“Look and Feel” Part 3

“Look and Feel” in Karate Training – Part 3

Kumite (Sparring)

In the previous two articles of July 2005 and August 2005, I presented different ways of exploring “look and feel” when working on kihon (basics) and kata (forms). In this article, the last of a 3-part series, I will address the subject of kumite.

As with kihon and kata, kumite training should involve awareness of form. But function is particularly important when dealing with the less structured versions of sparring practice. As with kihon and kata, watching and feeling your performance during kumite is important. But watching your opponent is at least as important, and at times of utmost importance. Not watching your opponent can mean disaster if he is intent on scoring a point or, even worse, causing you harm. We should be watching technique, distance, timing and more.

Watching your partner in kumite is important. This is not a revolutionary concept. But “feeling” your opponent is something that is often overlooked and can be approached in numerous ways. It is not simply that we are making contact, but how we are making contact.

I will not go into how you might “feel” when getting hit, or hitting someone. In general, it does not feel good to get hit. Hopefully you are not making a habit of either hitting or being hit. Let’s now move on to other points about making contact…

In basic kumite, you may be touching wrist-to-wrist/-ankle when blocking. Feeling the connection to your partner in this way can help you refine distance and timing and check the accuracy of your technique (and theirs). In some types of sparring, one person may grab another. During such a situation, feeling where contact is being made is very important, as is how contact is being made. Looking by itself may not suffice if someone tries to grab you from the back, for example.

Remember that the literal definition of kumite implies that two or more people are working together, learning from the interaction. We learn by using all our available and applicable senses (taste and smell do not help much, but the sense of hearing, for example, can help). For more on the 5+ senses, see the article on the subject. In particular, the senses of touch, proprioception and balance are all involved in and enhanced by contact with the kumite partner.

Here is an exercise worth trying to help test and develop the above senses through contact:
• Person A and Person B face each other (could be standing or in sparring stance)
• Person A situates closed hands just in front of the stomach area in a low guard position.
• Person B places her open hands lightly on the hands of Person A and closes her eyes.
• Person A slowly executes punches and strikes while Person B deflects these attacks, keeping contact with both hands/wrists at all times.
• Gradually increase speed.
• Switch attack/defense roles.

“Look and feel” in kumite practice involves more than simply how “cool” it seems. We are not doing just “virtual karate” (at least I hope not).

“Look and feel” in all parts of karate is worth exploring. Watch yourself. Watch others. Feel the techniques and movements. Feel good about your training.


Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published September 2005)