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Wado Heretic
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 23 May 2014
Posts: 494
Location: United Kingdom, England, Shropshire
Styles: Wado-Ryu , Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu (Kodokan), RyuKyu Kobojutsu

PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2020 12:15 pm    Post subject: Karate Combat: How represented are different styles? Reply with quote

As some know, Karate Combat is a Full-Contact Combat Sports promotion that first premiered in 2018, and has an emphasis on show-casing Karate in a full-contact and professional context.

A critique I often read in the Youtube comment section of Karate Combat Broadcast Replays and Highlight videos is that Shotokan is over-represented. I have been doing an event by event analysis and had hoped for some more events before presenting my analysis. However, again, as observers know the last event was in 2019 and since then further events have been scuppered first by the build-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games, and now Covid-Sars-2. Yet, with another event unlikely in the near future, I thought I would present my analysis thus far.

Please note that the representation by karateka in a division is based upon the Karate Combat website as it existed on the 17th May 2020. Furthermore, the percentages in the representation by bouts fought will not add up to 100: the numbers based on how many fights contained a fighter of a style. Take for example the middle-weight division: 80% just means in 8 of the 10 fights, one of the fighters was a Shotokan Karateka.

Lightweight Division:
Representation by Karateka in Division – Total Karateka: 21
    Shotokan: 10 (47.6%)
    Shito-Ryu: 8 (38.09%)
    Goju-Ryu: 1 (4.67%)
    Kyokushin (Kenbukai): 1 (4.67%)
    Shuri-Ryu: 1 (4.67%)

Representation by bouts fought – Total Bouts: 9
Shotokan: 7 (77.77%)
Shito-Ryu: 3 (33.33%)
American Karate (Unspecified 1): 1 (11.11%)

Note: Kevin Kowalczik, the American Karate Practitioner, no longer appears to be registered as a fighter for Karate Combat at the time of 17th May 2020. Thus, his bout is registered, but he is not as a karateka in the division.

Representation by Karateka in Division – Total Karateka: 19
Shotokan: 11 (57.89%)
Shito-Ryu: 6 (31.57%)
Kyo Do Kai (American Karate): 1 (5.26%)
Wado-Ryu: 1 (5.26%)

Representation by bouts fought – Total Bouts: 12
Shotokan: 10 (83.33%)
Shito-Ryu: 4 (33.33%)
Kyo Do Kai (American Karate): 3 (25%)
Wado-Ryu: 1 (8.3%)

Middleweight Division:
Representation by Karateka in Division – Total Karateka: 24
Shotokan: 17 (70.83%)
Goju-Ryu: 2 (8.33%)
Shito-Ryu: 2 (8.33%)
Wado-Ryu: 2 (8.33%)
American Karate (Unspecified 2): 1 (4.16%)

Representation by bouts fought – Total Bouts: 10
Shotokan: 8 (80%)
Wado-Ryu: 3 (30%)
Shito-Ryu: 2 (20%)
American Karate (Unspecified 2): 1 (10%)
Goju-Ryu: 1 (10%)

Note: Current Middleweight fighter, Igor De Castañeda, is stated to be a Shotokan and Shito-Ryu Practitioner. I have decided to consider him a Shotokan Karateke in my analysis due to his competition background, and his training history at the elite level.

Heavyweight Division:
Representation by Karateka in Division – Total Karateka: 15
Shotokan: 13 (86.66%)
Shito-Ryu: 1 (6.66%)
Wado-Ryu: 1 (6.66%)

Representation by bouts fought – Total Bouts: 8
Shotokan: 8 (100%)
Wado-Ryu: 1 (12.5%)

Woman’s Flyweight Division:
Representation by Karateka in Division – Total Karateka: 7
Shito-Ryu: 5 (71.42%)
Shotokan: 2 (28.57%)

Woman’s Bantamweight Division:
Representation by Karateka in Division – Total Karateka: 8
Shotokan: 4 (50%)
Goju-Ryu: 1 (12.5%)
Kan Zen-Ryu: 1 (12.5%)
Shito-Ryu: 1 (12.5%)
Wado-Ryu: 1 (12.5%)

Representation by bouts fought – Total Bouts: 2
Shito-Ryu: 2 (100%)
Shotokan: 1 (50%)

Organisation Total
Representation by Karateka – Organisation Total: 94
Shotokan: 57 (60.63%)
Shito-Ryu: 23 (24.46%)
Wado-Ryu: 5 (5.31%)
Goju-Ryu: 4 (4.25%)
American Karate (Unspecified 2): 1 (1.06%)
Kan Zen-Ryu: 1 (1.06%)
Kyo Do Kai (American Karate): 1 (1.06%)
Kyokushin (Kenbokai): 1 (1.06%)
Shuri-Ryu: 1 (1.06%)

