The Biggest Problem With “Sport Karate”

Teaching kumite in my dojo.

Somebody asked me:

“Do you prefer kata or kumite?”

I replied:

“Do you prefer your left or your right leg?”

He answered; “What a silly question! I need both to be able to walk!”

I said “Exactly.”

[Sound of penny dropping.]

You see, the person who asked me this question was a self-proclaimed “kumite athlete”.

To him, Karate consists of two things:

  • kata…
  • …or kumite.

That’s it.

In his world, you only do one of them – because those are the competition categories.

Not in my world, bro.

And this is the biggest problem with “Sport Karate”.

Here’s what I think:

Dividing your Karate into only “kumite” or “kata” is artificial and negative for your development as a complete Karate-ka.

Click to tweet that.


Because kata and kumite promote different attributes, and both are essential.

For example; the timing and distancing of kumite isn’t found in solo kata practice. And the deadly self-defense techniques of kata aren’t found in standard kumite practice.

You need both!


You can definitely have periods for extra focus on kata or kumite.

In fact, I regularly have periods where I focus on kata performance myself. Since I’m in the national team, I’m basically required to do that.

But, don’t get me wrong.

You should never cut off one in favor of the other!

Because that makes you a cripple.

Competing in kata at the national championship.

Now, listen to this story…

A few months back I was at a big international tournament.

During the registration, in the hotel lobby, I started small talking with a “kumite athlete” and asked him about his training routine.

I don’t remember what he said, except one sentence that burned in my mind.

“I haven’t practiced a single kata in 2 years.”

When I heard that, I almost choked on my protein bar.


I mean, seriously – can he even call himself a Karate practitioner?

Not in my world.

And that’s my whole point.

You need both legs to climb the mountain of Karate.

Don’t sacrifice a leg for a trophy.

The journey is difficult enough with both legs.

“Karate is a lifetime study.”

– Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952)

See you at the top.


