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FISHER SHOTOKAN KARATE

KUMITE

By Charles Rhodes, P. Eng., Ph.D.

The following notes have been made from Sensei Fisher's classes, comments and emails:

TIME FRAME:
A closing attacker will generate kinetic energy from initiation to the critical impact instant in about 0.5 second. The opponent's technique should be blocked as soon as possible after the opponent reaches his/her MPFLP. The opponents technique will become more energetic and more difficult to block as the opponent's loaded leg unloads.

Hence, every technique in kumite must be completed in < 0.5 seconds.

In order to operate in this time frame both the upper and lower halves of the body must be loaded simultaneously. Similarly the major joints engaged in an attack must unload simultaneously. Sequential loading movements lead to > 0.5 second motions. Sequential unloading movements diminish the amount of available energy and dramatically slow down the technique.
 

DISTANCE:
The proper distance to your opponent is one full step from your front foot to your opponent's front foot. If a shorter person is fighting a taller opponent the shorter person should attempt to keep one of the opponent's full step lengths between the opponent's front foot and his own front foot. To do otherwise puts the shorter person inside the attack range of the taller opponent and thus at a great disadvantage.

If you maintain the correct distance you will have more options than your opponent.

Unless your opponent is intimately familiar with the four methods of movement he/she will not be able to move that distance during an attack before you have time to react. The full step distance is sufficient that any attacks that your opponent attempts can easily be countered or absorbed.

A highly trained sprinter can cover one full step length in about (1 / 10) second. A highly trained karateka has a reaction time of about (1 / 10) second. Hence when two highly trained competitors are opposing each other a distance separation of less than one full step gives the movement initiator a distinct advantage.
 

STANCE:
The body must always be straight and erect to enable turns that can be executed in less than 0.5 seconds. Tuck the butt in and keep it tight. Keep the chin in to keep the spine vertical through its entire length. Do not look down.

A fully loaded leg permits movement in only one direction and contains elastic potential energy that soon decays. A fully unloaded leg contains no potential energy. A fully unloaded leg is not in a good position to initiate a movement.

The normal kumite stance has hips at 45 degrees to the opponent (hamni) and both legs part loaded with approximately equal weight on each leg. Both knees and both feet should point at the opponent. Any stance other than a normal kumite stance is only briefly used during an attack or retreat motion. Generally one should return to the normal kumite stance as soon as possible.

The stance width should not be too narrow. A narrow stance has the advantage of reducing exposed target area but it has the disadvantage of preventing both rapid turns and rapid lateral movements.
 

CM DROP:
In Fisher Shotokan every technique commences with a center of momentum (CM) vertical drop to simultaneously load both the leg muscles and the upper body.

The vertical drop causes a momentary sensation of weightlessness. There should be no horizontal motion during the vertical drop. The drop period is set by the acceleration of gravity. No amount of training wil decrease the drop period. During the drop period an assessment is made of what to do next.
 

ORIENTATION:
Use proper body positioning to create the greatest speed possible. The largest muscles are in the legs for forward and back motion. In order to fully engage these muscles and hence achieve maximum speed it is important that the knee and the foot of the loaded leg be pointed at the target in the Mid-point Fully Loaded Position (MFLP). In kumite having both feet pointed at the target brings into play either hand or foot.

"Knee and foot pointed at the target" means that a vertical plane tangent to the inside edge of the heel and passing through the second big toe knuckle from the toe tip, if extended, will pass through the knee and through the target.

If an opponent has a stance in which his/her feet are not pointed at the target his/her movement options are limited. A skilled competitor can take advantage of these limitations.
 

METHODS OF LINEAR MOVEMENT:
In kumite there are four methods of linear movement. Each has its own application depending on the distance to the opponent. The initial weight distribution on the legs is 50% - 50% in all cases. Each method can be executed either forward or backwards with either the left leg or right leg leading. The methods are compress-slide, step-slide, full step and any combination of these. Note that the back leg initiates forward motion and the hips initiate backward motion.

In compress-slide the rear leg compresses and the front leg slides forward. In step-slide the front leg momentarily bears weight while the rear leg moves forward half a step and then compresses resulting in a half step range extension to compress-slide.

