UPDATED 07/12/2015

*New Rule Changes for 2015*

  • Delay of Time Penalties will be strictly enforced
  • Restarting penalties have been revised
  • Dropping a weapon will result in an automatic disqualification Black Belts and a 0.03 total point deduction for color belts
  • Face masks are no longer mandatory for junior Black Belt sparring competitors
  • The groin is no longer a legal target area for Underbelts in sparring


Competitor's Responsibility and Expectations

A. Competitor:  It is the responsibility of the competitor to know the rules. It is the competitor's responsibility to present themselves to the referee suitably dressed in a proper uniform with any necessary equipment and physically prepared to compete. Three calls will be made for competition at ringside.  If the competitor is not at their ring ready to compete when competition begins, they may not be able to compete. If a competitor leaves the ring after the competition begins and is not present when their name is called to compete, their name will be called three times at ringside.  If they are still not present to compete, they may be disqualified.  If they are not prepared to compete as deemed by the center referee, the competitor may be penalized for delay of time.

  • Delay of Time Penalties
    • Sparring - Competitors arriving after a sparring division and its first round have begun will not be allowed entry. Sparring brackets will not be remade to accommodate late entry competitors.
    • Form/Weapon - Competitors arriving after a form/weapon division has begun will have three-hundredths of a point (0.03)  deducted from their final score.

B. Rank Rule.  A competitor must compete at the highest belt level they have earned in the martial arts.  A competitor can never compete in a division of which he/she had not earned that rank.  Once a competitor competes as a black belt officially, he/she must always compete as a back belt.  A competitor can never compete in a lower belt division than the level of belt he/she has earned in the martial arts, regardless of style.

C. Proof of Age.  All competitors must have a proof of age document.  If there is a legitimate reason to question a competitor’s age, he/she must present a proof of age (birth certificate, driver’s license, or other acceptable documents) to prove his/her age.

D. Legal Age Rule.  All competitors have the option of competing in the same division all year long for rating purposes, by establishing a legal competition age for the year.  The age a competitor is on June 30th of the current competition year is their legal competition age for that year.  They can compete all year at that age so he/she can earn rating points in one age division all year.  A competitor can always compete in his/her chronological age if they chose.

E. Uniform.  All competitors must wear a complete traditional or professional sport martial arts (Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, etc.) uniform in a good state of repair.  The appropriate color belt or sash must be worn in competition.

  • Sparring:  All sparring uniforms must have sleeves that reach at least to the middle of the biceps. Absolutely no t-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, or unapproved shoes are allowed in the sparring divisions.
  • Form & Weapons:  T-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts are allowed in form if they are part of the competitor’s official school uniform.  Uniforms in the form and weapons divisions are allowed more liberties because form is not one-on-one competition where the uniform could cause a decisive disadvantage or advantage to a competitor.  Shoes may be worn in form competition if they do not damage or mark the competition floor.

F. Sparring Safety Equipment. The following equipment are required to participate in sparring divisions:

  • Headgear covering the forehead, back, side, and top of the head
  • Hand pads completely covering the fingers, hand, and wrist
  • Feet pads completely covering the instep, sides, toes, ankles, and back of the heel
  • Mouthpiece
  • Groin Cup (For males 17 & Under only)

The following equipment are optional and may be used in sparring divisions:

  • Plastic face shield firmly attached to the competitor's headgear
  • Chest guard
  • Shin pads
  • Elbow/Forearm pads
  • Ringstar Sparring Shoes only

The competitor’s equipment will be checked and if it is deemed unsafe, he/she will be asked to change the equipment before he/she can compete. Insufficiently padded gloves, foot, chest and head hear will not be allowed.  Equipment must be in a good state of repair and must be free of heavy taping, tears or any other repairs that may cause injury.  The tournament’s official rules arbitrator ultimately determines the approval or denial of the equipment.

G. Protest. A competitor has the right to protest an infraction of the rules or if a possible mistake was made (not a judgment call).  If a competitor wishes to protest, they should first let the referee know they believes there has been an infraction of the rules or a mistake has been made.  The referee will summon the arbitrator to the ring if the referee cannot properly settle the protest to the competitor's satisfaction to render a decision.  All protests must be made in an orderly, proper and sportsmanlike manner.  All protests must be made immediately.  Protests are not allowed once competition has resumed (after the fact protest). A competitor may be penalized or even disqualified if he/she is protesting improperly or without proper cause.