  • Great article Jesse San. I totally agree with your view that Kata or Kumite should never be sacrificed for either. My Sensei would always make it mandatory for us to participate in both in any tournament.
    • Thanks Karthik-san! Your sensei sounds great :-)
      • Achraf Er-ramy
        I even think that kumite is man-made ! Has noth8ng to do with karatr i think we gotta take a look at its history
    • Dennis crilley
      Couldn't agree more whether it be kumite or Kata both must be trained, one without the other is not allowing the student to fully grasp what karate is all about
    • Without Kata or Kumite your Karate is nothing..both go hand an our Dojo we work on Kata...because Kata is the Gateway to Kumite!
  • Daniela
    Hi, Jesse-san. Great point. Fortunately, my sensei too always tells us that Karate is Both, kata and kumite: you can' t practice one without the other, to be a good karateka. Karate, actually, is a-360 journey! Of course, one can feel more "comfortable" in practicing just kata or kumite, but you can't just training one ignoring the other... Many thanks for this article.
    • Dear Friend Ossu I always teach my sempai to treat their Karate-do like a religion, let it permiate every aspect of your life, the way you treat others, being level headed and not judgmental. Embrace it so if you hear the word Karate, you react as if they are talking about you. Good look with your training and God bless you. Sensei Joe Moffitt FWKP Chair
  • Josep
    Actually, the question makes sense: I "can" prefer kata over kumite. Just a preference. It doesn't mean I don't practice both (along with weights, running, bunkai, kobudo...). You get the point haha
  • Ossu! I love it all - kata, kumite, and kihon :-) I'm starting to catch glimpses of understanding how they're interrelated and I am looking forward to learning more in the years (decades maybe) to come!
    • Keith
      Kata, Kumite, Kihon and Kobudo! :D
      • Jean-Loïc De Jaeger
        How can someone like Ki-hon? lol Kata is cool, Kumite is even better but Ki-hon ... haha
        • Shirosan
          I like kihon kata kumite too i like everything in karate when i do kihon i fell like im building the foundations of a huge skyscraper
  • Hello Jesse, Congrats on your article. I can't see why you are so surprised though. You see the ultra-competitive spirit of a tournament-oriented athlete is not leaving much space for many other things. You have to focus and reach the maximum of performance either in Kumite or Kata. And the one's performance is strictly measured by specific rules (in the case of sports). The rules are set by some federation (WKF in this case) which takes in mind many parameters to create them. The qualities of karate itself as a martial art is just one of them. Overall making the whole sport product attractive for the audience is the key in making it popular (you remember what happened with classical wrestling which, although one of the few original Olympic sports, is not so attractive any more). This makes Kumite nothing more than a type of Kick-boxing in white pajamas. As for the kata, the rules themselves and the judges are not allowing much space for "traditional" performances or performances based on the practical aspect of the kata. This has turned the competition kata into choreography. Nice for the audience to watch, but still...a choreography. So the question is what someone seeks over his training. Our expectations of our involvement in Karate (as in any activity) drive our efforts and our (limited) time investment. In the case you describe, the ultimate goal is a medal, so it sounds fair that someone practices only "this or that". Because his priority is not to be fairly good in all aspects of Karate but #1 in one aspect of a small piece of the whole picture, sport karate. No doubt that, if your priority is Karate as a whole, you need the whole "package".
    • Jesper Sode
      Just to ad to your Excellent post. Sports karate, be it kumite or kata, on the highest level is something you do for a quite short time. Rarely more than 15 years. You got the rest of your life to emerge yourself in the complete karate "experience". I know a couple of 17 year old girls who started training karate, but never rearly got the feel for it. They became green belts and that was it. Then they discovered WKF sportkumite. To day they are on the national team, and compete on a very high European level. When their figting careers is over, they might leave karate all together, or they may go back and find what karate also has to offer. In both cases they have had a great karate experience, and isn't that what it is all about?
    • Senthil Sundaram
      Totally agree with Antonis San. While Jesse-san brings about a great point around the necessity of doing both Kata & Kumite, I am increasingly feeling that we are playing to the gallery. Not being judgmental, but IMO Kumite has seen a very strong 'sports' tilt over the years...barring probably Kyokushin. Is this the Karate we want to practice? Osu!
  • Fabian
    Do you teach Kumite with MMA Sparring gloves?
    • Florian Pean
      the photo in the article above will answer your question
  • Sven
    Ever since our pep talk on Twitter earlier this year where you helped me to put things in perspective regarding my karate 'career'; where I made the choice thereafter to change karate styles; I couldn't be happier. I am proud to say that I am now training under the legendary Shihan Johnny Cardoso. My Shihan opened doors for me and he shares the exact essence of what you echoed in your post. I basically drive 80km to and from my new dojo twice a week and practice what he teaches me at home as well.
