K-1 logo
K-1 logo
K-1 Qualification System until 2005
K-1 Qualification System until 2005

K-1 is a kickboxing combat sport that combines standup techniques from Muay Thai, Karate, Taekwondo, Kickboxing and traditional Boxing, among others. The name is a play off the abbreviation of Formula 1, which is F-1. The sport was first formed by Kazuyoshi Ishii, a former Kyokushin karate competition fighter who had formed his own organization, Seido-kaikan karate, in 1980. Seido-kaikan arranged several successful organization challenge events against other martial sport organizations, originally using rules based on the Kyokushin Knockdown karate rules, but gradually adapting and changing closer to kickboxing rules. In 1993 Mr. Ichii founded the K-1 organization exclusively as a kickboxing sport organizations, closely cooperating with, but independent from, Seido-kaikan.

There is currently a 70.5kg (155lb) weight division in K-1 called K-1 MAX ( "Middleweight Artistic Xtreme" ).

The K-1 organization is currently headed and promoted by Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG) of Japan. FEG also promotes Hero's mixed martial arts events, with headliners such as Genki Sudo, Royce Gracie, Bob Sapp, Kazushi Sakuraba and Don Frye. Both promotions regularly cross-promote, and some of FEG's contracted fighters have fought in both circuits.

K-1 events can be viewed in the USA via pay-per-view on iN DEMAND, and in most parts of Europe on EuroSport

Rules, Qualification and Match-Ups


Regular K-1 matches are contested under the following rules:

  • Each match is three or five rounds in duration, with each round lasting three minutes.
  • The match can end by Knockout, Technical Knockout, Decision, Disqualification, Draw or No Contest.
  • The referee or the doctor can stop the fight.
  • The fight is scored by three judges on a ten-point must system (The winner of each round receives ten points, and the loser receives nine or less. If the round is even, both competitors receive ten points).
  • If there is a draw after three rounds, the judges' scores are thrown out and one or two extra three-minute rounds are contested. The judges' decision will then come from the scoring of each extra round only. If, after the extra round(s), there is still a draw, the judges will decide a winner based on the flow of the entire match, considering even the slightest difference. A fight can only end in a draw if both fighters go down at the same time and cannot get up, or in the case of accidental injury in the late stages of the contest.
  • The three-knockdown rule is in effect (three knockdowns in a round results in a technical knockout).
  • The mandatory eight count is in effect (the referee must count to at least "eight" on all knockdowns).
  • The standing eight count is in effect (the referee has the right to declare a knockdown on a fighter who appears to be in a dangerous condition to continue in the match).
  • A fighter can be saved by the bell only in the last round.

In K-1 single elimination tournament matches:

  • Each match is three rounds in duration.
  • The three-knockdown rule becomes a two-knockdown rule for all matches except the final.
  • One or two reserve fights are held prior to the single elimination matches. If for any reason a fighter who wins and advances through the brackets is unable to continue, a reserve match competitor, or the fighter's opponent from the most recent match, takes his place. There are certain exceptions to this rule (i.e. a fighter who lost a match by knockout might not be eligible to replace another fighter).


The following actions in K-1 are considered fouls:

  • Using the head or elbow to deliver a blow
  • Attacking the opponent in the groin
  • Delivering wrestling or judo throwing or submission techniques
  • Thumbing, choking or biting the opponent
  • Punching the opponent in the throat
  • Attacking the opponent while he is down or in the process of getting up
  • Attacking the opponent after the referee calls a break
  • Holding the ropes
  • Using offensive language to the referee
  • Attacking the back of the head with a punch
  • Attempting to cause the opponent to fall out of the ring
  • Voluntarily exiting the ring during the course of a match
  • Attacking an opponent who turns around and shows his back (unless the opponent loses his will to fight)
  • Delivering a backspin blow in an unauthorized area
  • Charging inside the opponent's arms with the head held low (inducing a head-butt)
  • Fighting in a passive manner (without attacking), including continuous holding and clinching
  • Attacking more than once while holding the opponent's kicking leg, or while holding the opponent's neck with both hands

A fighter is penalized as follows:

  • Caution - verbal reprimand by the referee
  • Warning - fighter is shown a yellow card
  • Point Deduction - fighter is shown a red card

Two cautions result in one warning. Two warnings result in a point deduction, and three point deductions in one round can result in a disqualification.

A red card is shown automatically if a fighter commits a foul with malicious intent.


The system of K-1 is changing from time to time as a response to the growing popularity in different parts of the world.

