Taekwon-Do Basic Sparring Strategy

There is a strategic science to sparring. From the outside, sparring looks like random kicks and punches thrown mercilessly with the objective being to injure. From the inside, however, a sparring match is like a chess game. For example, one could not win a game of chess by mindlessly moving around the pieces anymore than one could win a sparring match by mindlessly throwing techniques. Strategy is prerequisite to chess as well as to sparring.

What is strategy?

Strategy goes beyond "What kick should I throw now?" and it answers the question "How can I manipulate the situation to give me the advantage over my opponent?" This strategy comes in two main forms: Overall strategy (macro strategy) and exchange strategy (micro strategy).

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36 Useful Sparring Tips

Sparring tips:

  1. Size up your opponent before you engage. If he strikes first then you know he is an OFFENSIVE fighter. If he waits for your attack then you know he is a DEFENSIVE fighter.
  2. Find out what technique your opponent is good at by giving a fake. If your opponent moves his hands then you know he is a puncher. If your opponent moves his leg then you know right away that he is a kicker.
  3. Try to get your opponent to attack first, either by a fake or taunt. You will quickly learn what technique your opponent relies on, (every fighter has their favorite technique) then plan a counter for that attack.
  4. Do not telegraph your attack.
  5. Never show fear when sparring. Your opponent will sense fear and go on the attack, however, fear also can be used as a fake.
  6. When you and your opponent are in hitting range make sure you're legs are never wider than your shoulder width. Wider stands makes your movements slower.
  7. Always set up your opponent before you strike. Set up high, strike low. Set up low, strike high. Most experienced fighters will never get hit unless you set them up.
  8. Always relax the body before you strike. Tension slows down attacks. Visualise a snake attacking it's prey. Calm, relaxed, then strike with lightening speed.
  9. Close the gap between your thought and action. Don't think too long or the opportunity is lost.
  10. The moment to strike an opponent is when he is about to launch an attack or as he is landing from his attack.

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What is Kumite

Kumite means sparring, and is one of the three main parts of karate training, along with kata and kihon. Kumite is when you train against an adversary, using the techniques learnt from the kihon and kata.

ura_mawashi_geriSince the word “kumite” refers to forms of sparring, it covers a vast range of activities. In traditional Shotokan karate, the first type of kumite for beginners is gohon kumite. The defender steps back each time, blocking the five attacks and performing a counterattack after the fifth block. This activity looks nothing like the jiyu kumite (or “free sparring”) practiced by more advanced Shotokan practitioners, which is far closer to how karate would look if used in a real fight, especially because it does not require the use of particular stances. Shotokan karate has various other types of kumite (e.g. 3-step, 1-step, semi-free, etc.) which span this large range in styles of practice.

Types of Kumite

  • Kihon Ippon Kumite - One step sparring
  • Gohon Kumite - Five step sparring
  • Sanbon Kumite - Three step sparring
  • Keashi Ippon Kumite - Two step sparring
  • Jiyu Ippon Kumite - Semi Freestyle or controlled sparring
  • Okuri Jiyu Ippon Kumite - Two step sparring where the second movement is free.
  • Jiyu Kumite - Freestyle sparring.

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