  • Marius
    While I agree that you need both Kata and Kumite in karate, I find it very difficult to maintain a high level in both at the same time. For example, I struggle with Kumite because Kata has made me think a lot more about my techniques. When fighting in a tournament, I've come to realise that it doesn't matter how correct it is, as long as it hits good. Same dilemma with Kata. Due to my Kumite, I've gained a lot more strength in my katas but the quality of the katas has decreased. Some stands are wrong and punches always hit a bit too high due to me being a shorter person having to hit a taller person. I agree that one should learn both. In my club, we had a special graduation for our competition members, and barely any of the knew any Kata. Even the most basic Kata they couldn't perform flawlessly.
    • Garga Acharya
      Dear Jesse San, The problem is not only in 'Sport Karate' about KATA or KUMITE attitude ! The biggest problem is everything in today's KARATE WORLD outside Japan is compared with winning or losing tournament. The biggest problem is deviation in belt grades, it has been destroyed the standard and requirements of Karate. I have seen 9th kyu have become 5th Dan in 1 year. The WKF affiliated sports federation in many countries are distributing Dan grades on wholesale price. I have seen many top karate techers and masters who left teaching karate and are practicing for themselves. Karate to Olympics is good but at what price ? Situation is worse in many countries. Sad but true ! Please comment.
  • Lee
    Jesse, it's great you promote being a "martial" artist and not a "partial" artist! Keep up the good work!
  • Paul
    “Don’t sacrifice a leg for a trophy”. Indeed, Jesse-san! That’s an excellent quote :) And trophy chasing (or even belt chasing for that matter), shouldn’t be the main objectives to focus on. The main focus should be on gaining good knowledge and ability, not just trinkets. :)
  • Dene
    After spending the summer focused solely on kumite - returning to taking and teaching classes that emphasize both (we have a very good Sensei!), has reminded me of this, with emphasis! My stances are not where they should be, my technique and timing off - even my memory for kata needed a kickstart! While it is hallenging to try to maintain a high level at both these areas of skill, I am convinced it is entirely necessary - one enhances the other - a low strong stance in kata helps with explosiveness in kumite; a fast, linear punch in kumite translates to a tight, well-timed kata technique. Recently had the privelege of training with Junior Lefevre and he said he essentially trains for each using the other.
    • Florian Pean
      Exactly what I was thinking, one of my senseis taught me that a few years ago. Kumite training improves Kata and Kata training improves Kumite.
  • Liam
    I agree you can't have one and not the other. For me as much as I have a preference for Kata over Kumite, i know that i can't grow as a karateka or as a person without kumite. Even if I have issues with flexibility so i can't be low in shiko dachi (the 'Japanese' way of doing it) but i still work my butt off to try and get there because it strengthens my legs. I know there are a couple of karateka at my dojo that are kumite competitors but they lack in the kata department because they seem to think that kumite is the end all and be all.
  • Ramon
    Kata, kumite and I think most importantly is KIHON.
  • Antony
    Great article! Here in Germany I have met "kumite athletes" who told me that they don´t know even the first 3 katas of the "heian" series (Shotokan). They where blue to brown belts. :/
  • Ian
    May I suggest that "the two legs of karate" can be seen this way: One leg: "sport karate" where the focus is on kata and kumite. (Let's say kata is the shin and kumite is the thigh, if you want a really detailed metaphor.) The other leg: a more "old school" study of self-defence, where the focus is on all the close-range, down-n-dirty stuff you can't do at a tournament without getting disqualified or expelled ...
  • Nicole Siaw
    i think the biggest problem with sports karate is that we have to differentiate it with traditional karate in the first place
    • Vicky
      I think so!! Traditional karate always must be in the first place.
  • In our practice we have also taken kata and kamite and buy them together. We have learned that doing this gives us a better understanding of both. It starts in white belt and continues all through all our belts.
  • Thanks for the article. That's why competitions should be over all karate experience. Kata first round Kumite second round Tamishewari third round Then practioners can call themselves - COMPLETE
    • Fun idea, Djabrail-san! :-)
  • Patrick Curley
    Perhaps tournaments should make kata and kumite two halfs of a division. A competitor would need to compete in both and a combined score would reflect a better overall reflection of their abilities as a karateka.
  • Christian