In the beginning of the K-1 series it was a single tournament in Japan with fighters participating by invitation. By today K-1 has branched out to all parts of the world and has been divided into Grand Prix-s, leagues and preliminaries. There are six regional GPs on all continents (except Africa, South America and Antarctica) and all of them has exclusively the right to send fighters (the winners) into the Final Elimination in Japan. Although the hosting countries of GPs has changed several times as popularity varies throughout regions. Preliminaries are organized in countries with minor attendance and consists of 7 tournament matches whereof the winner qualifies to the GPs. Until 2006 the main aim of K-1 was to gain popularity in the United States therefore three of the GPs were in the US, however only in some case did an American qualify for the Finals. These GPs were the "USA GP I." - Mayhem at the Mirage, "USA GP II." - Battle at the Bellagio and "Intercontinental GP" - Hawaii. This situation changed with 2006 and one of the American GPs has been relocated to Auckland, New Zealand, hometown of Ray Sefo under the name of "Oceania GP". The new place for the second GP is undecided yet. Also the "Paris GP" has lost its qualifying right in favor of the "Europe GP" in Amsterdam.

The Final Elimination is an event where the 16 participants compete for the eight place in the Finals. The line-up of the sixteen member is a sum up of the 6 new GP winners the eight finalists from the Final of previous year plus 2 fighters selected by the K-1 organization (from a total of seven best performed fighters during the year). In 2006 there have been some modifications made concerning the number of automatic qualifiers because of last year's exceptional final line-up in the Final. Peter Aerts was substituted by Glaube Feitosa who reached the final match therefore he has been included in the 2006 Final Elimination.


Usually combatants of the quarter-finals of an 16-men 8-match tournament are paired by drawing. In case of the Final in the Tokyo Dome it is widely different. The whole event is combined with a ceremony and a press conference. The process looks like a lottery show in the beginning with all the fighters pulling a ball from a glass bowl. The balls represent numbers 1 to 8, which determines the fighters' order in choosing a position from a giant tournament tree figure by standing in front a drawn bracket (from A to H) on the poster, which represents the fighter's corner-color and the line-number of the match. Next fighter do the same, but he can now choose between challenging the one on the stage or an "empty" section. This procedure goes on until one fighter remains who has no choice just to fill to one slot left next to the one lone fighter. This system gives a freedom of choice and tactics to the fighters with the help of a little luck.


The principal object of K-1 is to win by either knockout or by decision. Fights occur inside a ring, as in boxing, and they are fought for three rounds of three minutes each. Extra rounds (also three minutes long) may be fought, if the judges score the fight a draw. Victories are usually achieved by hurting the opponent with kicks to the legs or the head, or using traditional boxing punches, such as the jab, cross or uppercut.

Classic defensive boxing stance is rather ineffective against leg kicks, and fighters are more or less forced to constantly move and counterattack, which is certainly one of the reasons why K-1 fights are seen by many as more dynamic and exciting than boxing fights.

No major K-1 tragedies have been reported; nonetheless, the risk of sustaining a serious injury still exists.


Main Article: The History of K-1

Popularity and Criticisms

The sport is popular principally in Brazil, Japan, Europe, and also in the United States, although fightsports are banned in many states. Most K-1 contests in the United States take place in Las Vegas or Honolulu. The sports events are frequently shown on Tokyo Broadcasting System in Japan, Pay Per View television or ESPN 2on "Friday Night Fights" in the United States and on Eurosport in Europe. K-1 events are broadcast in other countries by national and sports channels.

The competitions have been met with some fan and fighting pundit criticisms over the past few years since Bob Sapp became one of the fight co-ordinators due to their increased use of lower quality athletes that headline the events for no other reason than size or real-world status such as former Yokozuna Akebono, Ssireum wrestler Choi Hong-man, and comedian Bobby Ologun. Through this avenue, match quality is sacrificed for spectacality.

Extremely biased judging in favour of Japanese fighters has been observed at many of the major K-1 international tournaments held in Japan. It is perceived wisdom that you must score multiple knockdowns or knock out a Japanese fighter to score a win at Japanese venues. Part of this problem stems from the fact that the judges are exclusively Japanese. The same problem has been seen to occur at the Korean K-1 events with Korean fighters.

This controversy has recently appeared again at K-1 Heroes 6 in a match pitting Kazushi Sakuraba, the man that had been promoted as the face of the division and Lithuanian fighter Kestutis Smirnovas. Smirnovas, recovering from a front kick, caught Sakuraba coming in and knocking him to the ground senseless. Smirnovas, over the course of two minutes, pummelled Sakuraba with over 20 unprotected and unanswered punches, but the referee refused to stop the fight, only stepping in to reposition the fighters. Smirnovas, after three and a half minutes of relentless punching, began to slow down. This gave Sakuraba the opportunity to recover and knock down Smirnovas and get a submission win on him. K-1 promoter, Akira Maeda called from ringside for the fight to be stopped during the time Smirnovas was striking Sakuraba and along with PRIDE fighter Hidehiko Yoshida, condemned the actions of the referee.