Representations by bouts fought – Total Bouts: 43
Shotokan: 36 (83.72%)
Shito-Ryu: 10 (23.25%)
Wado-Ryu: 5 (11.62%)
Kyo Do Kai (American Karate): 3 (6.97%)
American Karate (Unspecified 1): 1 (2.32%)
American Karate (Unspecified 2): 1 (2.32%)
Goju-Ryu: 1 (2.32%)

Note: These figures include two catch-weight bouts by Shotokan Karateka not included in the division break-down.


By proportion of Karateka that are Shotokan fighters, to the number of bouts in which Shotokan fighters are present, the statistics do show it is disproportional. Though only 60.63% of fighters are Shotokan Karateka, a Shotokan Karateka has been present in 80.72% of fights hosted by Karate Combat. However, other styles are disproportionately represented: the lone Kyo Do Kai fighter in the organisation has been in three bouts, whereas Goju-Ryu has four representatives in the organisations but only one has been given the opportunity to fight. Admittedly, the bout numbers do not scale to the number of fighters in the organisation, however, we can argue Shotokan remains over-represented.

Ultimately, I believe, with time the other styles will become better represented. All combat leagues deal with the issue of having to use who is available, and willing to fight, wherever you are holding your event. Due to the league having a majority of Shotokan fighters in its roster, inevitably, Shotokan will be best represented at this time.

With that said, I would like to make this point: Sport-Specific Training. As we have seen with the evolution of Kick-Boxing and Free-Fighting, the conceits and assumptions that define styles and give them individual character tend to evaporate in the face of the need to be effective at the sport you are entering. Shotokan is renowned for its dynamic attacks, and these have come to define Shobu Kumite as the world knows it: no matter a competitor's background, they have had to adapt to the Miai dictated by the dynamic, long-range techniques introduced by Shotokan. Karate Combat does not yet allow elbows or knees, nor kicks between the hip and the knee, and so the Miai is like shobu kumite and American Kick-Boxing: we will see the dynamic techniques people generally associate with Shotokan dominate until rule changes or innovation start to force new approaches.[/u]
R. Keith Williams

A Rarely Used Blog:
An Uncertain Path
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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 16247
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2020 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe that the 4 major Karate styles were kept in mind whenever they first created Karate Combat; a simplistic way to design brackets and the like. Possibly other Karate styles could be under one of the 4 major's umbrella's one way or another.

Very interesting , but not so surprising whenever I looked over the various different percentages; quite nominal across the board. Sure, some didn't fair so well against others, but that might be by the amount of participants and/or the effectiveness of said individual practitioner; knowledge and experience, for an example.

The Organizational Totals weren't that overly different, nor surprising. I can't say that one fared better than the other based by style because numbers are manipulated by just how effective the said practitioner was. I'm a staunch proponent the the style isn't the problem, nor ineffective, but it's the practitioner that's problematic in its effectiveness; today, that practitioner was effective, than tomorrow, that same practitioner isn't effective at all.

Your thoughts are very solid across the board, and I'm in complete agreement with your overall deductions and considerations. Time will only tell, one way or another. How represented are different styles? Fairly...because the representation was based on the individual effectiveness. If any style wanted to be represented in a more highlighted manner, well, they should've been more effective on the floor.


**Proof is on the floor!!!
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Brown Belt
Brown Belt

Joined: 08 Mar 2015
Posts: 727
Styles: Shotokan, Seido Juku

PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2020 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Late reply here and I don't know how I missed this before, but thanks for the work that you have put in here. I too have been carefully watching the styles of each fighters profile and have a few observations, the first being glaringly obvious, well, to me anyway, and that is the lack of Kyokushin fighters. Now, this is highly likely to be partly because the league is controlled/bank rolled, I believe, by Shotokan people. Also, watching the fights it is very obvious that the vast majority are "Point" fighters, (This last Sundays line up was a great example of this), or WKF style practitioners. Now, the organizers seem to have designed the rules to showcase style, rather than just KOs, and perhaps they are not wanting Kyokushin fighters, with their "slugfest" style of fighting (for want of a better word). Now would full contact styles dominate in Karate Combat, yes I believe so, watch the fights, almost all have a "low hands" set up, combinations are few as you can see them nip in to make 1 "shot" and bounce back out again. It is evolving tho, so who knows, if the prize money is there, then fighters may switch their focus onto "full contact" and move away from Point fighting. I for one think this would be a better way forward.
"We don't have any money, so we will have to think" - Ernest Rutherford
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Yellow Belt
Yellow Belt

