Friday 15 December 2023

自由一本組手 (Jiyu Ippon Kumite) a few notes...

Jiyu Ippon Kumite under the direction of Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei.

自由一本組手 (Jiyu Ippon Kumite) is often translated as ‘Semi-free sparring’; however, it is probably better described as ‘free one-step sparring’. Unlike Kihon Ippon Kumite both karateka are in a freestyle stance with a ‘kamae’, furthermore, move around freely like in Jiyu Kumite.


In sum, from these positions, it involves single attacks by a designated attacker and a free defense and counterattack by the designated defender. Another difference from Kihon Ippon Kumite is that ‘instead of leaving the counter thrusts extended, after countering the defender immediately returns to their en-guard position’. After the completion of several sequences, the roles of attacker and defender are reversed.


At a basic level, the attacks are prearranged and announced before being launches; however, during matured practice of jiyu ippon kumite (in daily training), each of the single attacks can be any waza. The only rule is that the attack is launched from an exact position optimal for its effectiveness. Kenseiwaza (feints) are also permitted but if perceived as ‘mubobi’, the defender can preemptively attack the attacker.


The defender can utilize tai-sabaki, deai, tenshin and so on; however, high level practitioners must deliver ‘the best waza from where they, following or simultaneously with their defense’. That is, after say executing an ukewaza, one must change their position, this is too late. Accordingly, the karateka must immediately and reactively execute the optimal waza in that very moment. This skill is critical in this drill.


One major error is where the defender keeps running away, so that the attacker is unable to begin the drill. Here in Japan that’s a ‘no-no’ and, in serious dojo (plural) one will eventually be chartered with a barrage of attacks. I should add here that this coincides with the attacker doing ‘mubobi’. Both in attack and defense one must respect their training partner, have courage and kihaku (fighting spirit).


The ‘standard set’ of attacks are as follows:

 1. 上段 (Jodan): 上段追い突き (Jodan oi-zuki).

Target the jinchu with seiken. The maai is to reach between two inches and midway through the skull. A deeper thrust is preferable, but not at the expense of losing acceleration and engaging in mubobi.


2.  中段  (Chudan): 中段追い突き(Chudan oi-zuki).

Target the suigetsu with seiken. The maai is to reach the rear of the spinal column.


3. 前蹴り(Mae-geri): 中段前蹴り蹴上げ (Chudan mae-geri keage).

Target the suigetsu or myojo with josokutei/koshi. The maai is to reach the rear of the spinal column.


4. 横蹴込み (Yoko-kekomi): 中段横蹴り蹴込み (Chudan yoko-geri kekomi).

Target the suigetsu or myojo with sokuto. The maai is to reach the rear of the spinal column. Please note — Never land passively after this waza; that is, after hiki-ashi land in zenkutsu-dachi as opposed kiba-dachi.


5. 回し蹴り(Mawashi-geri): 中段または上段回し蹴り(Chudan or Jodan mawashi-geri). 

Target the opposite side of the head or torso. Make sure your maai is close enough. Many people make their mawashi-geri out of distance to deliver a full contact waza. Note — when calling the attack announce “chudan mawashi-geri” or “jodan mawashi-geri” depending on the waza you are executing.


6. 後ろ蹴り (Ushiro-kekomi): 中段後ろ蹴り蹴込み (Chudan ushiro-geri kekomi). 

Target the suigetsu with kakato. The maai is to reach the rear of the spinal column.



Supplementary Notes


a. Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei taught me that after countering I should use tenshin every time to escape and/or position myself optimally for any follow up action. He also stressed this is important training when dealing with more than one opponent (to essentially use people as body shields. Positioning yourself correctly in such situations can largely mitigate the advantage that more than one opponent has.


b. In any case, high level Jiyu Ippon Kumite counters must be “…exactly the same as when you want to make full-contact on the sandbag or break a thick board or roof tile”. Hence, (a) the maai must be exact to do this for optimal target penetration; (b) the lower body and hips must be fully engaged; (c) the speed and power maximum; (d) the weapon of the body and corresponding target optimal; (e) fighting spirit —yet, “calm, reactive and aware”; (f) the target is reached, but the attacking limb is stopped. What this means is that “your control is to either hit with full power, or not”. To reiterate, if the technique is incapable of working (hitting the  target with absolute maximum force), the technique is wrong.


c. Take note when forming your 自由立ち (Jiyu-dachi). Unless feinting/drawing the opponents attack, always contract your stance by bringing the rear forward. In this way you can immediately attack. Pulling back the front foot against a strong opponent—who is focused on finishing you—provides them with an opening.


d. Also take note of the 自由な構え (Jiyu na kamae). The ‘general position’ has your lead fist or open hand pointing at the opponents jinchu with the rear arms elbow resting on the torso in front of the ribs. The direction of the fist is variable, but usually aimed at a chudan or jodan target. Extend the front arm but keep enough bend to directly attack from this position. This greatly depends on arm length, however, the bend should be no greater than 90 degrees and no less than 45 degrees. In regards to the position of the hips, I personally prefer being closer to shomen, as this allows fully body power with both hands, and more natural defense. I teach ‘using hanmi’ in offensive, defensive and evasive actions.


e. Fix the eyes. Asai Sensei watched the opponents throat as opposed to their eyes. So I followed this. It is great because you can easily see all four limbs of the opponent and, at least for me, allows me to also have better peripheral awareness. When I worked in security and entered physical conflicts, I found that this worked extremely well, especially in regards to instinctive fear. All of the verbal abuse and attempts to intimidate me with fierce eyes had no affect. I simply ‘went in’. Practice this in jiyu ippon kumite and make it your habit. It works in real fights.


f. Jiyu Ippon Kumite is required for the shodan examination. To pass you need to really try to hit your opponent when attacking. Conversely, when defending your counter must be full-power but arrested (as noted above). At ikkyu (1st Kyu) and above, if your defense fails you will be hit extremely hard by your opponent. If this is not the case, it is not proper jiyu ippon kumite. If so, the karateka is/are not ready for jiyu ippon kumite and should return to kihon ippon kumite to build up accordingly. This is the original way of Yakusoku Kumite practice that is really followed now. Asai Sensei told me to preserve this ‘way’.


g. For brief moments the point of kime is classical kihon between fluxes of freestyle. If one can replicate this and the underlying principles in Jiyu Kumite, their free fighting will be very strong. 

In sum, Jiyu Ippon Kumite links kihon, kata and kumite with the objective of mastering kime in all actions. Underpinning this is “…constant goal of seeking ‘ichigeki-hisatsu”; thereby, maximizing one’s karate potential.


© Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

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