What is the meaning of kumite?
Guest Author: UK Based Martial Artist Ben Lee
Guest Author: UK Based Martial Artist Ben Lee
What is kumite/sparring in karate ?, A competition between two students,A brawl or an ego booster?
If you think about it for a second you will find the answer is not as clear as it would seem to be.
When in a class practicing martial arts the person with the biggest ego is usually the one that is least liked by the rest of the group, A person who tries to win in sparring at any cost and make you look silly.In a real confrontation winning at any cost may be a good idea but when you are sparring this is not the case.
A brawl is not the answer, as sparring/kumite is a chance to hone our skills, perfect techniques using the best form possible.If we are brawling our technique will go out of the window and the techniques that we work so hard to perfect become worthless, Nothing more than a whirlwind of strikes.
When in a Dojo/training hall, we are all trying to learn.Speeding up the techniques in sparring and 'going at it' is great now and again. We should aim to help each other,get the techniques right and keep a feeling of courtesy towards each other.
Alot can be learned from practicing kumite, outside of pain.Rhythm,distance and timing to mention a few. Another is learning to harmonize with your opponent, to be as one. When he moves, you move simultaneously, flowing with him.
Picking up on an opponents intent to strike is a big step towards harmonizing with your opponent.
This is not a supernatural skill and is fully achievable.Just think of animals,for example; If you try to sneak up on a bird, even if it is looking the opposite way, the bird will still fly away before you catch it.
Shigeru Egami ( a direct student of master Funakoshi) gave three different methods for developing the skill of picking up on an opponents intent in his book 'the way of karate, beyond technique', well worth a read if you have not already.
These Methods were as follows;
In Kihon or during kata practice and performing each movement to a command, begin to try and pick up on the intention of your instructor to shout the command.So if you do this correctly you should already be in motion, when the command is given and finish your technique when the command ends.To do this you should try to clear your mind, keeping it empty, relax as the more you tense and wait for the 'feeling' the slower you will be.When you get the feeling that a command will be given go with it.Work at this and you will get better and better.
The next method will require you to work with a partner.You and your partner face each other with enough distance between you, so that when a stepping punch is performed you are not close enough to hit each other. Take it in turns, One performing a stepping punch,one stepping back and blocking. The person punching, will change the timing between each punch,as well as changing the speed of the punch.Who ever is striking must concentrate there intent on hitting there partner,so as to give him something to pick up on. If you can turn intent on,you can also turn it off which is always helpful.The blocker should move in harmony with the person performing the strike.Moving simultaneously. When both of you start the feel comfortable with this, move closer, so that if a strike were thrown and no block was performed, it would impact.Repeat the same exercise again at this distance.Remember this is not a contest,you will not make much progress if you are concerned with winning.As master Egami say's 'overconfidence will come from winning,shame and the urge to act recklessly from losing.
The final method In master Egami's book was to learn to pick up an opponents intent, with your back to him. Again you will need a partner.One punching, the other moving out of the way. If your partner is punching you will have your back to him.When you feel him punching step forward out of his reach. So the person striking will vary the speed of his punch and the timing between each strike.This exercise will also contribute to concentration. Remember when performing these methods stay relax, keep your mind clear and go with your instincts.
There are other methods for developing the ability to pick up on an opponents intent but I will save these for another time.My instructor Sensei John Lovatt can pick up on an opponents intention through a brick wall.When an opponent throws a punch from the opposite side of a wall, my sensei moves simultaneously and blocks.
To me mastery of kumite in any martial art is learning to harmonize and be as one with your opponent.Picking up on intention will take you a step closer to this.Please feel free to email regarding any opinions,queries or thoughts on this subject and I will be happy to help.You can email me on BenLeeKarate@aol.co.uk.