Joined: 06 Nov 2019
Posts: 36
Location: Germany
Styles: Kyokushin

PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are right about the organization not wanting Kyokushin fighters. Or at least not a fighting style that resembles the way that Kyokushin fighters usually fight. Bas Rutten (who ihas his roots in Kyokushin after all) even said so in some comments in earlier seasons. The ruleset of Karate Combat does everything to ensure that fighters are relatively far apart and come in for fast attacks before separating again. The reason for this is that they think that this kind of fighting is more attractive for the viewers. And they have a point there. Kyokushin fights are relatively unspectacular to look at, despite their aggressiveness, because so much happens at close range.
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Wado Heretic
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 23 May 2014
Posts: 494
Location: United Kingdom, England, Shropshire
Styles: Wado-Ryu , Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu (Kodokan), RyuKyu Kobojutsu

PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2020 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have yet to do an analysis of the latest season, but from eyeballing the raw data, I do not believe much has changed that is worthy of updating my original assessment.

As far as I am aware, neither Michael Depietro nor Robert Bryan have backgrounds in martial arts outside of sports promotion, and they are the money men. I think they have just seen an opportunity in the Combat Sports world and pursued it because they see money in it. The only person on the management side I know of with a Karate Background is Adam Kovacs, the former World No. 1 in the WKF standings, and he was recruited in 2020 in the run-up to season 3. As such, I would have to challenge the idea that bias emerges out of any loyalty to a particular style or system due to the organisers.

I suspect there is an element of opportunism in them pursuing the recruitment of World Karate Federation (WKF) Players. It is the largest talent pool of Shobu Kumite Players in the world, and the WKF has its own robust ranking structure they keep updated. Furthermore, Karate is an Olympic event for whenever the Tokyo Games happen, but back in 2018 when the set date was 2020 said games had a sense of immediacy. There is a huge amount of piggy-back publicity by association through recruiting names that might appear on the Olympic podium. Similarly, I think it is no small thing they have given Josh Quayhagen, a former UFC fighter, who is probably the most recognised name on the roster - beside Rafael Aghayev - four opportunities to fight over the course of 6 events. They also recruited Bas Rutten as an ambassador and commentator, one of the most recognised names in MMA, and a distinct and unmistakable voice and character. The people behind Karate Combat know the media game. Furthermore, when creating a new product, one must also do things differently from others to become distinct: by crafting a venue for people who do not otherwise get invited to such things they fill a vacuum. If I were a gambler I would put money on the fact the UFC and Bellator do not scout top WKF talent. Kick-Boxing promotions also tend to focus their efforts on Boxers, Nak Muay, Sanshou Competitors, and Knock-Down Karate Players. Karate Combat is recruiting from a talent pool no other promotion is tapping into and thus are not competing with other promotions to secure it. How this bleeds into the over representation of Shotokan is that Shotokan is over represented in that version of Shobu Kumite as well, so when recruiting from that talent pool, the same bias will emerge. Similarly, as stated in my opening posts, they can only get those willing to fight to fight, and said willingness will be affected by a number of factors: Venue, Notice, and how it fits into the rest of their competitive season. There are several players who have been present at several events, and some who appear to have been a matter of one and done. You get the people you can convince or who put themselves forward.

Speaking of the rules, I believe the goal of the rule set is to differentiate the competition from other forms of kick-boxing or martial arts competition. It reminds me of the World Combat League and Glory Kickboxing with a focus on keeping the fighters actively moving by restricting clinching. They do permit some wrestling, which adds a further dimension by creating opportunities for throws and suplex, which can add dramatic moments to a fight. Similarly, I think they allow the limited five seconds striking to a downed opponent to allow the ground and pound spectacle of MMA, without including the ground-work which is the most oft criticised aspect of free-fighting as a form of entertainment.

I do not think a traditional Knock-Down Karate Player would naturally have a great advantage by virtue of coming from a traditional, full-contact, background. All the Players in Karate Combat are athletes, with coaches, who will have studied the ruleset and conditioned their Players for the ruleset. Even if a Player has a back-ground in a style that is not traditionally full-contact, it would be absurd for them not to have prepared for full-contact, with proper training. Thus far, I have not seen anything that is incongruent with the rule set: the lack of elbow strikes, only being permitted to kick to above the belt or to between the ankle and knee, and the restrictions on clinch fighting dictate an out-fighting approach. Point-Fighting is characterised by outfighting because one is looking to score points while avoiding being struck, and so it is natural for fighters to bring their experience from that out-fighting approach to this full-contact variation. Keeping the hands down when in striking range is incredibly risky, however, when just outside said range it is a valid tactic to either invite attacks to the head (which are the easiest to see coming and avoid with head movement) and to make it difficult for your opponent to judge where your hand-strikes may come from and what angle: especially if they move in first. Boxers, Kickboxers, and Free-Fighters have all used it historically with good results. Within the context of a ruleset with wrestling allowed it also helps guard against shooting attempts.

