There are lots of ways to “get in shape” and some of them work better than others for a chosen sport. But how do you know if what you’re doing is “working”?  A recent article in the Journal of Strength& Conditioning Research discusses the “Reliability and Construct Validity of the Karate-Specific Aerobic Test” (JS&CR, 26(12):3454-3460, 2012).    

This test (KSAT for short) is a sport-specific field test designed to evaluate aerobic performance of karate practitioners.  It consists of the following combination: Jab, Rear Roundhouse kick, Cross, Front Roundhouse kick – done 2X in 7 seconds.  The strikes are done with maximum power on a heavy bag.  After a rest interval the combination is repeated.  When the participant failed to complete the combination within 7 seconds twice, or when there were clear decreases in power, the “time to exhaustion”was recorded and represented the final result. The authors do not list the recovery time given between efforts, only that the recovery time progressively decreased to make the test more demanding.  If I was applying this test I’d use a 1:2 work/rest ratio and just keep the rest period fixed for simplicity.  As long as you’re consistent from test to test, it would be fine.  
I can see this being used as a test to get a baseline level for karate-specific fitness, and then being used later to evaluate progress.   Did my “time to exhaustion” increase or decrease?   If it got longer (better), then my conditioning program is having a positive effect.  If it didn’t, maybe I’m focusing on the wrong programming structure.   Sensei used to say “the best way to get in shape for karate is to do karate.”  We had a brown belt once that was trying to get in shape for a black belt test and thought he had to do more cardio, so he started running up to 12 miles at a time.  Unfortunately he was still gassed when hitting the bag, because they are two completely different energy and movement patterns. 

In this case the authors found that the KSAT showed differences in performance levels between National level and Regional level karateka.  National level athletes lasted 3 minutes longer in their time to exhaustion. The performance levels that they found
may not be indicative of what your students could/should do, but it would be straightforward to set some guidelines and expectations for different belt ranks, and even set minimum requirements for promotion to Black Belt. 

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