Karate Sparring Drill – 3 Kings

I’m sure you’re familiar with the good old sparring exercise, “king of the ring” where the winner stays on and the loser is replaced by another student.

Take a look at this quick diagram below. The green circle represents the pair fighting and the red circle represents the line of students waiting for their turn.


This is a good karate kumite drill when you have a small group of 3 to 6 students, however when you have a group of 10 or more then it could be a while before the people waiting get their turn. To make matters worse your best fighter might stay on for the duration of the drill, and the ones who need practice spend little time on the floor.

For a big group, have multiple fights at the same time. Winners stay on as before, losers return to the line. Next in line takes the next available fight.


This is cool because students are constantly rotating, fighting different people all the time.

You can set this up multiple ways. I like to have quick rotations, so I like the rule that the first to score a clean hit is the winner (sloppy technique is not awarded a point). Also the flip side of “first to score a clean hit” helps students work on one of the most basic concepts of karate – not getting hit. You’ll find that your fighters will be more careful because they’ll want to stay on.

However, if you would prefer to steer away from the “point fighting” method, you could impose the rule of “first to score a clean combo”, or “first to dominate the other fighter”. In fact you could get really creative and set a rule of “first to score with (insert your chosen technique here) is the winner”, or limit the “King” to certain techniques, etc. But when starting out, keep it simple until your students are ready for the more complex variations.

TIP: You’ll have difficulty setting times for each fight and trying to determine a winner with multiple groups. The more you can have your fighters self-regulate their match, the better.

Anyway, there are a bunch more ways to run this exercise and I’m sure you’ll put your own spin on it.

If you have some ideas you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them. So please add  your comment (yes, the Captcha is now working), and share this post.

Stay safe, train hard.

– Jason

3 thoughts on “Karate Sparring Drill – 3 Kings”

  1. This is a great drill! you could use the time drill if you use Black belt students, to keep time for fight circle 123. good work out…

  2. Hey Jason,
    This is an exciting drill and i cant wait to introduce it into my class. This drill go keep them so busy, thinking and creative but as you mention techniques shoukd be clean and effective. Am planning to have the students use foot techniques alone, hand techniques and a combination of both with proper posture and focus ofcourse. Again thanks and am wishing you and your family a blessed, enjoyable and safe Easter!!!


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