Using Knock-Down as an example, because Kyokushin has been brought up as the talking point, that Knock-Down Players would have greater success I think is a dangerous assumption. When you can punch to the head, but not throw elbows to body nor kick to the thigh, you have reversed the situation for most knock-down players. I think you would see the same difficulties suffered by them, except, they might show some greater confidence against body shots, and more willingness to fight in the pocket. The Slugfest style has emerged from the Miai forced by a lack of punches to the head. When you must punch down you lose reach, and so you must get closer. Now, as most karateka know, the proper form of punching lower is not to punch down, but to lower yourself by deepening your stance to keep proper hip alignment and posture. However, to do so in the context of Knock-Down would be a massive “tell” in contrast to other situations where your opponent cannot be sure you will be punching to the body or where you can hide a body blow behind a leading jab. Thus, in knock-down, the practice is to punch with a slight slope down. Now, when you have to strike to the body or the legs, you have to use pushing and shoving (Through Body-Shots and Low-Kicks) to control distance: you cannot control distance by putting your hand in your opponent’s face. Thus, punching down does serve a purpose and is not necessarily bad form in context. By bludgeoning your opponent with repeated body-blows you make it difficult for them to get their feet off the ground, and thus deploy their most dangerous weapon: a kick to the head. It also makes it difficult for them to breath, and anticipate powerful blows to the legs, and when you cannot try and render them unconscious with an elbow or punch wearing them down is as good a strategy as going for a kick to the head. Kicks to the head are also much tougher to set up when you cannot set them up with a leading punch. This, all in all, is what creates the distinct characteristics of Full-Contact bouts. Without that specific environment, it would be hard to say whether a Player’s ability in Knock-Down would cross over into Karate Combat. I have gone into such a break down of the conceits of Knock-Down Rules simply to illustrate my point to those not familiar with the experience. I apologise if at any point it sounded like I was talking down to anyone.

Now, looking to other full-contact competitions and their practitioners: I could see someone with experience in American Full-Contact, Gloved, Bogu Kumite, or Irikumi Go having success under Karate Combat rules quite easily. If only because of a number of similarities in rules.

With all the above said, however, I do agree that there is a lack of effective set-ups and attempts at combination attacks at this time. Which, I believe is down to an unfamiliarity with wrestling and the fear of Ground-and-Pound, among both Players and their Coaches. The longer you stay in the pocket throwing techniques, the more at risk of being tackled or grabbed you are, and so the defence against this that has been adopted is: throw big strikes and get out. The same problem happened with MMA and strikers: the kick became a rare sight in the cage and only came back through the likes of Cung Le showing ways to use them in that context. Only time, more experience, and the sourcing of relevant expertise will change this in the grand scheme of things for Karate Combat as well. This does come back to what I feel is the most appropriate critique of technical aptitude, or lack thereof, which is some Players not engaging in active defence when they have been taken to the ground. There is too much covering up and weathering the five seconds allotted, and I think referees should be given the power to penalise that as equivalent to a lack of aggression or unwillingness to engage. Furthermore, there is not enough use of Head-Movement, using the front-hand or push-kicks to control distance, and combining strikes with wrestling (Ground and Pound is a valid winning tactic). Admittedly, the goal is to create a venue to display karate, but there is no reason not to gamify if you want to be a success.

As an aside, Shota Hara, the one Kyokushin practitioner (Kenbukai) signed to Karate Combat was active in the Japanese Promotion Ganryujima, where he went 4-1 under their ruleset. It is similar to Karate Combat but allows elbows, leg kicks, and is not as strict on clinching. It also has a ring out rule and allows 15 seconds of ground action (Limited to striking only). He is 1-2 in MMA and 1-1 in Kickboxing (International Rules), but his success in Ganryujima should bode well. I hope he gets an opportunity to fight soon. It would be great if they could tempt Katsunori Kikuno over, as he has had somewhat of a career revival in Ganryujima.
R. Keith Williams

A Rarely Used Blog:
An Uncertain Path
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