Kumite ("meeting of hands") is the practical application of karate through sparring. As such, it is the only facet of karate that requires a partner to practice with.

Kihon kumite

All forms of kihon kumite ("basic sparring") consist of repeated drills of attacks which are performed using a single preannounced technique and target, with the defender stepping backwards whilst blocking and only countering on the last defence. These drills allow the student to develop a sense of timing and distance in defence against a known attack.

Kihon kumite takes three forms:

  • Kihon ippon kumite ("basic one step sparring") which consists of a single attack step.
  • Kihon sanbon kumite ("basic three step sparring") which consists of three consecutive attack steps.
  • Kihon gohon kumite ("basic five step sparring") which consists of five consecutive attack steps.

Jiyu ippon kumite

In jiyu ippon kumite ("one step free sparring"), the attacker may use only one attack with one step (although any form of attack may be selected) with the defender being expected to block and counter each attack. Varying degrees of preannouncement regarding attack technique and target can be used in this form of kumite. After each single attack, both opponents must restart. This form of kumite is very useful in teaching students how to counter-attack quickly, preventing the opponent from launching a second attack.

Jiyu kumite

Jiyu kumite ("Free sparring") is practice fighting. Participants begin in freestyle position and fight each other using full speed attacks and defenses, with attacks and combinations being thrown at will by both partners without announcement. Only the lightest contact is permitted, therefore a high level of skill is necessary. Jiyu kumite provides an excellent opportunity to test one's skills against another individual with complete freedom of movement.

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