees course scheduled on Friday 29 October, 16h00 – 19h00.

To ensure above objectives, we need referees who know the Rules, no matter what our Dan grade.

On completion of the course, each referee will have to qualify by passing a short written test as well as a short practical test, done individually on the basic scenarios, where-after you will be categorized as an ‘A, ‘B’ or ‘C class referee. This will determine your application as a referee during the tournament, so be warned that you need to know the Rules!  In due course, I will forward more information on the nature and critical areas covered by the tests to give our senior referees from outside South Africa chance to get themselves on track.

I would like to conclude with a small synopsis of the Rules which is the absolute minimum knowledge requirement for potential referees, officials, team managers and participants.

 Synopsis on Rules

Referees and Table Officials should be familiar with all the content of the Rules.

Team Managers and Participants need to have thorough knowledge on the following articles in the Rules to make for a more professional competition:



Needs to know


Needs to be known

Referees, Participants:

Article 1: Definitions.

        Need to know all the definitions but especially the ones (3x) listed for participants:

  •          Scoring technique
  •          Point
  •          Illegal Contact



Team Managers, Participants:

Article 3: Dress regulations

  •          Par 3.2 – 3.5: Dress for competitors; Protective clothing; Forbidden articles; General appearance and Hygiene.


Referees, Participants:

Article 6: Iri kumi/Kata competition.

Need to know entire article WELL!

  •          Par 6.1 – Know and understand the format and scoring techniques

  •          Par 6.3 – Know and understand commands and signals
  •          Par 6.6 - Types of Infringements

  •          Par 6.6.1 – 6.6.7: Forbidden Techniques; Excessive Contact; Dangerous actions; Cowardice; Continuous minor infringements; Unsportsmanlike behavior; Yogai.



Table Officials

Team Managers, Participants:

Article 7: Kata competition.

Par 7.1: Prescribed Kata and sequence of execution; Play off Kata system.


Table Officials

Team Managers, Participants:

Article 8 : Black Belt Team events

All parties need to know and understand entire article!



Table Officials

Team Managers, Participants:

Article 10: Table Officials
  •          Article 10.6: Draw Sheet System:

Need to understand the concept of Winner/Loser Pool and how bye’s are processed.

Referee hand signals -  positions and meanings:

There are five referee’s (1 centre official and 4 corner referee’s) for each match at the World Friendship Tournament. These officials have various hand movements and signals to make their decisions and rulings clear to competitors and spectators. Pictured below are the basic centre referee, foul rulings, corner referee and final decisions positions...


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‘Moto no Ichi!’ – Toes on the starting lines

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‘Shobu Hajime’ – Fight Begins                          Step backwards after Shobu Hajime

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‘Yame!’ – Stop!

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‘Tsuzukete’ – Prepare (followed by)  ‘Hajime!’ – Continue Fighting


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‘Jikan!’ – Stop Clock

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Yame! Soremade! – Fight finished, wait for the decision.



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‘Aka, Keikoku!’ – Red, Lowest level Warning

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‘Aka, Hansoku Chui!’ – Red, Second level warning.

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‘Aka, Hansoku!’ – Red, Disqualified!

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‘Jinkaku!’ – Disqualified from Tournament!


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                Corner referee basic position                  Foul indication to centre referee

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‘Shiro, Yogai!’ - White stepped out of area / ‘Aka, Yogai!’ – Red stepped out of area

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Corner referee with clickers in hands to score points


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Corner Referee Decision to Aka/Red

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“Aka, no Kachi!’ – Red is the winner.

IOGKF Member Country Preparations:

With the excitement of the World Championships building, the IOGKF International Newsletter asked all attending member countries what their teams were doing in preparation for the big event. The following countries responded...

IOGKF AUSTRALIA           From Joint Chief Instructor: Sensei Joe Roses

IOGKF Australia has really been stepping up its training in the last few weeks. Both Sensei Chris Larken and I are working really closely with our competitors and those who will be attending South Africa. Some of our senior students have also been attending and participating in tournaments all over the country to gain extra experience before the World tournament.

We have been placing a large emphasis on bag work as well as timing training. Work has been spent on developing the fast twitch muscle fibres in all of our competitors.

IOGKF CANADA                 From Chief Instructor: Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura

In IOGKF Canada, we used SAGA rule first time at our annual friendship tournament in April this year.  We chose 4 male competitors representing IOGKF Canada to compete at world tournament in South Africa this year.  Please see the tournament feedback and result at following sites.

IOGKF CHILE          From Chief Instructor: Sensei Rodrigo Sepulveda

In Chile we are involved in competing in various competitions all over our country at the moment.

IOGKF DENMARK  From Chief Instructor: Sensei Henrik Larsen

Denmark is taking only a few competitors to the tournament, and they are competing in the individual categories.  Preparations are such that we have regularly scheduled Karate classes covering all of the aspects that the competitors need, and which they are all attending:

  • We have Britt Larsen (former National coach for Kata and world champion) who teaches her regular competition Kata classes every Thursday.
  • There are twice weekly regular Kumite classes.
  • All Karate members have free access to the affiliated gym and the competitors are training both cardio and weights in preparation.
  • I have scheduled time with the competitors to make sure that they have all the support that they need and to ensure that they fully understand the tournament rules.

IOGKF ENGLAND – EGKA  From Chief Instructor: Sensei Ernie Molyneux

England has been holding squad training session for at least 6 months now. We have the original number of 30 down to about 10 or 12 competitors, some of the people whose fighting prowess is very good do not, unfortunately, meet the same standard with their Kata.  The same for the very technical and gifted Kata students who’s fighting could be improved.

The squad is to be finalised on Sunday the 15th August, so all the members are busy in their prospective Dojo’s training hard to make the final 12.

It has been a difficult choice, and I have been fortunate to have the assistance of Sensei Linda Marchant on all of the squad training sessions.  The last session shall be attended by all the EGKA seniors to make the final selections, they will be Senseis: Roy Flatt, Paul Nolan, Linda Marchant and myself.

IOGKF ITALY           From Chief Instructor: Sensei Paolo Taigo Spongia

The Italian team for this tournament will be composed of about 5 IOGKF Italy members (October is a terrible month to leave for Italian students) and another 6/7 people will also join the Gasshuku.

First of all, in preparation for this friendship tournament, I insisted on the fact that they don't have to make any special preparation for the competition, because they don't need to specialize in sports Karate.

The team are just training some more in the Dojo and every week they went together to train one day of the week in a different Dojo, where they train and make Iri Kumi with different companions.

I think that they have to be excited and honoured to compete but never think of the competition like an important goal, and never forget the real goal of our practice.

They may look at the competition just like a good experience to face themselves, thanks to the opponents, in the true spirit of Shiai and Budo, with courage, honesty and respect.

試 = to test, to check yourself
合 = harmonizing, fitting, to become one body with the other.