Karate developed as a self-defense system among those whose weapons had been taken away. Later it was introduced to Japan, mixed with Japanese culture, and became a Budo (Martial art). Currently, karate is practiced all over the world, and championship tournaments are held everywhere. Karate tournaments are of two sorts: Sport Karate and Budo Karate.
Sport Karate is enjoyable in tournament, but there are many people who participate in Budo tournaments. Sport tournamnts often use a three point system, wherease Budo tournaments use a one point system. What is the difference? In Sport tournmant matches, since the first person accumulating three points is the winner, you can think and relax. If you lose a point, there is still a chance to win. In Budo Karate tournamnts, you have to think "this is my last chance," so you must focus everything you have on that one chance.
In Japan there is a famous phrase, "ICHIGO ICHIE," meaning "one lifetime, one meeting." Originally it came from the Japanese tea ceremony, meaning that this moment is the only moment and will not come back. At this moment, you are meeting a person for the only time in your life, so use this meeting preciously. So you should devote yourself to doing your best at every moment. Kendo (Japanese sword fighting art) teaches that you should "place yourself at your opponent's disposal" and attack. This is the last moment of your life, so you should act with everything you have and not regret whatever happens afterward.
Tournaments are a training method, but they are also the culmination of training. The three point system may not teach this finality of attitude. If a woman is attacked by a big guy, she will only have one chance to defend herself. In any fighting situation, you have to fight like the mother hen protecting her chicks. For these reasons, I recommend the three point system for novices, but the one point system for advanced students.
From Kitoh Karate by S. Sugiyama Copyright 1994