Kumite - end result or last resort?

One of the biggest misconceptions about Martial Arts in the wider community is that "Fighting" is what it's actually all about. The truth is that combat skills, or "Kumite (koo-mi-tay)" is the self-defence application of the techniques of Karate, coupled with the philosophy of complete control of self, the environment and others within it.

It is less about how hard and fast one can punch, kick or strike, and more about how you can avoid physical conflict as many ways as possible first, then, only when necessary, apply defensive techniques as a next step, and only more aggressive manoeuvres as a last possibility.

There different reasons for applying Kumite, these include....

  • Training & Learning

  • Competition

  • Self Defence

Kumite for training and learning is simply done with absolute control so as not to inflict damage or injury on yourself, or your training partners. Most Dojos prefer non-contact or semi-contact (skin surface touch only) as the preferred method of practicing Kumite under these circumstances.

This kind of Kumite requires great care and great concentration.

It is necessary for a student to complete and perfect certain systems of "structured" Kumite in order to satisfy grading requirements. For grading, the higher the grade attempted, the more technically difficult structured Kumites become. Here is an overview of the Structured Kumites...

Gohon Kumite: (5-step Basic Sparring)

This is where an attacker first announces his attack intention, then moves forward towards his opponent punching once with each of his 5 steps, first to the face, then, on the second attack, 5 times to the body. The defender must step backwards matching his attacker step for step to maintain safe distance while simultaneously deflecting the punches with appropriate defensive techniques. The defender must then counter-punch after each 5th defence to signify the snatching of control of the bout from the attacker.

Sanbon Kumite: (3-step Intermediate Sparring)

This is where an attacker first announces his attack intention, then moves forward towards his opponent with a combination attack comprising punches to the face and body, then a single body kick. The defender must use the appropriate techniques to deflect all 3 attacks in the combination, then counter-punch to signify the snatching of control of the bout from the attacker.

Kihon-Ippon Kumite: (1-step Basic Sparring)

This is where an attacker first announces his attack intention, then moves forward towards his opponent only one step per attack. The attacks include face and body punches, snap and thrust kicks to the body, each attack done the same way twice. The defender must take a single step backwards with an appropriate technique to deflect each attack, followed immediately by a counter attack technique to signify the snatching of control of the bout from the attacker. The added feature of this Kumite is that because each attack is delivered the same way twice, the defender must deflect and counter twice but only the first may be using a basic technique. The second must be a non-basic, or less common or more "free-style" technique that must be equally as effective. The purpose for this is to assist a transition between basic, structured Kumite, and the ability to apply free-style techniques to real defence situations.

Jiyu-Ippon Kumite: (1-step Free-Style Kumite)

This form of Kumite has no formal stance, distance or posture restrictions whatsoever. Students are free to defend naturally and by whatever posture is comfortable for them. The attacker first announces his attack intention, then moves forward towards his opponent only one step per attack. The attacks include face and body punches, snap and thrust kicks to the body and one roundhouse snap kick to the head. Each attack done twice, using both left and right hands and feet. The defender must deflect or otherwise foil the attack using  appropriate techniques, followed immediately by (or executed simultaneously with) a counter attack technique to signify the snatching of control of the bout from the attacker. The purpose for this is to further the a transition between basic, structured Kumite, and the ability to apply free-style techniques to real defence situations.

Jiyu Kumite: (Totally Free-Style Sparring)

There is no formal requirement for attack or defence. It may be any appropriate techniques without warning or acknowledgement. It may also be any appropriate defence method. Of course, for the purpose of training, grading or competition, contact control is still very important to avoid injury.

Kumite for Competition is that which is conducted under the most controlled of environments. Under the direction of rules such as the W.K.F. tournament rules and guidelines, Kumite is conducted on flat, matted surfaces with padded safety equipment and up to 5 officials refereeing and judging each ring of only 2 competitors at a time under closely controlled time and point scoring methods.

This kind of Kumite requires great skill, timing and immense control.

Kumite for Self Defence is that which is conducted when you initially have little or no control over the environment, circumstances or opponent/s. This is limited to those moments when your safety or that of other innocent people, comes under imminent threat and all alternative avenues to defuse that situation have either no positive affect, or are not practicable.

This kind of Kumite is when you would use whatever is the amount of force and control that you deem necessary in order to achieve the most positive outcome and brings into play all of the skills, judgment, techniques and coordination for which you have trained.

Kumite on all levels may be done empty-handed, or using conventional or unconventional weapons as the situation requires.