While they appear vastly different and at two ends of the karate spectrum, Kata and Kumite actually work hand-in-hand to equip us for self-defence. Each offers different skill sets and advantages.
Kumite will train us in timing and distance (regarded as the two key elements of combat). It also develops our reflexes, our karate spirit (courage) and self-confidence in our ability to block and parry oncoming strikes, kicks etc. It develops our ability to coordinate multiple attacks to multiple targets and finally, a sense of fluency as the body learns to flow smoothly between stances and postures. In many ways, it sounds like the quint-essential means to learning self-defence.
Kumite has its shortfalls and this is where Kata completes the equation. Some of these are:
- To ensure participant safety, Kumite follows a set of strict rules. For example, students are not permitted to attack vulnerable areas of the human body; anatomical weak points such as the eyes, nose, temple, kidney, groin etc. Kata by comparison trains a student to focus on attacking anatomical weak points of an opponent.
- To ensure participant safety, Kumite forbids making contact with a target, instead we must exercise control and pull short. As such, a novice sparrer may choose not to unleash their techniques with full force. Kata by comparison allows a student to execute dangerous techniques with full force, properly developing the muscles involved in the strike or kick.
- To ensure participant safety, Kumite only permits a student to strike with a padded area (such as our fist and feet). It therefore forbids us from using dangerous weapons such as elbow strikes, palm strikes, knee strikes etc. Kata by comparison trains a student to focus on attacking these with all of the body’s weapons.
- To ensure participant safety, Kumite forbids seizing vulnerable areas. For example, we are not permitted to grab and squeeze the groin, throat, eyes etc. Kata by comparison trains us to focus on, where necessary, to effectively grab, seize and squeeze anatomical weak points. Very often in self-defence, a person may have to grab and seize one vulnerable area to create enough room to effectively launch a strike or kick.
- To ensure participant safety, Kumite forbids excessive grappling and wrestling. Kata by comparison trains us to escape from numerous grabs and holds, and how to counter these and turn a disadvantaged situation into an one of advantage. Kata also trains higher grades to execute arresting techniques, joint locks, chokes etc.
When we understand that both Kata and Kumite work simultaneously to equip us for self-defence we develop an equal appreciation for each and thus, put an equal focus and intensity into the development of each.