Another entry sure to annoy many . . .
A couple of months ago I received a cracked rib when a lady in a chemically induced psychosis kicked the crap out of me with her boot. I had already been think a lot about Kumite training and that incident, coupled with an article I read on-line entitled "5 Reasons Karate is Useless" gave rise to the following diatribe.
Every school applies a different significance to sparring as the Hanshi of the style sees fit. At the same time EVERY type of sparring has it's own benefits and it's own failures.
First there's the concept of sparring, i.e. Kumite, in itself. "Kumite" does NOT mean sparring but rather "Grappling hands".
There are four types of Kumite:
1) Yakusoku Kumite which translated, means "Promise Kumite" Some styles call this Gohon Kumite. This is the most basic form of Kumite. I attack, you know I'm attacking, and how to defend. No surprises
Purpose; For the neophyte to begin working with other students, focus on and develop timing, accuracy and attacking/defending while moving with a partner.
Yakusoku Kumite is further divided into three sub-divisions:
(a) Ippon kumite - one step sparring, frequently used in basic technique drills
(b) Sanbon kumite - three step sparring, typically used to develop speed, strength, and technique.
(c) Kiso kumite - structured sparring based specifically on the movement from one of more kata
Disadvantages: None, IF, used properly in a systematic training curriculum.
2) Jiyu Kumite translated means "Free sparring". Working with a partner but you do not know what technique will be utilized and what technique you will use to defends/attack
Purpose; Develops "Mizo no kokuro" (mind like water) . If you think about what technique you will use, you'll get hit. Liberating the mind and instinctively responding with a block or strike is the epitome of success in Jiyu Kumite. Because of this most schools do not allow mudansha below the rank of go-kyu to participate.
Disadvantages: Many. Mostly the limitations of the approach; e.g. there are usually no-contact zones, limited contact zones. But the biggest advantage is the more we try to make Jiyu Kumite "authentic" or "Street worthy" the more we fail.
Example: Many schools may advertise "full-contact karate" but not to the head. The great kicker will love this approach but it sets that individual up for failure and even injury in real life. If I'm 6 foot 4 and can kick the crap out of you before you can get close enough to kick me I have an advantage. However since I do not have to worry about a Monkey fist to the temple I soon fail to protect my head.
In the street I'll take a kick most any day in order to get close enough to deliver a shuto to your temple. You may hurt me but I'll K.O. you. Who wins? The lawyers.
3) Shigoki (savage training) - While "Shigoki" is not true Kumite, Kumite engaged in during shigoki is similar to a "beat down initiation" into a gang. No respectable karate school engages in such training although there is the occasional exception usually including a perp parade on the nightly news.
Purpose: No valid purpose. Seeing how much of a beating does not make you a man - it simply means you're stupid enough to be a human punching bag - Think of it as martial arts bullying.
4) "Authentic" Kumite. This fourth type of Kumite does not have an actual name (if you know differently please contact me).
In Okinawa it was not unheard of for a karate student to venture into town or over to the "bad part of the village" (i.e. "B.C.Street") and get into a fight purposefully to perfect their techniques in a "real" fight.
While in our politically correct society this sounds abhorrent, it WAS extremely effective. NOTHING in a dojo can prepare you for the adrenalin rush, the concentration narrowing of a true fight. There is no break, no time out, no pulling of punches and no forbidden techniques. Authentic Kumite is the real-deal from another age and another time
So, the best BAD reasons to engage in Kumite training:
1. This is Florida, everyone carries a gun. Karateka's who develop defenses against guns are known as "the dearly departed".
2. You fight the way you train. So unless you allow all full-contact attacks and blocks (including eye gouges, traumatic testicular rupture, tracheal strikes, do not wear any protective equipment [jock, gloves, mouth guards, etc.] AND you wear combat boots when sparring) Then you are delusional and what's more you're endangering your students and your home (which is what the lawyers will sell to pay your court judgment.)
3. You scare off students by engaging them in Kumite before they have developed the basics needed to support their training.
4. Talented students are misled to believe they will be capable of successfully defending themselves in the street.
5. A karate student training to fight another karate student, so you can learn to protect yourself against a street thug, is sort of like practicing Spanish with another student studying Spanish so you will be ready to speak Portuguese on your vacation.
6. If you feel more "manly" by thumping and getting thumped in Kumite classes you have deeper seated issues which should be addressed at a psychological level before you continue your martial arts training.
Okay, enough bitching. What role does/should Kumite have in karate training? Consider the diagram below (specific to my conceptualization of Matsubayashi-Ryu)
So now you're thinking, sounds boring. What is the "secret" of being ready and capable of defending yourself in the street.
Makiwara training teaches you how to deliver devastating attacks AND blocks. Who cares how fancy or special your "spinning round house flying reverse monkey stomp kick" is if you have trained yourself to make EVERY block an attack, every straight punch a pile driver, every shuto a katana and every kick a jack hammer?
In your first "real" fight you will remember nothing; but your body will automatically respond (muscle memory) with what you have practiced the most, i.e. (1) Chudan-uke, (2) Chudan-zuki, and (3) Mae-geri.
If you have enough control, presence of mind, to deliver fancy advanced attacks, you're clearly fighting an unprepared opponent. That's not karate.
Anyway that's my approach. Like it, modify it or blow it off. - - T.F.Y.Q.A.
For my brothers and sisters in budo,
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