Breathing Problems and Prevention for Kumite

Prevention and Screening

  1. Athletes who may have or are suspected of having asthma should undergo a thorough medical history and physical examination before kumite.
  2. Athletes with asthma should participate in a structured warmup protocol before kumite or other strenuous sport activity to decrease reliance on medications and minimize asthmatic symptoms and exacerbation.
  3. The referee staff should educate athletes with asthma about the use of asthma medications as prophylaxis before exercise, spirometry devices, asthma triggers, recognition of signs and symptoms, and compliance with monitoring the condition and taking medication as prescribed.
  4. The referee staff should ask if any medical conditions exist before beginning the match and to have the athletes medication (i.e. inhaler) be visible and available at ring side


The referee staff should be aware of the major asthma signs and symptoms:

A. confusion

B. sweating

C. drowsiness

D. difficulty exhaling

E. low level of oxygen (looking pale)

F. use of belly muscles for breathing, huffing and puffing for more than 30 seconds after stopping activity

G. wheezing

H. cyanosis (turning blue)

I. coughing

J. hypotension (low blood pressure)

K. mental status changes

L. loss of consciousness

M. inability to lie supine

N. inability to speak coherently

O. agitation


  • For a sudden asthma attack, the athlete should use their inhaler. In a severe attack, the speed of getting the medication is of the essence.  More than one dose may be needed for severe attacks.  If 3 administrations of medication do not relieve distress, the athlete should be referred promptly to an appropriate health care facility.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids or leukotriene inhibitors can be used for asthma prophylaxis and control. Athletes should be taught to use these medicines as prescribed by their physician if they are to compete in kumite or other strenuous sport activity.
  • Supplemental oxygen should be offered to improve the athlete’s available oxygenation during asthma attacks.
  • If despite treatment, the asthma attack returns on the same day once kumite resumes, the athlete should be removed from competition.
  • In the athlete with asthma, physical activity should be initiated at low intensity levels and training intensity gradually increased while monitoring occurs for recurrent asthma symptoms.

Kime vs. Sun-Dome

The essence of karate techniques is kime. The meaning of kime is an explosive attack to the target using the appropriate technique and maximum power (intensity) in the shortest time possible. Long ago there was the expression ikken hissatsu, meaning “to kill with one blow”, but to assume from this that killing is the objective is dangerous incorrect. It should be remembered that the students of old were able to practice kime daily and in dead seriousness by using the makiwara or striking board.

Kime may be accomplished by striking, punching, or kicking but also by blocking. A technique lacking kime can never be regarded as true karate, no matter how great the resemblance to karate. A contest is no exception; however, is against the rules to make “hard” contact because of the danger involved.

Sun-dome means to arrest a technique just before contact with the target. Not carrying a technique through to kime is not true karate, so the question is how to reconcile the contradiction between kime and sun-dome. The answer is this: establish the target slightly in front of an opponent’s vital point. It can then be hit in a controlled way with maximum power without making contact.

Conversely, it is essential for a defender to learn to absorb a strike, no matter how hard he is hit. To show pain and incapacity invites a quick defeat. There must be no flinch or facial expression after receiving a well timed strike. Any sign of weakness will only energize an attacker to become more aggressive. A defender should look into his attacker’s eyes and transmit a message (“Is that the best you can do?”) that will plant a seed of doubt or hesitation.

Training transforms various parts of the body into weapons to be sued freely and effectively. The quality necessary to accomplish this is self-control. To become a victor, one must first overcome himself.

Hot or Cold?

People are easily confused about treating sports injuries. Should an ice pack or the heating pad be applied? Our bodies go through stages as we heal: acute, subacute and chronic. This first step in treating any injury is determining which stage of injury is being experienced.

The first stage, the acute stage, begins with the injury and lasts for approximately a week. During this time there is an increase of mast cells (tissue response) in the bloodstream and an increased release of histamine, both of which cause swelling at the site of the injury. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) should be combined to reduce local bleeding which produces swelling, pain and muscle spasms.

