Progression in Kumite / Kumitachi

Way back in June of 2012 I defined these terms and in July of 2012 I elaborated on them a bit.

Recently I attended a National tournament (different martial art) and while there I spoke to three young students under Gary Jones sabeom about sparring combinations. I gave them a "rule of thumb" which upon further consideration may not have been clear. So I will try to clear this up now.

First, the rule of thumb as presented to the students:

  • If you throw a single technique in sparring or in a fight, you will NEVER hit your opponent. Because, if your opponent is worthy of your time then they will always see and avoid any single technique.
  • If you throw two techniques, this is better than just one but will gain you nothing other than a moment of breathing space as your opponent retreats twice.
  • If you throw three techniques, then you might occasionally be able to strike an opponent who is unskilled or unwary or distracted.
  • If you throw four techniques in a row, you can usually strike your opponent with one of the four techniques.
  • If one throws five techniques in combination one is almost always going to strike your opponent.

What may not have been clear is how to get to this point. I was NOT advocating they should run out into the ring and begin counting techniques.

The mental and physical development needed for throwing multiple techniques is accomplished using kumite or kumitachi. Most martial arts teach kyu (gup) ranks to perform ippon, nihon or even sanbon kumite . But sparring sets (kumite) should not fall by the wayside once you reach your Dan ranks; although far too often this is exactly what happens...

  • Dan ranks from shodan through nidan (first and second degree black belts) should practice sanbon kumite, both pre-defined sets and also building their own combinations of techniques that work well for them.
  • sandan and yondan (third and fourth degree black belts) should be practicing yonbon kumite, adding an extra technique to each set (pre-defined and self-defined).
  • godan through shichidan (fifth-seventh degree black belt) should be working exclusively on gohon kumite.

The development of these sparring sets will allow the martial artist to build a natural, continual series of attacks which are effective in the ring and devastating in actual combat. Sparring sets are an effective teaching tool that should not be discarded by instructors.

Edit: I am adding this from an on-line discussion of this note.

"I found this issue in my Tae kwon Do days. the biggest problem we found was people would develop and practice specific 4-5 move combinations which if you got to know that person's style you would be able to recognize the combination and avoid all of it or counter it with your own. When my brother and I would spar (for instance) it was almost comical because we would be going full speed and force with neither of us able to hit the other."

My answer:

Yes, this often occurs between students at the same dojo/dojang. There are two reasons for this and the first is that you practice for so long against the same persons that you learn what they favor. Just because you can do this in the dojo does not mean that a competitor in a tournament or a criminal in the street will be able to do the same.

The other is the tendency to develop a small set o
f combinations and then rely upon those combinations instead of building new ones in an ongoing fashion. This is why students should be limited to a fixed number of techniques (3,4,5, etc.) but be required to develop new combinations at a steady pace. About the time that a student has exhausted the possibilities of 3-technique combinations they will rank up, add one more technique to the string and open up an entirely new array of options.

Training at full speed is a GOOD thing! Way back in November of 2104 I addressed the need for full-on, full-power training.