    Actually, I think you lacks evidence of what you claim to be truth. You train kata at a high level and you base you entire article based on own opinions on what correct karate is. The reason that sports karate is called sports karate, is because sport is at the center, "not" karate as an art form. I also come from a traditional background, but I do believe you speak about an aspekt of karate you know nothing about. In order to achieve success in kumite, kate is "not" necessary. The club I am in now only practice sports karate kumite, but also uses kihon and kumite inspired and adjusted kata, to improve kumite. And everybody in the club have the opportunity to participate in self-defense classes. You have to accept that there is more than one deffinition or use of karate, even if you have a favorit. Thanks for reading I myself wrote a danish bachelor project about the difference between culture and organisation in a sports karate club and in a traditional karate club.
    • Michael Paul Zamot
      Karate without Kata is not Karate. Karate without kumite is not Karate. You may think Karate can still be Karate without Kata, you're wrong. You can't. What is at the center of sport Karate should be Karate, not only sport.
      • Josep
        Funakoshi Sensei taught Karate without kumite... So maybe the opposite can be also true: Karate without kata can still be Karate; just "different".
        • ShotoNoob
          JOSEP: YOUR ANSWER IS BEST. | The traditional karate model curriculum has three central components - kihon, kata, kumite. This development became more common with modernization of the Okinawan karate styles proximate to the move to Japan. I think this is the best way most practitioners learn karate. So the change was for the better, as a general rule. | Prior to that evolution, it is my understanding that Okinawan karate's were practiced by kata. Kata was designed as a comprehensive training regimen. I believe this is correct in principle and that it is possible to become an excellent, probably superior training kata alone. | The martial capabiities developed and provided by all the traditional karate curriculum, and particularly by kata, provide the base to excel @ self defense... kumite, tournaments, whatever. | Hence it's the understanding of what makes traditional karate training work, the principles, whether it be kihon, kata, or kumite - the underlying principles are common across all three components... that is essential to one's karate success. | So yes it is achievable to make one's karate great on the one leg of kata... the way the original master's intended. Two legs re the article's author is way more practical.... | Kumite alone, I don't recommend...
          • ShotoNoob
            EDIT TO MY POST ABOVE: | Paragraph #2. Sentence #3. | Insert the words: "FIGHTER by" after 'probably superior' & before 'training kata alone.' | Sport kumite competitors who only train sparring, good luck with that....
        • Micha Milovanovic
          • Micha Milovanovic
            Exactly Josep
    • Jesper Sode
      Hi Christian The mere thought of a 100 pct. Sportkumite club, is a very hard pill to swollow for most traditional clubs. But I Think it's great. When your fighting career is over, the club might not have much to offer you, but then you can swith to a traditionel karate club, and you get the best from both worlds. Ofcouse it might have been better to have both traditional og Sportskarate side by side, in the same club. But then they would have to compete for the same timeslots. And somehow the traditionalists usually wins that fight. By the way, I guess you are training in Aalborg :-)
    • Novak Novakovi? - Srbija
      ... dobar komentar !!! "nau?i da hodaš pre nego što ?eš potr?ati" ... zna?i najpre KIHON, pa KUMITE... a omiljenim katama održavaj formu i raspoloženje... održavanje na katama bez znanja i ose?aja za realnost, ?esto ili naj ?eš?e vodi u fantazerstvo... karate može biti veština, umetnost a možda i sport ... ma da ima slu?ajeva i psiholoških poreme?aja !!? nedaj te se mladi ljudi; "pamet u glavu" !!!
  • Umm... But kumite is what you do to practise your kata...
  • Anthony ryan
    Jesse not only has exceptional karate, and is an encyclopedia of knowledge, but regularly comes up with his own philosophies and ways to make sense of the many issues karate-ka face. Thanks for what you do -- you get people THINKING, and questioning their habits. Kudos to you
  • The problem with sport karate is that it is sport :) Kumite teaches you to fight by the rules. Kata teaches you how to do kata.
  • Shihan Martinez
    Excellent article. As a karate practitioner since November 1979, I don't recall a time I have not done both. It is like asking a physician " do you just practice medicine or science"
  • Olav
    Great article! And sort of along the lines of the article. Jesse, what is your take on karate to join the Olympics in 2020? Will it help karate in general, or will it take a turn for the worse?
  • Sofija
    Hi, or should I say Osu. I am 12 y.o. I'm an 8 years training in Kiokushin Karate and I know that feel when someone asks you this question: -Why do you only do Kumite or Kata? Well yeah... I sometimes feel bad for leaving Kata behind my back. Kumite and Kata are really different form each other, like day and nigh. One teaches you a beautiful technique,like some people say "Dance". And other teaches you fighting skills in a "battle". But let's not forget that if not Kata and Kumite karate would be nothing :) Sorry if I wasted your time with this! Have a nice day?
  • J. Jordan
