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mrjeffmacdonald's picture
German governing bodies

During one of Iain's podcasts he mentions how in Germany there are governing bodies that give guildelines for how to access compententacy for Sport Karate, Tradiational Karate and now Practical Karate.

Does anyone have any links to those organisations and or their guidelines? Tks.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

I think you may have misunderstood me there Jeff.  It is my understanding that the German Karate Association (Deutscher Karate Verband) now not only recognises gradings done in “traditional” (what we may call 3K karate) and sport karate, but also bunkai based practical karate. They also have a dedicated set of self-defence teacher qualifications (which a friend of mine delivers).

I mentioned that as one of many examples to illustrate that a bunkai-based / self-defence focussed approach to karate is becoming increasingly mainstream, and governing bodies are adjusting to that.

Other national governing bodies do similar things and I was not saying the was anything unique happening in Germany. It was just that people can now grade in a way they couldn’t in the past, and the self-defence side of things is now recognised as being district from “traditional” and sport karate.

Back to what you were looking for, the World Combat Association does have guidelines on what a practical approach should include (I wrote them) and a brief outline can be downloaded HERE.

This podcast may also help:


I hope that helps!

All the best,


mrjeffmacdonald's picture

That does help! Thanks 

Cataphract's picture

I think Iain is referring to the freestyle (as in "open to all styles") examination regulations of the DKV. DKV is one of the larger karate organizations in Germany.

They can be found here link as "Prüfungsordnung Stiloffenes Karate".

For example a yellow belt examination checks: kata, three bunkai techniques from that on partner, some prearranged kumite and self defense against wrist grab, lapel grab.

That is rather practical.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Cataphract wrote:
I think Iain is referring to the freestyle (as in "open to all styles") examination regulations of the DKV. DKV is one of the larger karate organizations in Germany.

They can be found here link as "Prüfungsordnung Stiloffenes Karate".

That would be it. Thank you for the links!

I can’t speak German, but I understand (thank you google translate!) the grading structure includes bunkai, pad-drills, self-defence, live randori, etc. Personally, I would structure things differently and I can see some gaps, but the key elements are there. There is also no denying it is a good sign when such a huge national governing body (also affiliated to the WKF) is recognising the legitimacy of grading in a bunkai-based and self-defence focused way. Such practise was very much on the fringe 15 years or so ago, but it’s mainstream now.

I see the same happening globally too.

All the best,


Marc's picture

Let me provide you with a bit more on the idea behind "open to all styles karate" examination regulations of the DKV.

The DKV is the officially recognised body for karate in Germany. That means for example that the DKV may form the national team of karate athletes who represent Germany in tournaments (with flag, the eagle logo and everything). There are, however a few more karate organisations in Germany, e.g. JKA Germany.

Within the DKV the styles like Shotokan, Goju, Wado, Shito, and several more, are responsible for their respective exam regulations and for licensing their examiners.

Most of these exam regulations expect the students to perform kata, kihon and kihon-kumite (3K karate). Some expect jiyu-kumite (or randori) for higher gradings. Some expect bunkai for higher gradings. - It might be interesting to note that the Shotokan regulations state in the introduction that karate training should teach the student self-defence skills as a natural part of karate, but that self-defence is not part of the exams.

In the early 2000s the DKV recognised two things: a) More smaller styles formed within the association. b) Clubs and individuals specialised in either sports karate (kumite / kata) or non-sports karate (self-defence / health).

As a reaction to these developments the DKV in 2003 introduced a new exam regulations framework that is open for all styles to adopt and adapt. It is called "Stiloffenes Karate (SOK)", literally "style open karate".

This saves new styles the trouble of designing their own exam regulations from scratch. They can use the framework and change details where they feel the need.

The SOK framework is structured as follows:

Part A : Kata

Each styles defines the kata(s) required for each grade.

Part B : Kihon

The examinee has to perform half a dozen of techniques or combinations from the respective kata(s) or related to the kata(s).

Part C : Partner Work

In this part the examinee selects one of three kinds of partner work.

Part C Option 1 : Kata Bunkai

The examinee shows half a dozen of applications for techniques from (one of) the grading kata(s). This may be sports like competion bunkai or practical bunkai (or simple block-counter bunkai for that matter).

Part C Option 2 : Sports Kumite

For 9th Kyu this option starts with simple stepping exercises of common competition kumite techniques on a partner. Quickly becoming more complex and less formal, including counters. From 6th kyu onwards a few rounds of randori or shiai are included. Shiai should follow competition rules, which also means the examiniees should wear gloves and everything. For Dan grades knowledge of competition rules is required.

Part C Option 3 : Self-Defence

The examinee has to show techniques against prescribed attacks. The attacks are HAPV starting with wrist grabs at 9th Kyu, and escalating to random grabs, hugs, chokes and strangles, punches, pushes, kicks, and stick attacks, at Dan level.

All techniques must also be shown on focus mitts or kick shields if possible.


The three options in part C allow clubs and individuals to take exams in the field of their choice. The practical minded can go for self-defence or bunkai, while the sport types can chose competition kumite (or bunkai).

The PDF version of the SOK regulations linked to in Cataphract's post is the official download from the DKV website. However the formatting is pretty messy. Here's another, more readable version:


For anybody who might be interested: I have written a suggestion for the kihon part of SOK Shotokan Kyu exams. It is available in German only, since it is relevant exclusively for karateka in Germany.


Take care everybody