Training for Team Competition

Training for Team Competition


It is no secret that I do not feel that tournaments should be a primary focus or goal of training in Karate-do.  Competition does have positive value, however, as I have indicated in other articles, such as this one.  If you are involved in tournament competition, you may want to consider some of the following tips regarding the practice for team events.

Team Kata
Team kata competition almost always involves three members performing the same kata simultaneously.  Judges watch for all the same elements as with individual kata competition.  In addition, judges consider the timing of the group, how coordinated the three members of the team are with each other.

It is very important to concentrate on the “weakest link” of the team.  Two members may be phenomenal.  But the team could still lose to a team with significantly less overall skill if the former team’s third member is way off in timing and or technique.  Note: The weakest link for timing may be different than the weakest link for technique.

Other points to consider
• Look to person in front as you move and when changing directions.  Who is in front changes numerous times in each kata and some of the turns take more work than others.  The key is to follow who is front at each moment.
• Don’t rush the kata performance.
• Judged on weakest link for technique.
• Judged on weakest link for timing.
• Practice two at a time, with the third member watching and providing feedback.
• Videotape the performance and study as a group and with the coach/instructor if possible, discussing any differences in technique, timing or nuances.
• Ask for feedback from other students.
• “Feel” one another’s timing; this can best be accomplished through lots of repetition.
• Bowing and overall attitude may make the difference if teams are closely matched in technique and timing; what the judges see before the kata may influence their scoring, to some degree.

Team Kumite
Team kumite events can involve three or five members.  But matches are always one-on-one.  So there is not much difference, in each match, between team and individual kumite events.

One thing to bear in mind is that except for the rare round-robin type tournaments (these take much time so are generally not done), there is always one winner and one loser (or, if you prefer “non-winner&rdquo to each match in individual competition.   There can be a draw in team competition, and often is.  The team with the greater number of winning competitors wins the event.  In the case of one win for each side and one draw (for a three-person event), there is usually an additional, tie-breaking match.

Additional points to consider during training:
• Generally, same as individual kumite, so not much event-specific training is required.
• As with team kata and individual events, attitude may play a part, especially when competitors are closely matched.
• As with so many other things, lots of practice helps, especially if it is with a variety of partners.
• Basics are the key to good karate.  But for tournament preparation, one should also practice the type of kumite that will be performed in the competition.
• Competitor order can be crucial.

This last point is worth some elaboration.  For example, with a three-person team, you may want to have the best competitor go first, to get in the lead, point-wise, and take some pressure off the other team members.  Or, that superior competitor may be reserved for last, in case there is a need for a win to break a tie.

The key to making anything better is practicing that which you want to make better, thinking about it as you do.  But we must keep our goals in mind.  Are we practicing karate to win medals and trophies, to learn to better defend ourselves, to get in shape, to have better self-control/discipline, to be better people…?   For more on this question, see my article on why people do Karate.

Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published October 2002)