    I agree with this article a lot, but I see this problem a lot more in local circuits like the AOK in Texas competitors choose over the other. I have noticed while in the NASKA circuit that most of the competitors are very well rounded and a good example is Sage Northcut, I mean don't get m wrong the kid has been doing sport karate his whole life. He dominated kata and sparring for the longest time and then he moved to doing grappling and killed the NAGA circuit making his way to strict MMA and shit now look at him he won his first UFC debut in under 56 sec. I think that the sports karate does a lot of good for a practitioner who is on a quest for perfection and Sage is the epitome of that.
    • ShotoNoob
      SAGE NORTHCUTT & THE PROBLEM OF "SPORT KARATE" \ The difficulty with using a Sage Northcutt as an example of karate is the very high, level of natural athleticism he has. \ So is the level of Northcutt's competition success owing to his karate training; or is does that success stem largely from his out-sized athletic ability? \ No question that "sport" karate can make one a good fighter. Remaining question, ..."is karate doing the work or is karate form just along for the ride?"
  • katri tig
    The real truth about Karate as taught today is it is a sham. It is not a fighting system it is a sports and social system. A grading system but most of all a profitable business for those teaching it. I studied Karate for year all through the grades a.and time and time again saw self proclaimed Master have their arse kicked. Because today's Karate is a business and not something your life depends on. Still not convinced? Original Karate fighting Art, Jutsu could be taught in 6 months. Not years of paying for lessons, buying grades or belts not good for getting rich on.
  • Peter
    Interesting article and following comments Jesse-San. Clearly an area in which there is a diversity of opinion, so i thought I'd add another :-) There's nothing wrong with focussing on only one aspect of Karate if sport is your only interest, but there is no doubt that in doing so there will be a great deal missing from your martial art (even though you may be able to fight or perform kata to a very high level). Sport Karate is, by its very nature restricted by well defined rules and by strategies which are solely directed at point scoring. I am from a Tang Soo Do background and anyone who has watched traditional Korean Karate and compared it with say Olympic Tae Kwon Do will understand my point exactly. One last thought: in my early training years as a 1st Dan I went out to Africa to work for two years. In that time I had very few opportunities to train with others, so mostly I practiced my hyung (kata) - and I was very keen in those days, so I practiced 5 days a week or more if I could. My forms sharpened up no end and, to my surprise, when I returned to my Dojo in the UK after two years away, my kumite had improved a great deal too... spooky :-)
  • Alex
    I honestly think it's up to Kata practitioners to prove the usefulness of Kata. Kumite in it's current WKF, sports-oriented, form is - while not effective as self defense (and perhaps not even as fighting) - very clear in what it does. People who do WKF Kumite know exactly what they're getting, and why they're getting it. There may be confusion as to how effective it is "on the streets" (which is it's own danger of course) but most people seem to understand that kumite is about scoring those sweet, sweet, points the same way one might say Olympic fencing is about scoring points. Kata, however, is something of a mess. Not Kata ITSELF, but how it is taught. Too often there is massive confusion as to what the purpose of Kata is, it's function, how it's broken down and how it is analyzed, etc. I don't have enough fingers on my hands to count the number of times I've been told Kata is effective self defense training, only to have it shown to me like it's dance! A string of techniques with no thought to it's function and principle. If you teach Kata the same way you teach dance, you are teaching your students how to dance! (The only major difference being that dancers are better taught how to dance than us Karateka are, so really, we're only learning how to dance poorly.) The inescapable truth is that Kata is too often taught with a backwards-mentality. Under reasonable circumstances, Function begets Form - that's how it started in the before-times. Nowadays, we behave as if Form begets Function. It's no wonder somebody would pick Kumite over Kata - Kata too often plays like a poor man's dance routine, and to keep on training it under such circumstances is perplexing at best. The guy that hadn't practiced Kata in 2 years had it right. If there's no quality Kata instruction, why would you ever practice Kata? I'm guessing this guy recognized that he was learning how to dance, rather than train Kata, and decided not to do it anymore. So, I think it's unfair to say the guy chopped off one of his proverbial legs - I think he chose to keep his head instead.
  • Peter
