by Sensei Neil Prime
February, 1993

We've all seen it happen: you're sparring with someone you've sparred with a hundred times and you know that they're going to throw a certain technique at you that you've seen them use on you and other people hundreds of times. All of a sudden you hear "Mattae"(stop)! Now you stand back and say to yourself: "How the heck did he score again ... using the same simple technique I knew was coming?"

Developing sparring techniques is a long, drawn-out practice that requires hours of dedication to perfect. Sounds boring eh? Well it doesn't have to be. When we work out in Karate, it is the frame of mind you put yourself into. When going over basics, rather than just punching and kicking into thin air, imagine an opponent in front of you that you have to beat to survive. Without that drive you will never succeed in beating anything but your own opportunities to improve. This is where the attitude begins. This attitude must be carried over to Kihon Kumite.

Kihon Kumite, or two-step sparring, is simply defined as "practising an offensive or defensive technique with the help of a partner to simulate a realistic situation". It is very important to do exactly what is instructed over and over again so that you learn to judge distance and accuracy. When learning a new technique, or one you may be having problems with, do not vary your technique until you become comfortable with it. Start out slow and then gradually your speed will come with your confidence to execute the technique properly.

On the other hand, if you are the partner or "target" so to speak you must trust your opponent not to hit you, and work with each other to improve on a mutual level. Remember, both of you, at one time or another will be on the giving and receiving end of the punch or kick.

It is not wrong to stop your partner and let them know that they are doing something wrong or giving away their technique by maybe looking at where they are going to strike or dropping their shoulder before they punch etc. We all have room for improvement and should humbly accept and give POSITIVE criticism. Even if you outrank your partner, this does not necessarily mean that they con not help you. Again, it is the attitude we use that will determine whether we are good Karateka or just think we are good Karateka.

We should also remember when we are two-step sparring to make our opponent respond realistically. It is my job to throw a punch to my partner's face. It is my partner's opportunity to practice osoto uke (outside forearm block), and then to counter-attack with gyako suki (reverse punch). I must throw my punch directly at the specified target every time, so that my partner gets the full opportunity to practice their technique. If I start to throw my punch over to the right of my partner's head because that's where my punch will end up after being blocked, then I am taking away my partner's opportunity to practice their block properly. This could result in giving my partner a false sense of accomplishment. If I throw my punch directly at the target and my partner misses the block, then he knows more practice is required.

As you develop your sparring skills, Kihon Kumite becomes more realistic. Now is the time to vary your timing, speed and essence.

Do not deviate from the technique being practised. What you want to do is move around and start throwing your techniques from different angles at different speeds to see how well your partner adapts to the situation at hand. This can, and should turn into a game of cat and mouse or tag.

This will ultimately lead to actual free-style sparring, but without the base of Kihon Kumite improving and improvising technical combinations will be almost impossible.

In conclusion:

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