On June 30, 2006, K-1 officials reversed the result of a contest between Dutch fighter Remy Bonjasky and French fighter Jérôme Le Banner, held on May 13, 2006 at the K-1 World Grand Prix in Amsterdam event. The original result was a slim majority decision for Bonjasky (30-30, 29-28, 30-28). However, Le Banner filed a protest and K-1 officials from Japan and the United States reviewed the match based on current K-1 Grand Prix judging criteria. They made several conclusions, among which was the fact that the composition of the judges—all Dutch—completely ignored the element of impartiality. The result was reversed, giving the win to Le Banner by a score of 30-29. The K-1 website was updated to reflect this decision. Source: K-1 Website

K-1 Grand Prix

Throughout the year K-1 holds various 16-men, 8-match grand prix style tournaments to determine the top 16 fighters who will compete in the K-1 World GP. K-1 events most commonly take place in Japan, but they have hosted shows in the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, France, South Korea, Australia, Sweden, Russia, Croatia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Hungary, Spain, Brazil and the USA, etc.

List of K-1 Events

Main Article: List of K-1 Events

K-1 Champions and Fighters

date - name - kickboxing rank - titles (May 1, 2006)

K-1 World Grand Prix champions to date

K-1 MAX World GP champions to date

Other notable K-1 fighters

Traditional boxing stars at the K-1 tournament

Late in 2003, Bob Sapp challenged Mike Tyson, the former world Heavyweight boxing champion, to a K-1 fight. While Tyson did not accept the offer immediately, he signed with K-1 to be his official Japanese representation on August 23, 2003.[1] A deal to actually fight in K-1 never materialized. In early 2006 another rumour of the re-schedule of this match in August 2006 has been released by the press and had been confirmed by Bob Sapp in an interview. For that reason he also turned down the role for the upcoming movie Bloodsport 2. [2]. Later in August 2006, Mike Tyson appeared at a press conference held by rival organization Pride Fighting Championships, and Dream Stage Entertainment, Pride's parent company, has confirmed that Tyson has signed with Pride, though his status with the company remains unknown.

Others who have made the transition from traditional boxers to K-1 fighters include:

Other fighters derived from various sports

Fighters temporarily contracted to K-1

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2006-11-25K-1 WORLD GRAND PRIX 2006 FINALK-1 World GP
2006-09-30K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in OsakaK-1 World GP
2006-08-14K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in Las Vegas IIK-1 World GP
2006-07-30K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in SapporoK-1 World GP
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2006-05-13K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in AmsterdamK-1 World GP
2006-04-29K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in Las VegasK-1 World GP
2006-03-05K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in AucklandK-1 World GP

2006-09-16K-1 Khan 2006 in SeoulK-1 MAX
2006-09-04K-1 World Max 2006 Champions' ChallengeK-1 MAX
2006-06-30K-1 World Max 2006 World Tournament FinalK-1 MAX
2006-04-05K-1 World Max 2006 World Tournament OpenK-1 MAX
2006-03-26K-1 Holland Max 2006K-1 MAX
2006-03-10K-1 Lithuania Max 2006K-1 MAX
2006-02-25K-1 Khan 2006 in BusanK-1 MAX
2006-02-04K-1 Japan MAX 2006K-1 MAX

2006-09-16Fight Night MannheimK-1 Rules
2006-09-16K-1 Kings of Oceania 2006 Round 2K-1 Rules
2006-08-05Rumble on the BeachK-1 Rules
2006-05-20K-1 Scandinavia Grand Prix 2006 in StockholmK-1 Rules
2006-04-08K-1 Italy Grand Prix 2006 in MilanK-1 Rules
2006-02-25K-1 Hungary Grand Prix 2006 in BudapestK-1 Rules
2006-02-17K-1 Slovakia Grand Prix 2006 in Bratislava 
2006-01-20K-1 France Grand Prix 2006 in MarseillesK-1 Rules

2006-12-31K-1 Premium 2006 Dynamite!!Hero's
2006-10-09Hero's Middle & Light Heavy Weight World Championship Tournament FINALHero's
2006-08-05Hero's Middle & Light Heavyweight World Championship TournamentHero's
2006-05-03Hero's 5Hero's
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