Authority of Officials and Protocol

A. Center Judge/Referee. The referee is the most experienced official in the ring and is thoroughly versed on the rules and order of competition. They promote the safety of the competitors, enforce the rules, and ensure fair play. Therefore, Center Judges have the ability to start and stop the matches, awards points, makes penalty decisions, administer the voting of the other judges, communicates clearly with the scorekeeper and timekeeper, and announces the winner of each match.   Added Powers of the Referee:  1) Match starts and ends only with his/her command (not the command of the timekeeper); 2) Has final decision on any disputes on score; 3) Has the power to issue warnings and award penalty points without a majority decision: 4) Can overrule a majority call only to issue a warning or a penalty point: 5) Automatically has power to disqualify a competitor who receives (3) penalty points; 6) Has power to issue time-outs.  A competitor can ask for a time-out, but it is the determination of the referee to issue one.  The disqualification of a competitor, where disqualification is not automatic, is determined only by a majority vote of the judges.

B. Officials/Judges. Each ring should have one referee, two or four judges, and a timekeeper/scorekeeper.   The judges call points and rule infractions as they see them. They also vote on disqualifications. The referee also calls points and rules infractions but is also in compete control of the ring and ring personnel.  Referees make all final decisions on penalty points and warnings (except for disqualifications) but can consult judges before making their decisions.  The majority vote of the judges and referee determines a scoring point and/or a competitor’s disqualification.

C. Scoring Protocol.

  • Form/Weapon
    • Maximum Deviation - Divisions with three officials will use the Maximum Deviation Rule.  The purpose of the Maximum Deviation Rule is to limit the impact of a judge’s score that is significantly higher or lower than the other judge’s scores.  This prevents a single score form being so high or so low that it controls the placing order. When a form or weapon performance is ready to be scored, the Chief Official will say “Ready”, then, “Check”, at which point the three judges show their score to each other only (not to the competitors or spectators). The center judge will then look at the 3 scores to determine which one is the middle score (for example, a 9.92, 9.96 and a 9.95 – the 9.95 is the middle score.  The other 2 scores must be .02 from the middle score.  So in the example the 9.92 must be upgraded to 9.93. Other than this mandatory adjustment, a judge may not change his score.  If no score is more than .02 higher or lower than the middle score, then an adjustment does not need to be made.  After assuring that any necessary adjustment has been made, the referee then says, “Score”, and the scores are shown to the audience, the competitors, and the scorekeeper.
    • Relative Ranking - The purpose of the Relative Ranking Rule is to eliminate ties and the possible disadvantage of early-running competitors and the scoring advantage of last-running seeded competitors.  In addition, it prevents judges from getting “boxed-in” by giving scores too high early on, and eliminates “scoring creep” where judges who starts with very low scores gradually raises his/her scores as the divisions progresses. For the Relative Ranking Rule to operate properly, all judges must use the scoring worksheets provided in the ring boxes.  As each competitor runs their form, they are given a place number relative to the competitor who has already run.  For example, each judge gives the first competitor up a “1” next to his/her name on the worksheet.  The next competitor gets a “2” if their form isn’t as good; or if their form is better, they get a “1” and the first competitor get his “1”changed to a “2”.  The third competitor then gets a number that grades his form relative to the first two, and so on down the division.  When all competitors have run, each judge’s Worksheet will have all the competitor’s names listed in the order they ran, but with numbers next to their names that reflects their place relative to one another.

      The Center Judge will then allow up to two minutes for the judges to assign decimal scores to each competitor based on their relative ranking.  Each judge decides how high to score his number “1” competitor – usually a 9.99 or 9.98 in the black belt divisions – and assigns that score to the top competitor.  The number “2” competitor will be scored one-hundredth lower at 9.98 or 9.97 (or even lower if the judge feels there was a great gap between the number “1” and number “2” competitors).    Number “3” will get a score at least one-hundredth lower than number “2, and number “4” will get a score at least one-hundredth lower than number “3”.  This is done until all the competitors are ranked relatively to each other.  None of the top four competitors ever receives the same score, and the top four scores a judge gives are only given once.  A judge may give the same score to competitors he/she has ranked as “5” or lower, though it is discouraged unless there are many competitors in the division and giving incrementally lower scores would take the lower-ranked competitors to scores that were undeservedly low.  (Judges may prefer to use slash marks rather than numbers to rank each competitor: I, II, III, IIII and so on. By using this method you do not have to mark out or erase as often, you only add slashes.) Once all judges are ready, the referee will have each competitor step forward as his or her scores are announced, using the Maximum Deviation Rule procedure listed above.

