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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).
Source: K-1 Website

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.

Source: K-1 Website

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 two of the American GPs have 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 8-men 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.
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