The aim of this study was to measure and compare physiological and time–motion variables during karate fighting and to assess eventual differences between winners and defeated elite karatekas in an ecologically valid environment.
Fourteen elite male karatekas who regularly participated in national and international events took part in a national-level competition.
There were no significant differences between winners and defeated karatekas regarding all the studied variables. Karatekas used more upper-limb (76.19%) than lower-limb techniques (23.80%). The kisami-zuki represented the most frequent technique, with 29.1% of all used techniques. The duration of each fighting activity ranged from <1 s to 5 s, with 83.8% ± 12.0% of the actions lasting less than 2 s. Karatekas executed 17 ± 7 high-intensity actions per fight, which corresponded to ~6 high-intensity actions per min. Action-to-rest ratio was about 1:1.5, and high-intensityaction- to-rest ratio was ~1:10. The mean blood lactate response at 3 min postcombat (Lapost) elicited during karate fighting was 11.18 ± 2.21 mmol/L (difference between Lapre and Lapost = 10.01 ± 1.81 mmol/L). Mean heart rate (HR) was 177 ± 14 beats/min (91% ± 5% of HRpeak). Karatekas spent 65% of the time exercising at HR >90% of the individual HRpeak.
Karatekas predominantly use upper-limb karate techniques. Karate’s nature is intermittent, with fighting activities representing ~6% of total combat’s duration and ~84% of actions lasting less than 2 s, with ~21-s mean time interval in between. Kumite combat sessions induced high La and near-maximal cardiovascular strain. Other key success factors should be investigated to properly discriminate winners and defeated athletes.