  • Sparring - When the referee believes there has been a significant exchange of techniques, or when signaled to do so by a corner judge(s), he/she shall command to “STOP!” in a loud voice.  The referee shall then return the competitors to their starting marks and address the judges by saying “CALL!”  All judges and the center referee cast their votes simultaneously and assertively in the following manner:
    • Point was scored - Officials raise the appropriate number of fingers in the direction of the competitor they wish to award points to.  If only one point is being called, the judge should point with only one finger (Index finger). A competitor must receive the majority of votes in order to be awarded any points.
    • No point was scored - Officials cross his/her wrist at waist level to indicate that he/she believes that a point was not scored.
    • Unsure if a point was scored - Officials holds his/her hand over their eyes indicating that they could not see whether a point was scored or not; indicates the official was not in good position. When using this signal, it has the same effect as saying “no point”, but it indicates to the referee, competitors and fans the reason why you are not calling the point.
    • Clash - Officials make a motion to hit both fists together, indicating that both competitors scored at the same time and no point is awarded.
    • Penalty - Officials point their arm in the direction of the competitor being penalized. This will only be prompted by the referee announcing "TWO CALLS" - indicating their is a possibility for penalization.
    • Disqualification - A disqualification vote is taken separately from any other vote and requires a majority vote of the judges when  not automatic (accumulating an official warning and (3) penalty points in a single match).

Form and Weapon Judging Criteria & Guidelines

A. Traditional Form & Weapon. Traditional forms must capture the essence of classical martial arts movements, displaying the traditional techniques, stances, footwork, with or without a weapon.  Emphasis is placed on proper execution of technique, application of technique, balance, speed, power, stances, and focus. Forms may be unmodified or modified from what a system or school considers to be the original version of the form; however, performance of the following movements will result in a downgrade of the form, or upon unanimous vote of the judges, a “no score” as a form inappropriate for the division:

  • Movements that involve more than a 360 degree spin
  • Require the body to be inverted more than parallel to the floor
  • More than two kicks with the same leg without putting the foot down in between
  • Gymnastics including front or back flips, cartwheels; front or side leg splits, or any other movements or extreme exhibitions of flexibility or agility with the body that are deemed in the opinion of the judges to be inappropriate for the division pursuant to the general guidelines set forth here. (**Forward Roll is a legal Traditional Technique.)
  • Releases of a weapon other than hand switches for weapon divisions

B. Creative Form & Weapon. The Creative Division allows forms to include contemporary martial arts techniques and movements.  These may be added to a traditional form, or the form may be devised in its entirety by the competitor.  A form in the Creative Division must ONLY include techniques which originate from martial arts and like the Traditional Division, emphasis will be placed on execution of the techniques, application of the techniques, balance, speed, power, solid stances, and focus. Spinning kicks, jump spinning kicks, flying kicks, multiple kicks, splits, weapon twirls, weapon releases, and other creative martial arts techniques are permitted.  The following movements are not allowed in the Creative division:

  • Movements that involve more than a 360 degree spin, require the body to be inverted more than parallel to the floor, or are similar to movements found in gymnastics and/or non martial arts disciplines
  • Forms that meet the above definition of strictly traditional forms, will result in a downgrade by the judges or, upon a unanimous vote of the judges, a “no score” as a form inappropriate for the division.  Although one creative move qualifies a competitor for the creative divisions, it should be expected that an creative form or weapon routine with multiple creative moves of good quality would prevail as the winner, assuming all other criteria is met.

