Kumite means sparring, and is one of the three main sections of karate training, along with kata and kihon. Kumite is the part of karate in which you train against an opponent, using the techniques learned from the kihon and kata. Kumite can be used to develop a particular technique or a skill (e.g. effectively judging and adjusting your distance from your opponent) or during competition.
In Shotokan Karate, there are 4 types of kumite in which karateka learn as they progress through the ranks.
Also known as 3-step sparring, is a formal sparring exercise practiced by newcomers. One individual is the attacker while the other is the defender. Attacks are executed from a left-side front-stance downward block position. The attacker advances with 3 stepping punches either to the jodan (high/face-level) or chudan(mid/solar-plexus level) in a straight line. The defender steps back each time with their leading leg on the outside of the attackers lead foot, and blocks each strike with either a rising block for jodan punches, or a mid-level block such as an outside or inside block for chudan punches. After blocking the final attack, the defender is required to counter attack with a finishing move (typically a reverse punch). After the attacks are complete, both individuals return to their yoi position (ready-position). The sparring partners trade roles, the defender becomes the attacker and the attacker becomes the defender. This exercise is used to develop an understanding of timing, distance, footwork and stance in preparation for more advanced kumite
Testing Requirements for : 9th kyu (white), 8th kyu (yellow), 7th kyu (orange).
Also known as 1-step sparring, is a formal sparring exercise practiced by advancing karateka in their mid-kyu stages of development. The same routine that applied to Sanbon Kumite applies to Ippon Kumite where one individual is designated the attacker and the other the defender. However, the attacker only steps forward once with one attack. The attacker uses the following techniques: stepping punch (jodan), stepping punch (chudan), stepping front snap kick (mae-geri), stepping roundhouse kick (mawashi-geri), and stepping side thrust kick (yoko-geri kikomi). The attacker has the choice of what level the kicks are executed (jodan, chudan, gedan). The defender must block each of the attacks and counter attack each time. Unlike in Sanbon Kumite, the defender has the choice of stepping back OR utilize side-shifts, rotational shifts.
Testing Requirement for: 6th kyu (green), 5th kyu (blue), 4th kyu (purple).
Semi-free-sparring, is a semi-structured exercise practiced by karateka advancing towards their brown belt. The same routine of 1 attack per start & finish as in Ippon Kumite, however, there is the added element in that the attacker and defender are free to move about. Both the attacker and the defender start in the karate fighting stance, whereby the front-stance is typically higher then it is traditional performed in basics and kata exercises, and hands are raised in guarded position to cover the face and ribs. The same techniques that are performed in Ippon Kumite are performed in Jiyu-Ippon Kumite.
Testing Requirement for: 3rd kyu (brown 1), 2nd kyu (brown 2), 1st kyu (brown 3).
Freestyle-sparring, it is completely non-choreographed sparring. Any of the 2 individuals can initiate the attack at any time, and with any karate technique. Jiyu kumite practiced in the dojo is typically done to practice one's combat senses and develop strong self-defense techniques that simulate real-combat situations. However, good control at all times is required as the intent is not to injure the other person, but to apply the techniques as accurately as possible, with emphasis on timing, distance, and focus. In the dojo, there may not necessarily be a start or end, if you succumb to an attack, you simply acknowledge, learn from it and continue. In examinations and tournament style kumite, judges will stop the fighting every time someone lands a technique. The winner is the first to land a full point (ippon) worth of techniques on his opponent. Techniques that do not land cleanly or are weak are discounted. Techniques that land but is flawed in a certain area (timing, distance, accuracy, power) are awarded 1/2-point. A technique that lands flawlessly and is considered to be a lethal blow should it be executed in its entirety is awarded a full point. In real life situation, a technique that lands with ippon-level of quality is generally enough to finish the fight.
Testing Requirement for: All Dan (black belt) Levels.
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