Fred East

Karate: Kumite

Kumite Forms

There are a number of forms of kumite as described in the requirements page. Jiyu kumite refers to free fighting as opposed to nanahon kumite for example which can be described as practice fighting or prearranged partner combinations; students do not try to score hits, but to work together for the advancement of both.

Prearranged Kumite

The prearranged Nanahon, Sanbon and Ippon kumite and also niningake, saningake and yoningake are excellent ways to learn the techniques in a fast moving environment and under some pressure but not the pressure associated with jiyu kumite. Too much pressure at an early stage in training stunts the growth of the student. If he is expected to fight in a competition atmosphere he will only be able to use his natural ability and will find it difficult to utilise what he has learnt, forming bad habits which will be difficult to shed in the future.

Bad Habits

These bad habits come in the form of raised back heels, straight front leg, elbows sticking out like chicken wings, bobbing head, stepping with the front leg on every technique (signalling), poor fist configuration, no control over power and focus. The list is endless. In the early days of graded karate teaching, a general rule was that no jiyu kumite was allowed until the student was at least 1st kyu. It’s slightly different now but harder for instructors as they must be careful to correct bad habits as they form.

Importance of Kumite

Kumite is important also because it is best carried out (but not always) with one side being a higher grade than the other. This way the higher grade learns something about teaching and patience whilst the lower grade learns more about the techniques in a safer situation ie the attacks from the higher grade will have control and he will also be able to deal with out of control attacks form the lower grade.

You could put a marking system to this interaction whereby if the total is say eight and if the effort and skill from the lower grade is three, then the input from the higher grade must be five, adding up to eight. Too much from the higher grade and the lower grade suffers and the higher grade learns nothing. The total should always be met.

Yakusoku Kumite

Yakusoku kumite, or semi free sparring is also very important. It is free but within constraints, i.e. only roundhouse kicks, or only take downs. This is your opportunity to make the nanahon techniques really work. Take time with your partner to get to understand how they are applied, especially the locks and take downs. Ask your instructor if you have any doubts.

Jiyu Kumite

There are two major forms of Jiyu kumite, one is free fighting in the dojo between peers, and Competition kumite which is free fighting with a scoring system under strictly controlled conditions. This is sometimes called Shiai or formal competition.

As said on the philosophy page, the karateka should engage in some jiyu kumite from time to time to keep a balance in his training.

Without going into details about competition karate, which you should speak to your instructor about, suffice to say that the more training you get in the better, with perhaps some weight training on alternate days. Don’t exhaust yourself in training, only use about 80%. Train for stamina as well as speed. Get your diet right and don’t train on an empty stomach, especially youngsters. Don’t forget kata and nanahon kumite, you will find yourself using techniques in competition you didn’t know you knew. Have in mind that you need a strategy of some kind and a few good sequence attacks which you know work but don’t be hidebound by prearranged ideas. Being limited to a few techniques as one progresses will limit both the mind (stop it from expanding) and personal performance generally.

When grading you will be required to engage in jiyu kumite and depending on the grade you are taking, will be required to show controlled aggression, ability to use many kinds of techniques and combinations, to kiai at the point of impact, to lead your opponent around, to try to control the situation. You should try to be on the attack all the time when grading, at the same time not receiving blows.


Anger does not figure in any martial art as it clouds judgement and vision and also an angry fighter forgets everything he learnt. But there is a very good use for anger and that comes in the form of its reflection. If you have ever been angry then all you have to do is remember what being angry is like and then pretend to be angry when fighting. Not outwardly with red face and flying spittle, but inwardly with control. Show a calm exterior whilst having a fire inside. The opposite can also be effective, i.e. appearing to be angry on the outside (flying spittle!!) but in total control on the inside. They are really both sides of the same coin and an example of the strategy that can be employed.  Study the Book of Five Rings for a greater understanding.


A fighter should think about strategy and reflect on past events. Some other strategies which can be used are: if your opponent appears weak, be weak like him, or if he comes on strong, be strong like him. (The opposite to this also works). Also if you can work slowly then suddenly fast this upsets your opponent. The key then is to always change strategy to suit your situation. If you are getting nowhere with a particular strategy then suddenly change it. Follow your opponent’s lead then change. Work in rhythm then change tempo out of phase to gain the advantage.

These are some ways of keeping the advantage and reflecting on the subject will bring a lot more to mind. When you engage in kumite try them out.

Safe training…

Traditional skills and techniques

Real world applications

Get in touch

Fred East  Chief Instructor and Founder
Higashi Ryu Kenbudo & Karate
(Weston-super-Mare), Karate & Sword

Tony Barber (Yatton), Karate Instructor
Mob: 07762725595

Matt Dancey (Worle), Karate, Sword & Young Samurai Instructor

Tel: 01934 261525
Mob: 07582 698100

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