    There are so many interesting viewpoints here, it's great to see. It's perfectly ok to have sport karate side-by-side with traditional karate, but it is inevitable that people will be drawn more to one than to the other dependent on their outlook, their skill set and of course to the leanings of their teachers. Many people choose to compete in their earlier training years and then find that a more traditional approach suits them better later in their development. I have taken part in many competitions over the years, both as competitor and referee and there is no doubt that the rules of fighting are narrow and restrictive, favouring a certain style of fighting over others. This of course leads to tactics that are designed to score as many points as possible - fair enough. If what you are aiming to teach though, is a much broader and more complex fighting method, then too much competition will encourage you and your students to ditch many techniques that would be perfectly valid outside the narrow confines of the sports ring. This applies to a slightly lesser extent even to competition kata, which you can see beautiful examples of, even to music these days - again, why not? It just doesn't fit in well if you are trying to refine your kata into an applied system for practicing fighting moves. In conclusion, there are decisions to be made: if what you are looking for is a sport there are plenty of good competition karate clubs out there. If your preference is for something more 'real' and with a different set of goals perhaps a traditional karate (or kung fu, TSd etc :-)) class is more for you. Finally if you're not sure and like the discomfort of sitting on the fence, there are plenty of clubs that try to get a half-way house..... I know where my preferences lie, but that's the great thing about life, about martial arts and about people - we're all different!
  • ShuriGoju Renshi
    There are some great thoughts here. I will add my 2 cents... Karate is a lifetime activity! I guess most of us know this. What we tend to forget is that karate evolves throughout your life. I have been studying since I was 13 years old. From 16 to 30 my karate life was dominated by competition. I was chasing points throughout the US in kata. I competed less often in kumite and then only with the expectation of getting to fight with someone new, not to win. As I entered my 30's and early 40's, my interest waned. This was partially because of injuries and body changes that come with age, but it was more so a change in interest. It was then that I began to delve deeper into my karate. I started to understand that kata was only part of the whole. Kihon, waza, kata, kumite, tamishuwari, and zen are ALL important. If you leave one out, your karate is incomplete. My early years were focused on winning. To do so in kata I had to have the best, most dramatic dance. It didn't matter if I understood the bunkai (other than the most basic). In kumite, one had to be fast, strong, but not too strong (or you faced penalty). I had none of these qualities! Now I choose to "rise above the dance" (O-Sensei Peter Urban's words, not mine). At 54, I focus on all aspects, breaking kata down to individual waza and then kihon. I strive to understand the 3 levels of bunkai, rather than just the first level. I still do kumite, but not for points, and only in the dojo. I choose mostly ju kumite that allows me to use applications of kata into my kumite. On rare occasion I will participate in go kumite with limited contact to test my skills on a more realistic level. So I guess I need to make a point... Tournaments are for the young. I still compete on occasion, but it is not my main focus. So don't fault the person who chooses kumite over kata or vice-versa, especially if they are young. If they are true karateka, they will find their way to true karatedo.
  • Pete
    Kata and bunkai are Karate. Kumite is a by-product and tool to test ability and understanding of kata. People who perform Kumite without being able to perform a decent Kata aren't really doing Karate, they just think they are. In my opinion and observation of many martial artists from different countries, this is the main distinction between traditional Karatedo and modern sport Karate. Someone who is a good fighter isn't necessarily a good karateka, most of these people don't understand the concept budo and the meaning of Kata and bunkai. As a good analogy or example, if a good Karate fighter entered a Taekwondo tournament, he would unoubtedly be able to stand his own (and vice versa) - I've seen it happen. If they actually won the kumite tournament, does that make them a great Taekwondo exponent? Obviously, not at all; they know nothing of Taekwondo at all - they're just a good fighter, they don't know about TKD's practice, form, culture, history, terminology, theory, kata (Tul), kihon etc. This is the same for any discipline, to summarise, if they're good at kumite, they're good at kumite, that's it, they're not automatically good at Karate, it's possible that their knowledge Karate is virtually non-existent, sadly much of the western world don't train in a way that is in keepin with what Karate wa intended to be - too many people run McDojo's and Black belt academies as a business... but each to his own - Karate is very personal affair and comparisons are always largely subjective.
  • Thank you for another great article Jesse-san. I used to be the kumite only guy, but then in my late 20s, I met a Sensei that helped me understand the benefits of both kata and kumite. My current Sensei believes the same thing. It is because of people like this, and people like you that help show that kata is just as important as kumite and kumite is just as important as kata. Thank you.
  • ade
    I believe they are as different as night and day. Karate was practiced for 100s of years without kumite. Kumite is a modern add on that funakoshi didn't approve of. Points and medals weren't the goal. Saving your life was. I believe you need to clearly know what you are training for. Am i training to win medals? Am i training to save my life? Fitness? Disipline? Train just to train? It must be clear in your mind why you are training and what skills you're training for and aim your training towards improvement of particular area of combat. Sport, self defense are different. It would be terrible to spend years training kata to absolute technical perfection then get your ass beat because you weren't training for the right environment. Kata without knowledge of the bunkai is merely a dance.
