How do expert karate fighters predict their opponents attacks?

Prior to an opponent executing a skill, a player will have information available to them that can help anticipate what will happen next. This includes priori knowledge of players strengths, weaknesses and preferences, court or field position, and situational probability information.

It is argued that situational probability information is used in time-stressed interceptive actions (e.g. serve return in tennis, goal keeping in soccer and blocking attacks in karate), and provides added value to that found from opponent’s movement kinematics.

Karate Study

This study examined the contribution of situational probability information to the processes underlying decision-making behaviour during an in situ Karate performance. Experts and novices were required to make decisions about various attacks in different fight scenarios.

The order in which the fight situations were presented was manipulated to provide advanced probability information. Specifically, one of the attacks was repeated every four actions. Hence, if karate fighters detected the pattern, they would be able to anticipate their opponents actions on every fourth attack.


Results revealed that experts were able to recognise the occurrence of the attack pattern after the fifth repetition. Conversely, novices did not pick up the pattern.

An analysis of gaze behaviour revealed that experts used a more efficient search strategy than novices. An efficient search strategy included fewer fixations of longer duration on less areas. This search strategy might have provided experts with the opportunity to recognise situational patterns more easily.

Milazzo et al

Extracted from Milazzo et al. (2016)


Recognising the occurrence of attack patterns in karate enables experts to make faster and more decisions when blocking attacks and implementing counter attacks.

Coaches can develop athletes ability to utilize situational probablilty information by developing training drills that focus on opponent profiling (i.e., searching for opponents strengths, weaknesses and habits), and developing awareness of how and when to take advantage of this knowledge.

Furthermore, by using video footage or virtual reality simulation, coaches can train athletes to adopt more efficient gaze behaviour patterns, which might help anticipate attacks in karate.


Milazzo, N., Farrow, D., Ruffault, A., & Fournier, J. F. (2016). Do karate fighters use situational probability information to improve decision-making performance during on-mat tasks?. Journal of sports sciences, 34(16), 1547-1556.


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