Execution of a full step causes the rear leg to become the front leg. Most elementary kata practce involves full steps.

Daily kihon practice such as gohon kumite should involve all three methods of linear movement, especially step-slide, as that motion is less frequently used in every day life.
 

MPFLP:
Any attack involving a full step has a Mid-Point Fully Loaded Position (MPFLP). At the MPFLP the attacker's CM is almost directly over his supporting foot. The other foot bears no weight. At the MPFLP the attacker's CM motion is fully committed and he can exert little or no net torque. Up to the MPFLP the attacker can modify the angle and timing of his attack by varying force on his legs. At the MPFLP the attacker is unable to change direction because the horizontal component of his supporting leg's force vector is zero.

At the MPFLP torque can only be created by counter rotation of the upper and lower halves of the body. However, the time spent at the MPFLP is exceedingly brief. It is an instant in one continuous movement.

When either attacking or defending with a full step backwards or forwards, to maintain body unity any hand strike must be in the fully loaded position at the MPFLP. This arm loading is accomplished between the initiation and the MPFLP. Techniques have two phases, loading and unloading. A common error is trying to load a hand technique after the MPFLP has been passed.
 

BLOCKING:
If a gedan block is used the defender's back leg should retain sufficient potential energy for execution of the next technique.

Normal bi-pedal motion with an erect upper body causes slight lateral CM motion. The direction of a karateka's body movement to avoid a high energy linear attack should always be opposite to the direction of his opponent's normal lateral CM motion. The direction of deflection of a high energy linear attack should be consistent with the direction of the opponents normal lateral CM motion.
 

PUNCHES:
No pull back before a punch during kihon practice to avoid telegraphing intention. Keep elbow tied to the body.
 

TURNS GENERAL COMMENTS:
Turns should move the defender's CM off the line of attack.

The initial motion of the hips drives a turn.

All turns are executed backwards. If the pivot point is the ball or heel of the right foot the turn is Counter Clock Wise (CCW). If the pivot point is the ball or heel of the left foot the turn is Clock Wise (CW). The human skeleton is not well adapted to performing forward high energy turns.

Complex turns must be practiced thousands of times until the karateka executes them correctly purely by muscle memory with no conscious thought. Only then can they be effectively applied in kumite.

If the opponent is too close a limited angle turn can be almost instantaneously modified to a backwards rotation on the balls of both feet to gain a small amount of distance.
 

BACK FIST:
It is particularly important when using a back fist that the joints of the opposite leg and the elbow of the striking hand empty at exactly the same moment and that the spine be vertical. The hip on the same side as the striking hand must be directly under the shoulder of the striking arm. Achieving this position requires a very large push from the opposite loaded leg. Keep the spine vertical to prevent too great a separation between the body and the striking hand. Otherwise insufficient energy will be delivered. Leaning forward during a back fist attack indicates that the movements are sequential rather than simultaneous and that there is insufficient push from the loaded leg.

Time consuming motions such as drawing an arm back prior to a back fist strike seldom work because the opponent has time to react and block such motions.
 

KUMITE SCORING CRITERIA:
In order to earn points in a kumite match the techniques should have the capacity to deliver maximum energy to the opponent. This issue should be emphasized during referee clinics. Kumite is not a game of tag. It is about developing and delivering devastating energy.

A technique should not score unless both major joints powering the technique fully extend simultaneously. The referees and judges should look for the following essential technique characteristics:

1) In a punching technique the knee of the loaded leg and the elbow of the punching arm should unload simultaneously. Hence, the powering elbow and the powering knee should simultaneously straighten. The impact point should be the first two knuckles (the two strongest knuckles) of the impacting hand.

2) In a kicking technique the knees of both legs should unload simultaneously. Hence both knees should simultaneously straighten. At the critical instant of application there should be a foot, body, foot layout so that, subject to the attackers range of leg motion, the attackers legs form a nearly straight line from the supporting foot to the impacting foot. For a high kick ideally this line should be at 45 degrees to the ground plane. The impact point should be either the ball or the heel of the impacting foot. The instep and edges of the impacting foot lack the combined strength and rigidity required for maximum energy delivery.

