Is (tournament-style) kumite necessary to karate
The answer is yes.
However, that doesn't mean it is necessary to participate
in tournaments. While it is good to include (tournament-style) kumite
as part of karate training it is not essential that it is in a tournament
Nowadays attacking an
opponent with bare hands in kumite is not practiced at dojos.
If the no rules, so-called actual
fight training you are doing is non-contact, there is no way to guage whether what you are doing
is effective. Not only is it difficult to improve your skills,
but you have no evidence of whether or not they have improved.
If you have trained for 10 years and haven't become
any stronger or can't use your skills in an actual fight,
then your dojo is obviously not a valid organization.
Naturally in tournament-style kumite, there are rules.
Contact Karate rules (known as Kyokushin rules) you are
not allowed to
strike your opponent in the face. In terms of it's relevance
to a real
fight there are some who would argue against this rule. However,
restrictions of this rule, an extremely high level of punching
kicking skill and technique are required to knock your opponent
Practice under these rules increases power and cardio strength.
The athletic ability of most of the competitors in the All-Japan
under these rules is equivalent to that of an Olympic class
Under these rules the ability to win is rooted in the method
This is why repeated practice of kumite skills benefits even
those who don't want to participate in tournaments. Day-by-day
technique steadily improves and speed is gained. With repeated
practice of these skills, you just need the physical strength
to be able to use them in a real fight. It could be said
that self-defense at some point becomes fighting sport.
However there are few places where this actually occurs.
Half of the fighters in K-1, where striking the face (with
gloves) is allowed,
come from a background in full contact rules. It is this
half that become champions. The organization that started
K-1 also has a full contact rules history. Striking the
face with a glove poses a risk to the brain and so it is
best left to professionals. For amateurs it is better to safely
and steadily increase strength under rules that prohibit
punches to the face. (I highly approve of glove-rule practice
[rules that allow punches to the face] provided that punches
are light) There are people who think that tournament-style
kumite training under full contact rules is harsh, but if
hand, leg and knee protectors are worn anyone can do it
Comparing people who do full-contact training to
people who do non-contact training is like comparing people
who drive cars in Tokyo with people who drive cars in Hokkaido
Tokyo has the greatest number of cars in Japan, however
it does not have the highest road accident mortality rate.
Surprisingly, in Hokkaido and Chiba where the roads are
wide and there are few cars there are more deaths caused
by car accidents each year. So what does this show us? You
would think that with so many cars on the road driving in
Tokyo would be dangerous, but because people in Tokyo have
no choice but to drive in this kind of environment, by the
time they have been driving for a few years they have become
highly-skilled drivers. Their skills cannot be compared
to those of drivers who are only used to driving on quiet
roads. At first, driving in the crowded city seems very
dangerous, but as you gain experience driving alongside
fast cars and motorbikes, and driving in narrow streets
with large trucks while avoiding getting your car scratched
your driving skills become highly advanced.
If you liken this to karate, when everyday during training
you are receiving fast punches and powerful kicks, like
the car drivers, when you are hit you gain real experience
and understanding that can't be gained any other way. Through
this your skills will improve greatly. If you are doing
non-contact training and assume that your strike has been
effective, you are making the same mistake as a person speeding
around an empty racetrack believing that they are a racing
Under full-contact rules, I believe you can see that tournament-style
kumite training is an extremely effective form of training.
Surprisingly, a person who does non-contact training is
more likely to be seriously injured than a person doing
full-contact training. When you are routinely blocking fast,
powerful punches and kicks, when you become used to seeing
combinations that are calculated to cause their opponent
to open their guard, in a one on one situation, you are
less likely to receive damage that results in injury. Again
parallels can be drawn with the big-city driver.
In order for you to better understand our form of karate
I would like to discuss our technical theory a little further.
This is what I often hear from people who have joined our
dojo. Those who have come from traditional karate styles
express surprise that the karate that they thought they
knew could be so different. Those who have come from similar
full-contact styles often say that anyone
who is taught such theoretical full-contact skills can't
help but become stronger.
In the beginning we decided we would concentrate on theory
and dojo training, not on tournaments. But when we did this
nobody paid us any attention, so we chose to enter tournaments
to show evidence of what we were doing. As we began to win
tournaments more people began to pay attention to our theory.
In the process of participating in
tournaments we were able to make new discoveries and further
develop our theory. In one combative arts video we saw they
said that Kenshinkan is like a laboratory. And it is just
as they said, as we try various new things we are continually
making new discoveries.
In investigating the differences between striking a person
and striking an object I have also experimented with tameshiwari
(the practice of breaking bricks etc. in martial arts).
I have succeeded in breaking a 200kg ice pillar, a brick,
a bat, a plank and a roof tile. And here again I made new
discoveries about the differences between striking an object
and a person.
Human beings are weak. We have a tendency to go with the
flow and without even noticing we take the easy option.
I believe daily training, knowledge, listening to various
opinions and putting them into practice are all essential.
I still remember the Kenpo master Kenichi Sawai saying
doesn't know fast punches and powerful kicks
is not a
martial artist! That kind of person will run in to a lot