The picture shows the letter anf Japanese kanji for Ippon.

If you were to consult a Japanese to English dictionary it would simply say ‘Japanese Ippon = English One.  However, to practitioners of the Japanese Martial arts, it takes on a somewhat different connotation.  Ippon (一本, lit. “one full point”) is the highest score a fighter can achieve in a Japanese martial arts traditional budo contest, usually karate, kendo, judo, or jujitsu. 

As this is strictly a Shotokan document we will focus mainly on Ippon as it applies to Shobu Ippon or Shobu Sanbon Kumite.

  • Ippon is awarded when an exact and powerful technique, which is recognized as decisive, is delivered to the recognised scoring areas with good form (technique, position and balance), kime, Zanshin, timing and correct distancing.  This understanding of Ippon is derived from an age old maxim of traditional karate-do: ‘Ikken Hissatsu’: to kill or destroy with one blow.
  • Some examples of effective techniques delivered under the following conditions should be considered as an Ippon:
    • When an attack is delivered with perfect timing as the opponent started to move forward.  
    • When an attack is delivered immediately as the opponent was unbalanced by the attacker.
    • When a combination of successive and effective tsuki (punches) and geri (kicks) techniques accurately find their target, especially undefended areas, whether jodan (head) or chudan (body).
    • Combined, effective use of tsuki, geri and nage (take-down) techniques.
    • When the opponent has lost their fighting spirit and turned their back.
    • Effective jodan-geri techniques.
    • Waza-ari is awarded for a technique almost, but not quite, comparable to Ippon.

Ippon, within WKF sport karate (the official Olympic competition karate) point scoring competition, takes a different role: it is still the highest score that can be given out; however, it is worth 3 points in an 8 points to win bout.  Waza-ari is worth 2 points and Yuko is worth 1 point. 

A score is awarded when a technique is performed according to the following criteria to a scoring area:

  • Good form, sporting attitude, vigorous application, awareness, good timing and correct distancing.

Ippon is awarded for:

  • Jodan kicks.
  • Any scoring technique delivered on a thrown or fallen opponent.

Waza-ari is awarded for:

  • Chudan kicks.

Yuko is awarded for:

  • Chudan or Jodan Tsuki.
  • Jodan or Chudan Uchi.


T.D. McKinnon

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