One of karate’s key goals is to equip us for self-defence.
This is achieved via three means, Kihon (Basics), Kata and Kumite. The student begins by learning a series of principles in Kihon. These principles then cascade, like a series of waterfalls, down into Kata and finally Kumite.
Kihon trains us to deliver an effective technique with clean execution, minimal telegraphing, and maximum power by harnessing and contracting the correct muscle groups. It also trains us to stay connected to the ground and maintain a low centre of gravity at all times.
The Principles of Kihon then cascade into Kata, which takes these principles and teaches us to use them while moving in numerous directions and changing between various stances. It also trains us to use these principles under various circumstances, applying them to a number of advanced self-defence strategies (senjutsu) and highly effective self-defence techniques (bunkai).
The principles of Kihon should also continue to cascade through Kata and into our Kumite. Kumite will then take these principles and teach us to apply them against an opponent, either in a pre-arranged environment (where we know what our partner will be doing) or a free-sparring environment (where we must respond on the go). It also develops our sense of timing and distance with these principles and develops our ability to use them while experiencing the emotional ramifications of someone attacking us (albeit in a safe environment).
Understanding this, it is essential that we take the same mindset of ‘commitment to excellence‘ and ‘attention to detail‘ that we demonstrate during Kihon and Kata and apply these to Kumite. The following are three simple examples:
- We do not tolerate poor stances from ourselves during Kihon and Kata, and therefore should not tolerate them from ourselves during Kumite.
- If our technique in Kihon and/or Kata does not follow an exact path and contains many superfluous movements we would work hard to minimise this and strip our technique back to the essentials. Therefore, we should take the identical mindset during kumite and seek to shed any excessive or unnecessary movements.
- When moving through in stances during Kihon, we focus on landing our striking hand and front foot (as we settle into stance) at the exact same time. Likewise, we should ensure that every time we move through and strike in Kumite that we adhere to the same principle.