Date of Submission



Despite the popularity of karate as a sport and its rise to Olympic status, evidence-based data to guide approaches to talent identification/development and training practices are lacking. Thus, the aims of this study were to assess in elite and novice karate practitioners: (i) general and karate-specific motor fitness characteristics that discriminate these two groups; (ii) the energetic demands of karate sparring; and (iii) decrements in performance following simulated karate sparring. Elite male national and international sparring competitors (black belt and above; N=12) were compared to a group of novice karate participants (green belt and lower; N=12). Between the groups, there were differences in punching power (P<0.05), punching speed (P<0.01), karate agility (P<0.05), seated lateral leg flexibility (P<0.01), sit and reach flexibility (P<0.05), static balance (P<0.01), Margaria-Kalamen power test (P<0.05), peak arm ergometer cadence (P<0.001), and Wingate peak power (P<0.05), with no differences in or Wingate mean power. Results from the discriminate analysis identified that general motor fitness and karate-specific tests discriminated karate sparring abilities with almost equal effectiveness, with the discriminant analysis stepwise method showing that punching speed and seated lateral leg flexibility have the best capacity to differentiate elite from novice practitioners. Measures of oxygen consumption during a three-minute bout of simulated sparring showed a similar average aerobic relative demand between groups (elite: 61% ; novice: 63% ; P=0.79; effect size = 0.08), while peak values for the elite group (68% ) were lower than the novice group (80% ; P=0.07; effect size = -0.88). Fatigue from simulated sparring resulted in elite and novice participants displaying decreases in punching speed and punching power, increases in punching response time to a stimulus, and increased blood lactate concentrations. While elite participants still performed better in these measures post sparring, the reductions in performance occurred at similar rates, except for a greater relative loss in punching speed in the elite group. Taken together, the data suggest that both general and karate-specific motor fitness characteristics related to peak anaerobic power, agility and flexibility can discriminate between elite and novice practitioners. Assessment of these qualities, together with an understanding of energy utilisation and fatigue decrements during sparring, may assist in (i) identifying and/or developing talent at early stages of karate participation, and (ii) designing training programs that focus on performance characteristics that best discriminate between elite and novice karate practitioners, to optimise karate sparring preparation for all standards of participant.


School of Exercise Science

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


118 pages

Degree Name

Master of Exercise Science (Research) (MExSc(Res))


Faculty of Health Sciences