  • Ronny
    Karate consist of 3 elements, not 2. Kihon, Kata, Kumite. I like to offer the analogy of mind, body, technique. Or another trilogy: mind, body, soul. Karateka has all 3. I also wonder if there is a sign out there which relates this fact to the TOMOE symbol, which also consist of 3 elements working together.
  • Dear Jesse, that is the way my both Senseis in Germany teach me karate even if they came both from the "full contact" karate style. I always show them your newest articles because you bring it on point! Thanks a lot and hopefully see one day here in Berlin, best wishes. Son.
  • Joel Bunche
    I have to say that it's true to be complete. Even though I do have my favorite but I know that to get better we have to be an all around martial artist. Sport karate is fun but the level is weak and now it's making it were everyone is a black belt but aren't strong enough.
  • Ronny
    From an application and development point of view, KIHON is the practice which is necessary to be able to perform a KATA, which is a necessary practice to be able to perform a IPPON/SANBON KUMITE, which is necessary practice for the JIYU KUMITE ...... which is a practice in a real fight outside the dojo (which hopefully will never happen). In (every) training, we do all three or four. In competition, it would be nice to have an integrated competition like Djabarail suggested above. At the whole picture ... it depends on what the meaning of KARATE is for me and you individually. Some people see KARATE as a sport to take care of the body, some other people feel the need to raise their self confidence through it - than yes, KUMITE will help the most. And still others see it as a way of life, as a rule or guide how to think and to act in everyday life. There is no right or wrong. In other words: KARATE is not one single thing. No one has the authority to give a closing definition of what KARATE is, except for him/herself. In my dojo there are many karateka's who prefer do randori and kumite all the time, but our shihan sets the requirements for the kata's at every grade, so it is impossible to have a second kyu karateka without the ability to perform pinan's correctly. But yes, these guys and girls prefer the kumite above the kata and kihon. Sad fact? It is the reality, man. Hajime Kazumi, the famous Kyokushin champion in kumite's, said in a interview after finished competing in championships that he still keep asking himself what the real meaning of karate is for him at this moment. He came up with: kata. The circle is round.
  • Piero Barba
    This is the problem when you have winning as a motivation to do Karate.
  • I am just a shodan but a doctor one : i insist in my club for both kata and kumite. If you practice only kata it will be hard muscle work with poor heart work, so not good on many years for the heart. Instead kumite help to develop heart. So in this point of view kumite is needed. So i love kumite when you sweat a lot, and when at the end each one is smiling and friend.
  • Ramon
    Hi. I practice sport karate and in my dojo all my students MUST make kata and kumite in a tournament, no exceptions. That is because most sport karate practitioners are forgetting their roots and making distortions to the technique to get trophies, money or more black belts. We don’t want that, we can make sport karate but at the end we are karatekas too
  • Sensei Enkamp, Thank you for this. I have studied Shotokan for nearly 30 years and have competed many times. I will always compete with kata and kumite and require the same of my students. I do not allow them to focus on any one area. Like you, I believe that this stunts the growth of the karateka.
  • Thank you Jesse This is how our dojo is working. We have a national kumite fighter who natually has a lot of kumite hour pr week but he attent 3 regular days with ordenary karate incl kata and bunkai and kumite without the rules of WKF Keep up sharing your ideas and your drive You nailed this one:) Anders, dk
  • Gojuboxer
    Jesse, I wish I could agree with you. But the kumite in sport karate is more or less speed tag. So when the gentleman stated he had not practiced kata in years, I would not be shocked. A friend of mine had a "karate" school where the kids only trained in sport karate fighting and NO KATA. The kids always place 1st or at least 2nd place at local and national competition levels. At their dojo the training consisted of drills and sparring. In fact some of the kids grew up to be on nationally sponsored teams, without knowing any kata at all. Jesse, as you have stated many times, kata application is for self defense. Brother, I would like to add that I believe kata should not be for competition.
  • diosdado
    I practice Karate as it mean literally- empty hand. I am training my punch and my kick; and weaponizing my close-fist with extended knuckles; and my front kick with toe kick. I do not know any kata. So I keep training my spear hand, finger and thumb for tweaking to make them hard and can absorb hard impact. Trying also to learn how to do kime in my strikes and parries. That is why I read Jesse's writings about kime and chinkuchi; and try doing it.
  • Mageswari
    A good article Jesse. Thank you

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