Ice should be applied in a cycle of on for 20 minutes, off for 20 minutes (repeated as often as needed). Use ice with caution because if it is left on for too long a time without the “warming” sequence, tissue damage similar to a burn may occur.

The next stage, subacute, usually lasts up to three weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Continued swelling and scar formation is likely. Ice may still be used to control swelling and pain. Heat should be used before exercise and strechting. The same type of guide line should be used when applying heat as with ice – 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off – as needed.

The final phase is the chronic stage that typically lasts between 6 months to a year. Ice and heat may be used interchangeably during this stage. It is a good idea to use heat before a workout or activity then use ice for any inflammation caused by working out.

Always warm up/stretch before any activity. Use the same routine after the activity to minimize muscle tightness. Manny injuries are caused by a lack of preparation before engaging in muscle use. If an injury does occur, use common sense, immediately cease using the injured area, and apply RICE.

Heavy Bag Training

If used properly, heavy-bag training is a good substitute for a live training partner. It provides an opportunity to practice powerful hand and foot combinations against a solid moving target that reacts to being struck. Individual or combination techniques can be focused toward varying heights. Distancing can be either long-range (kicks) or very close-range (elbow or knee strikes).

Heavy-bag training can enhance footwork. After setting a bag in motion with a powerful kick or punch, the bag should be left to complete its swing to stimulate a live partner’s reaction to a strike. The motion of the bag provides a great opportunity to practice side-stepping and repositioning for follow-up techniques. When changing position, attention should be given to keeping the body centered on the target of techniques can be executed. To utilize valuable practice opportunities, a moving bag should only be stopped by a countering technique (kick or punch).

The variety of techniques available to use on a bag is endless. A student must control the bag and not let the bag dictate movement. He can stand and receive the bag by “slipping”, deliver combinations and/or stop the “aggressive” bag with a power technique.

Endurance is a prime factor is any sport. A tired participant makes mistakes, becomes slow and probably will be physiologically beaten. He may lose his match because he hasn’t trained for endurance. The continuous body motion of action and reaction while heavy-bag training can be used to increase cardiovascular endurance. Work-out time should be divided into rounds with a brief rest/hydration period between rounds.

Heavy-bag training may be awkward at first. Growing accustomed to the required rhythm and movement of this type of training will give the practitioner a feeling of mental and physical satisfaction.

Elbow Techniques

Most kicking and punching situations involve dealing with an opponent at a distance.  On the other hand, close- range defense usually involves grappling and throwing techniques.  Between close and long distance lies a middle area covered by a powerful natural weapon- the elbow.

Elbows are perfect close range weapons.  Because the elbow has a small, sharp surface, it delivers a penetrating blow to a small area and is a natural weapon that can be developed without years of practice.  It should be used when free movement of the body is restricted. 

The actual striking surface for an elbow technique is either directly in front or behind the point of the elbow and not the elbow itself.  Power comes from a combination of shoulder and waist action.  Extending the shoulder joint slightly allows more energy and power to be released into the arm when the technique is delivered.  Combine this with the whip-like power produced by a relaxed, twisting motion of the waist and a tremendous penetrating force results.

Hands are clenched into fists as the strike is performed by driving the elbow upward, forward, sideways, downward, and backward.  The elbow must be deeply flexed and kept close to the body so that the strike is not weakened.  Both elbows may be used simultaneously against a single or multiple opponents.  The action is very fast and in most instances, circular.

One of the most devastating strikes is a strait upward smash aimed at the attacker’s chin or jaw.  The striking arm’s hand is formed into a fist with the knuckles turned upward.  The elbow is kept close to the body as the body is twisted at the waist and the elbow is quickly brought up to strike the target.  In a self-defense situation, a miss is a good as a mile.  Be aware of the distance required for contact.  Before retaliating to the threat of any attack, be sure that an aggressive act is really necessary.  The desired result of any defensive action should provide time to leave the area or summon help.