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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Can we do some Kumite Sensei?

It is always nice to recieve feedback from students and requests for what they would like to work on.
But, how do you develop a karateka in kumite, when do you start and with what type?
Karate is a balance of Kihon, Kata and Kumite, but many students feel that they are being held back unduly in kumite.
Every association and indeed club will have a differing viewpoint, but here is ours.

Kumite can be broken down into the following:
Basic Kumite - Gohon, Sambon and Ippon Kumite (5, 3 & 1 Step)
Jiyu ippon Kumite - Semi free
Jiyu Kumite - free

We will start beginners on attacks and defence in the standing position. We also have karateka in pairs just stepping forward backwards and to the sides just maintaining kamae and maai (no attacking). We develop to "knee boxing" where karateka score points by touching the knee of the opponent, from a scramble for a young beginner this can be very tactical for the experienced karateka developing tai-sabaki.

Above: Static Attack and defence

The Karateka is practiced in Gohon, or so he/she thinks and want to progress straight to Jiyu, where the excitement is.

Above: Even in Gohon kumite you don't know who you might come up against!

Different types of kumite develop different skills, in Gohan the maai is set, in Jiyu Ippon from Kamae, maai is an optional distance. Jiyu ipppon is a massive step up from basic, Jiyu Ippon is the first introduction to "jissen" actual fighting. You announce the area that you are aiming and the attacker attacks decisively. The defender is free to use any technique to block and counter. The purpose is to put into practice techniques of offence and defence.
When training with either Gullen or Kato Shihan with senior grades much time is spent on Jiyu Ippon. Kato Shihan recently said to us in whitchurch, " This is Jiyu Ippon not Jiyu wazari, you must attack, you must score.... target, target".

I am sure Jiyu Ippon means that the karateka attacks with a single technique, but what Shihan was trying to instil into us is this is Jissen actual fighting. It requires Zanshin, spirit and commitment. The attacker can make use of feints and changes in advancing techniques, not just a straightforward Oi-Zuki. The blocker can advance, retreat or tai-sabaki, shifting the centre of gravity, blocking-finishing in one breath.

I was reading Yahara Shihan interview in this months SKM he talks about trying to survive Yano Sensei, he had to learn good tai-sabaki. Yahara Sensei studied the method of movement of the late Asai Sensei who used special evasion methods that he learnt in Taiwan while studying Chinese wushu.

The feeling of Jiyu Ippon should be if after attacking, the attacker continues to attack or turns the blockers counter against him this would become jiyu kumite. For this reason Jiyu Ippon requires great skill and is not recommended for beginners whose techniques will be poor and ineffective under pressure. For the more experienced karateka it will develop true sight and the sixth sense of attack and defence.

When grading for Shodan I was disappointed that after my Jiyu Ippon that I only had about 30 seconds of Jiyu kumite, but now I realise that I have still to develop before I am really ready for Jiyu Kumite.

Gullen Shihan starts high Kyu grades in Jiyu Ippon in a relaxed manner but requires a simple defense sliding back and block and counter age-uke or soto-uke. An excellent grounding, what this does is gives the defender maximum time to react to the attack. It dosen't matter if the attacker changes side, half steps first or slides in, the basic blocks work giving you not quite all the time in the world, but a lot more time than having to worry about having a certain foot forward for the technique to work. This is then developed into speed and power with Zanshin for brown belts, but still just the basic block....don't get ahead of yourself yet.

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