To what depth should an attack be aimed? This is a subject introduced early in the training process. But it seems that many people misunderstand this goal in a way that makes the situation even more unrealistic than it already is.
During kumite, practitioners often imagine that if they had extended their attacks just a few more inches, they could have done serious damage. This is usually thought of as “good control.” Good control definitely has its place during training and I am not suggesting that we practice without control. But at what point during the attack is this theory of control (stopping before touching the target) considered? It seems to me that it is almost exclusively at the very end of the technique; that the goal is to attack very close to the target such that the punch/kick/strike reaches a point just in front of the target as the opponent stops moving back.
A common misconception in basic training, which often carries over into “advanced” kumite, is that the goal is to attack where the target/opponent is moving to. Is it not more practical, however, to think about where that target is at the present time, rather than where it might go once it starts moving?
Of course there may be a higher potential for accidental contact using this method of distancing, at least at the beginner level. This may actually require more control than the traditional method. Thus, perhaps beginners should not concentrate heavily on this point until they become comfortable with the traditional timing.
Aiming the attack through (not simply at) where the target is when the attack is initiated is not only more practical; it also tends to force the attacker to move faster, as the target soon moves away. Aiming at where the target is moving to is not nearly as difficult, even if the defender shifts in a different direction.
Another related point, to be discussed in more detail in a future article, is that training in this way may cause the attacker to develop a different timing such that contact is made before the attacking limb reaches full extension. Although some “traditional” instructors may not advocate this timing, it is actually much more realistic. If contact were actually intended in a self-defense encounter, this sort of timing would provide a greater chance of connecting with the target. Simply touching the target with the attacking appendage would not do so much damage. For some related reading, please see my other articles.
If you are a beginner, you may want to just keep this theory on timing in the back of your mind, for future reference. For more advanced practitioners, I would suggest considering experimenting with this timing on a regular basis, at least with fellow advanced practitioners.
See related points made in the article on Ageuke.
Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published July 1999)