Thursday 9 August 2007

Jiyu kumite must be 'specific'

In my karate there are three categories of jiyu-kumite (free-fighting).

{Please note here: I'm not insinuating in any respect, that I have 'the best approach' to jiyu-kumite, nor am I attacking 'sports focused' karate. This is merely 'my way'. In regards to fighting, I believe we must constantly evolve according to the world around us. And for me personally, I am not confident that sports karate is productive in this regard}.

The first is real fighting, and the other two are specific training methods; one for practical self-defense; and the other, for competition. {It may be of some interest, that I don't bother teaching competition style kumite, to my students, if they are not interested in entering tournaments. I seriously believe, it is not only 'wasted training time', but counterproductive for ones personal protection skills}.

OK, so now you have a basic idea of where I'm coming from, I'll briefly decribe, all three types of jiyu kumite, according to the syllabus I advocate:

(1) Jissen kumite (Real fighting). That is, anything goes. Martial arts and styles are irrelevant. Your pretty rice paper certificates from Japan, plastic cups and medals, suddenly meaning nothing. It's simply a case of survival, whether it’s a jujutsu guy trying to tackle you for a mounted pummelling on the ground, a boxer out to change the shape of your mandible, or a group of PCP pumped street thugs, attacking you for your wallet. This to me, is ‘authentic kumite’, close distance, in-your-face stuff.., pure bujutsu. Unless this is the main combative target, of our daily karate training, we are merely living in dream land, "martial arts-wise". Logically, we cannot 'perfectly' replicate this type of kumite in the dojo.


(b) Kyogi kumite (Competition fighting). Typically for “traditional Shotokan” people, this is Shobu-ippon kumite. However, there are other rules, including full-contact tournaments such as K1, Pride and many others. If it has rules, it is ‘competition fighting’ regardless of the contact level. This type of fighting requires much greater levels of athleticism, and is best suited to the ‘physically elite’. That is, those with great talent, and/or those who are physically advantaged. For example, you don’t see too many ‘pencil neck geeks’ choking out the gorilla-like athletes, in the UFC. Likewise, the aging Japanese masters aren’t dominating the kumite at the JKA Shotocup. Competition fighting is for the young (in their prime), and preferable for those who are gifted athletes. I'd like to add here, that more contact, and less rules, makes competition more realistic, however, it is less effective than 'Unlimited free-fighting', where you can hone directly applicable techniques and tactics.


(3) Unlimited free fighting. Although not a real street fight, nor a regulated match, where a ‘winner’ is determined, this type of jiyu-kumite, trains liberated-responses to all types of attacks, with the focus being on goshin-jutsu/‘self-defence’. In this training, I place particular emphasis on practical kata application, against an uncooperative opponent (or group of opponents). My reasoning, is that the kata contain everything (all techniques, tactics, and combative principles), that one needs for self-protection. I refer to this freestyle kumite, utilising karate kata, as ‘Oyo-jiyu kumite’ or ‘Application free sparring’ ('Unlimited Free Sparring' for the sake of this article). Pre-arranged variations of this, can be practised as 'repetition drills', for the most common attacks; i.e. - various swinging punches, headlocks, clinches, and the like. This transforms the training into a 'practical form' of jiyu-ippon kumite. Counterattacks with street effective 'karada no buki' (weapons of the body), and 'hyoteki' (targets), can be refined specifically for self-defense, in this practice.


Now where does that leave the so-called 'rough and tough' dojo kumite, that the majority of Shotokan karateka regularly engage in? Well, I personally do not include this in my syllabus, as I see it as pointless! If it is jiyu kumite, it must be clearly defined in practice, as either (a) goshin-jutsu (self-defence) training, practical for the street; Or (b) kyogi-kumite (competition sparring) specifically based on the rules of the tournament, that my students are entering. This specificity of training is my 'own way', not based on Asai Sensei's guidance. It is my own approach to jiyu kumite via my experiences as a full-time karateka, and coach. I believe this is the way of the future, for karateka who wish to maximise their training time.

I'd thank my student, David Steven's (2nd Dan), current New Zealand Kata Champion (photographed doing kumite, with me in this article). David is currently a full-time Law student, at the University of Canterbury.

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

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