C. Extreme Divisions. The Extreme Division allow the competitor to perform any movements, whether they originate from traditional or contemporary martial arts systems or otherwise.  However, (1) at least half of the form must originate from martial arts techniques, and (2) the competitor must execute at least one technique that involves an inverted move or greater than 360 degree spin.  Emphasis is placed on the quality of execution of techniques and movements, martial arts skills, balance, speed, power, degree of difficulty, and showmanship.  In addition, only those movements that portray a definite offensive or defensive martial arts purpose, or are included to illustrate extreme flexibility or agility, are allowed.  Inclusion of other movements, or the performance of a form or weapons form meeting the criteria above for a Traditional or Creative form, will result in a down grade by the judges, or upon a unanimous vote of the judges, a “no score” as a form inappropriate for the division.  Although one extreme move qualifies a competitor for the extreme divisions, it should be expected that an extreme form or weapon routine with multiple extreme moves of good quality would prevail as the winner, assuming all other criteria is met.

D. Musical Form and Weapon. The Musical Divisions requires a empty hand form or weapons form to meet all the above criteria for a Traditional, Creative, and Extreme form, and additionally meet the following requirements:

  • The movements of the form must be accented by and performed in conjunction with specific beats, notes, or words in the music.  Simply performing your form to the same rhythm or cadence of a song is not satisfactory.
  • If sound effects are added to the music, the form should not solely be choreographed to the added sound effects.
  • Music and sound effects should appropriately match each other, and set the overall mood for each performance.
  • Overall, all music and sound effects used must compliment the form, and both the form and music should be judged together and viewed as an overall performance, not simply as a form performed with music playing.

It is the responsibility of the competitor to provide a music player of reasonable and non-intrusive size at ringside to play his or her music, and an attendant at the player who must be present at all times during the performance (unless it is advertised that music players will be supplied).  As each form begins, a music volume check must be made, during which time the player attendant will look to the center judge for a nod of approval or a signal to lower the volume.  Once this volume is set, it may not be increased during the performance of the form.

E. Team/Group Divisions

  • Synchronized Form and Weapon
    1. 2 Member Minimum, 5 Member Maximum
    2. Empty Hand Forms, Weapons Forms or combinations of both are legal
    3. Synchronize Team Form will be graded on how well a team is working in a cooperative, joint effort with the majority of techniques being executed together, at the same time, in unison and/or in a domino sequence effect. All technical Martial Arts skills are judged for execution, presentation and difficulty
  • Demonstration Team
    1. 6 Member Minimum, 15 Member Maximum
    2. All the technical Martial Arts skills are judged for execution, presentation, and difficulty.
    3. Team Demonstration is given more liberties and freedoms to exhibit one or a combination of Martial Arts Skills. Synchronization should be a part of team demonstration.

E. Guidelines.

  1. Dropping Weapons - Competitors who clearly lose control of their weapon and allow their weapon to fall to the floor without making a reasonable attempt to recover it will be penalized in the following manner:
    1. Black Belt - Automatic disqualification and no scores given
    2. Color Belt - Scores should be given as if the drop did not occur but the scorekeeper will deduct three-hundredths of a point (0.03) from the final score.
  2. Time Limit - Each divisional form or weapon routine must be three (3) minutes or less.  The time starts once the competitor enters the competition ring.  Each team form and/or demo routine as a four (4) minutes time limit.  Any competitor, team form or team demo that goes over the allowed time limit is automatically disqualified. 
  3. Restarting - If a competitor starts his/her form over because of a memory lapse or any other reason due to his/her own negligence, he/she may perform the form again.  The officials will score as though there was not a mistake, but the center referee will instruct the scorekeeper to subtract 0.30 points from a color belt competitor’s final score.  Black belt competitors who start over will automatically receive the lowest score possible based on the scoring range used. The three-minute time limit will start over.  A competitor can only start over one time for scoring.  If a competitor has to start over not due to his/her negligence, he/she will not be penalized on the start over.
  4. Ties - If there is a tie for 1st thru 4th place, the majority of the judge’s scores determine the winner. If there is not a majority of judges for one competitor and one judge or more gave the same score for the tied competitor, the judge that gave the same scores must be ask to make a decision and break the tie.  All judges must make scoring decisions by giving different scores to the competitors.  Ties for 5th through 8th place are never broken.  They will remain tied and all will receive points and awards.  If there is a tie and there is not a majority judge’s decision and no judge gave the same score to any one competitor, the tied competitors will compete again and be scored again.
  5. Splitting Divisions - Divisions will be split once (16) sixteen competitors are registered for the same division. Separation of competitors will be random and at the discretion of the referee and scorekeeper.

