U.S. Army Captain Frank Dux, trained from his youth in the ways of Ninjutsu by Senzo Tanaka, honors his mentor by taking the place of Tanaka’s deceased son Shingo in the illegal Kumite martial-arts tournament. During his childhood, Dux and a group of friends invaded Tanaka’s home to steal a katana, but he was apprehended by Senzo and Shingo while attempting to return the katana to its display rack. Impressed by Dux’s honesty and lack of fear, Senzo had him train with Shingo in martial science. Following Shingo’s death, Senzo agreed to train Dux as a member of the Tanaka clan. When Dux’s superiors learn of his invitation to the Kumite, they refuse to let him go; in return, he goes AWOL, says goodbye to his mentor and leaves for Hong Kong. Two CID officers, Helmer and Rawlins, are summoned to track down and arrest Dux for desertion. After arriving in Hong Kong, Dux befriends American fighter Ray Jackson and Victor Lin, who becomes the manager/liaison for Jackson and Dux. The two Americans and the defending Kumite champion Chong Li—a fighter with a savage streak—all make it through the first day of the Kumite. Dux earns the enmity of Li after breaking his record for the fastest knockout. Dux becomes involved with American journalist Janice Kent, who is attempting to investigate the Kumite, but is shocked by its violence. On the second day of the tournament, Jackson is matched against Li. Although Jackson gains the upper hand, he gloats instead of finishing Li, who violently beats him, putting him in the hospital. Dux vows that he will avenge Jackson. Kent tries to convince Dux to pull out of the tournament, but he refuses. On the last day of the competition, Dux is cornered by Helmer and Rawlins. After defeating the local police, he promises to give himself up once the tournament is over. Dux advances to the tournament final to face Li, who has alienated the audience by killing his previous opponent remorselessly. Dux is a formidable foe, so Li resorts to blinding him with a crushed salt pill. Dux uses his other senses (as Senzo had taught him) to overcome the handicap and force Li to shout “matté” (a cry of surrender), becoming the first Western winner of the Kumite. He then returns to the United States with the CID officers.
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