NASKA
Photo Courtesy: NASKA.com

Per NASKA President Larry Carnahan, the league has released a new rulebook that is effective immediately*. Although this is a rapid turnaround for competitors, coaches, and judges to make adjustments before the AKA Warrior Cup*, the new rules feature updates in divisions that needed a fresh look. While there is a wide variety of changes that have been made, the vast majority of the rules are the same. The biggest adjustments occurred in the creative forms/weapons and sparring divisions. Keep reading for a summarized version of these major rule changes that will have a significant impact on competition.

*See end of article for recent update regarding AKA Warrior Cup.

Creative Forms/Weapons

Rashad Eugene

Photo Courtesy: Century Martial Arts

Competitors have been calling for reform in the creative division for a while, and the promoters have delivered just in time. The new rules eliminate the restriction on body rotation that was inconsistently arbitrated in the previous edition. Competitors in creative forms and weapons can now rotate as many times as they wish while executing a kicking or tricking technique. The rule reads as follows:

In order to allow competitors to maximize their difficulty level in this division, competitors may jump in the air and spin as much as they would like before throwing a kicking technique. However, judges will still expect to see a properly-executed, traditional kick thrown at the end of the twist and a clean landing that transitions immediately to a stance or performance pose. (This also decreases the difficulty gap that exists in runoffs between the previously limited creative division winners and the musical/extreme winners that do not have those restrictions.)

Although competitors can now spin as much as they please, they are NOT allowed to invert their bodies while both feet are in the air (in plain English: flipping). This maintains the spirit of the creative division, which is for competitors to find creative ways to combine traditional techniques and modern variations without becoming dependent upon the acrobatics seen in the extreme division. The rule goes on to note two exceptions: kip-ups and rolls.

Kip-ups were deemed legal despite the inversion of the head below the hips because they are such a commonly-used technique to help competitors get up from the splits. Rolls were also included as an exception to the inversion rule because such techniques are found in traditional styles like hapkido and judo, not to mention the fact that rolls have been permitted in the creative division for years.

The rules also clarify that under these modifications, butterfly twists and all variations are now legal in the creative division. Since a competitor does not fully invert to perform the technique, as they should be approximately parallel to the ground, the butterfly twist is allowed. If a competitor accidentally inverts due to poor execution of a butterfly kick or butterfly twist, their score will be downgraded by the judges but this will not result in disqualification. If a competitor performs a technique in which they blatantly invert while airborne, they will be disqualified.

Point Fighting - Out of Bounds

Point Fighting

Photo Courtesy: Century Martial Arts

The most significant change to the point fighting rules is a profound adjustment to the "out of bounds" definition and penalty. Basically, if a competitor steps out of the ring with just one foot, a penalty point will automatically be given to the opposing fighter. This eliminates the confusing "fighting out" rule that led to a multitude of arbitrations in the past. It is essentially a more strict version of the WAKO rule in which fighters receive a warning followed by a one point deduction for repeatedly performing an "exit". The exact wording of the rule is:

Out of bounds, falling, or excessive running (as determined by the head official) around the ring will be considered an attempt to avoid competition and the other competitor will be awarded a point. No warning will be given. A competitor is considered out of bounds when they have one foot off the sparring area (mat). If the competitor is out of bounds to avoid contact without being kicked out or physically pushed out of bounds, their opponent will receive 1 point.

An interesting stipulation of this rule is that if a competitor is scored on while one of their feet is out of bounds before the center referee stops the match due to the out of bounds penalty, the offensive fighter can receive their point for the scoring technique as well as the penalty point. It is also noted that a competitor who leaves their feet to execute a technique must land with BOTH feet back in bounds in order for the technique to score. Formerly, the jumping competitor only needed to land one foot in bounds for the technique to count, but that is not the case anymore.

As for the "no warnings" aspect of this rule, that actually applies to ALL infractions in point fighting. There are no longer warnings given for any reason. Any broken rule on the part of the fighter or their coach will result in an automatic penalty without exception.

Point Fighting - Time and Margin of Victory

Jimena Janeiro

Photo Courtesy: Century Martial Arts

There have been several substantial adjustments to the time period and margin of victory for various point fighting divisions. The first is that ALL point sparring matches have a two-minute time limit. This includes team fighting, such that each round is now two minutes long instead of ninety seconds. The only individual event that features multiple rounds is the overall grand championship, which will be decided by two, two-minute rounds.

Additionally, ALL point sparring matches can now be decided by one point. There have been many arbitrations in the past about wether or not a first place match, grand championship fight, or other unique circumstance justifies a two-point margin of victory required to win. Now, if a fighter is only up by one point when time expires, they will be declared the winner regardless of which round of competition it is.

Another major update to the rules regarding margin of victory is the spread rule. A 10-point spread is now being applied to all divisions including the first and second rounds of men's team fighting, and the first round of women's team fighting. This means that if a competitor gains a ten-point advantage on an opposing competitor before two minutes have elapsed, the round will come to an end. The only exception is in the final round of a team fighting event. If a team is down more than 10 points, the fight will not be terminated if the final fighter on the trailing team generates a 10-point spread on his or her opponent. Essentially, that last fighter is given the opportunity to pull off the massive comeback if they are able to.

Although the creative forms/weapons and point fighting rule changes are likely the most significant, there have also been updates made to the rules regarding splitting large divisions, the approved kata list in the traditional challenge division, the legal competition age rule, and other clarifications throughout the rulebook. Please visit this link to view a complete PDF document with the entire rulebook. These changes are proof that the leaders of sport karate are listening to the community and attempting to enact positive change.

The rule changes should be reflected on NASKA's official website in the coming days, but all of the above information is official and has been approved for release.

UPDATE: AKA Warrior Cup on January 17th

The new NASKA Rules for 2022 were announced on 01/16/2022 with the expectation that they go into effect at the AKA Warrior Cup this upcoming weekend. After further discussion and due to the timing of the release, NASKA Directors have determined that immediate implementation would not be fair to those attending the AKA Warrior Cup.The expectation is that the rules will go into effect at some point in 2022. To ensure continuity in points and ratings in 2022, the legal age competition rule will be allowed at AKA Warrior Cup. Executive competitors may compete in additional divisions they may qualify for.The date the new rules will go into effect is currently to be determined and will be announced by NASKA when decided.

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