Sparring Judging Criteria & Guidelines

A. Points. A point is a sport martial arts technique that is scored by a completely in-bound and up-right (not considered down) competitor who strikes their opponent with a reasonable amount of contact and focused control to a legal target area with a legal technique. Techniques clearly meant to incapacitate and/or deliberately and unnecessarily injure a competitor do not constitute a "reasonable amount of contact." Similarly, techniques with no obvious, recognizable amount of force and/or barely make contact with the opponent do not constitute a "reasonable amount of contact."

B. Point Values.

  • All legal hand techniques making appropriate contact to a legal target area will be awarded (1) one point
  • All legal kicking techniques making appropriate contact to a legal target area will be awarded (2) two points
  • All legal jump spinning kicking techniques making appropriate contact to a legal target area on the head will be awarded (3) points
    • Competitors must be in the air and spinning simultaneously, make contact with a kicking technique to a legal target area on the opponent's head, and land upright and in control in order to be awarded (3) three points.

C. Legal Target Areas.

  • Legal Target Areas: Entire head that is covered by a headgear, ribs, chest, abdomen, collarbone and kidneys. If a competitor chooses to wear a face mask, the face mask is considered part of the head and is a legal target area.
  • Illegal Target AreasSpine, back of neck, throat, sides of the neck, groin, legs, knees and back.  Striking any of these areas may result in a warning and/or penalty point at the discretion of the center referee.
  • Non-target Areas Hips, shoulders, buttocks, arms, and feet. Striking any of these areas will not result in either a point or a penalty point.

D. Legal Striking Techniques. Legal techniques are all controlled sport martial arts techniques, except those listed as illegal.

  • ILLEGAL TECHNIQUES:  Head butts, hair pulling, biting, scratching, elbows strikes, forearm strikes, knee strikes, shin strikes, tackling, eye gouging/attacks of any kind, take downs, ground fighting, stomping or kicking a downed competitor, slapping, grabbing for more than one second, uncontrolled blind techniques, throwing, sweeps, and any other uncontrolled dangerous techniques that are deemed unsafe in sport martial arts.
  • Legal, non-point techniques:
    • Front-hand jab to the body is neither a legal nor illegal striking technique - therefore no point will be awarded and no competitor will be penalized. Competitors may lead with a front-hand jab to the body but must follow with a second technique in order to be awarded a point. Front-hand jab to the head is a legal technique and will be awarded a point.
    • A boot sweep (checking your opponent's instep to six inches above the ankle with your foot's in-step only, not any other part of the foot) to unbalance your opponent is neither a legal strike nor illegal technique. This move should be used solely as a means to unbalance your opponent. It will be up to the discretion of the referee to determine if an unnecessary amount of force is being used to the point where a boot sweep is resembling a kick to the lower leg. Poor execution of a boot sweep to this degree may constitute a warning or penalty.


E. Length of a Match. All sparring matches will last no longer than (2) two minutes. The timer will not be stopped unless explicitly instructed by the referee.

F. Winning a Match. Unless a competitor chooses to forfeit their match or is disqualified, the winner will be determined in the following manner:

  • Underbelts - The competitor that accumulates (7) points first or the competitor that  accumulates the most points at the end of the two minute match.
  • Black Belts - The competitor that accumulates a (7) point spread first or the competitor that accumulates the most points at the end of the two minute match.

Matches that result in a tie will go on to Sudden Victory and the competitor that scores first will be declared the winner.

G. Warning and Penalties. Penalties will be dealt with in the following manner:

  1. 1st Penalty - Verbal Warning to the offending competitor
  2. 2nd Penalty - 1 Penalty Point to the offending competitor's opponent & second verbal warning
  3. 3rd Penalty - Disqualification of the offending competitor

If the severity of the first rules violation is deemed by the referee to be too severe, a penalty point can be issued immediately and the first warning will be forfeited. Warnings and penalties will be awarded for the following:

  • Attacking illegal target areas
  • Using illegal techniques
  • Running out of the ring to avoid fighting
  • Intentionally falling to the floor to avoid fighting
  • Continuing to fight after being ordered to stop
  • Excessive stalling
  • Blind, negligent, or reckless attacks and uncontrolled techniques
  • Showing unsportsmanlike behavior to the competitor, his/her coaches, friends, and/or officials
  • Excessive contact/force
  • Drawing blood - *May be grounds for disqualification depending on the circumstance and at the discretion of the majority of judges.