Tuesday, 7 April 2020

What is most important? Kihon, Kata or Kumite?

Many people spout about ‘the trinity’ of Karate training; namely, 基本 (Kihon—the fundamentals), (Kata—the ‘formal exercises’) and 組手 (Kumite—the various forms of combative engagement). Today, I’d like to explain what is the most important of the three, if one wishes to practice karate as an effective form of budo/bujutsu.

Most, who practice Karate-Do, claim that kihon is the most important aspect of karate as it underpins everything. The idea is that kihon is foundation of a building. You can put in gold doors, the best oak furniture, and whatever else; nevertheless—irrespective of aesthetic beauty, grandness, and/or the quality of its interior fillings—“…without a strong foundation, the building will eventually collapse”.
Mae-geri keage is the most important kick, irrespective of style. When exhausted, our true kihon is revealed.

Likewise, other claim kata is the most important form of karate, as it essentially functions as a time capsule, which transmits knowledge from the past and, indeed, allows instructors to ‘pass this on’ to the next generation(s) of karateka. 

While I agree with the above two statements; my personal belief is that kumite is the soul of karate—it is the epicenter of everything else; that is, kihon and kata are for kumite. To be more specific: JISSEN KUMITE (Real Kumite/Self-Defense). 
Jiyu Kumite is essential. Many instructors now only demonstrate to look good. They only have movement. This not real karate.
Only from this vantage point, from my experience, can one truly practice karate in an effective manner: karate as budo/bujutsu. This is because, when function is the focus, clear targets/goals can be set and, consequently, the building and strengthening of one’s foundational techniques through kihon practice, and ‘the time capsules’ can be maximized.

In Shotokan our biggest advantage is actually our kihon. It is the most developed of all Karate Ryuha/Kaiha. The level of detail is literally unsurpassed, and this is often stated by the top instructors here in Japan. Over the years I have heard this from leaders of Wado, Shito, Goju and numerous other styles also. Nonetheless, this is also the biggest weakness of Shotokan-Ryu. Many instructors/practitioners get so bogged down (into small insignificant and stylistic details) that they get taken away from karate as kumite; that is, “karate as effective unarmed self-defense”. This is a very important reason why I believe it is imperative to always think: “KIHON IS FOR KUMITE, KATA IS FOR KUMITE”.
Only, in this WAY can kihon, kata and kumite truly be one.

I wish you all the very best and hope that this brief article has offered some insight and, if nothing else, some food for thought. My greetings from beautiful sakura covered Kyushu. 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).


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