3) In a striking technique such as a shuto or a back hand strike the upper trunk muscles and the leg muscles must fully engage simultaneously, not sequentially. The impact point should be the edge, heel or first two knuckles of the striking hand. Other parts of the striking hand are not strong enough for maximum energy delivery. In most kumite competitions heel of hand strikes to the opponents face are not permitted due to excessive danger to the opponent.

4) There should be relative CM motion between the attacker and the target that enhances the potential for energy delivery.

5) The choice of target and the distance to the target at the critical instant should both be appropriate for the circumstance.
 

SCORING ISSUES:
The following is an excerpt from a January 2017 email from Malcolm Fisher to Shiva:
I think that your up coming tournament provides you with a unique opportunity, to introduce the concept of maximal kinetic energy generation, as the main consideration when judging kata or kumite. Perhaps making these changes to kumite might be a first and more manageable step. This idea does not contravene any of the officiating rules that Canada uses today. There are no rules governing specific ways to recognize what constitutes a successful scoring technique. What guidance there is, is of a very general sort and more of a how to rather, than a what to call. It is up to the judgement of officials to call, what they consider to be points. The following ideas provide a way for officials to more accurately measure an athletes performance and give athletes a measurable way to understand, what is expected of them in the execution of fully formed karate techniques.

Maximal kinetic energy generation is the result of a fully formed karate technique. Energy generation and controlled application are what is being judged at our tournaments. These same considerations are given to those who do not compete, but do challenge grading examinations. Currently, our athletes are generating and applying energy, as required by the current judging and grading standards. When viewed from a maximal energy development stand point, the energy developed by our athletes and students is far, far less than what they are capable of.

It is of course always understood and goes without saying that, all the energy developed in a karate technique must be applied in a controlled fashion and at a distance required by the rules of competition and dojo standards, in order ensure the continued and safe practice of karate-doh.

The ideas that I proposed to you are as follows;
- That no technique can be called a point(s) unless the energy produce in the lower half of the body is simultaneously unloaded with the upper body. An example would be, a reverse punch which; scores the vast majority of points given; where the knee of the loaded leg fully straightens simultaneously, not consecutively, with elbow of the striking hand. In order for techniques to fit the 1/2 second time scale, the loading and unloading phases of techniques must be done simultaneously. When these loading and unloading phases are done instead, consecutively, maximum energy generation is impossible to achieve; especially in light of the 1/2 second time scale and therefore cannot be considered a fully formed karate technique and therefore, would not be scored as a point.

- When simultaneous loading and unloading is achieved, only then are, on target and distance judged. Being on target and at the correct distance but, without generating maximal energy of a fully formed karate technique and rewarding it with a score; turns our competitions into athletic games of tag rather, than displays of fully formed karate movements which demonstrate a working technical understanding of karate techniques.

- This means that when an opponent is on the floor, whether by technique or, falling; a hand technique cannot be scored due to the fact that, the energy in the lower half of the body is not utilized. This attempt at scoring with a punch or, other hand technique is in reality is just a situp with a punch combination. Which cannot achieve the maximal energy development of a fully formed karate technique. However, a point(s) can be scored when an opponent is on the ground, when a kicking technique is used because, in this case, both knees can be simultaneously loaded and unloaded simultaneously and thus generate maximal energy development.

- There is a floor, Horizontal Line and is always viewed firstly, from the back foot(that is farthest from the target), to the front foot. Any successful fully formed karate technique will have a floor, horizontal line of, foot, body, foot. This is an indication of complete horizontal energy delivery to the opponent. The perfect vertical angle of the body(centre of mass or CM) in relation to the back foot of the unloaded leg is 45 degrees. Any more indicates a consecutive unloading and a shortage of distance. Any less is an indication of a vertical application of energy which of itself, cannot develop maximal energy and thus, should not be scored as a point.

- What one will observe today, when looking for the horizontal lines of our competitors are, too often; body, foot, foot during kicking techniques; the foot, foot, body of a leaping forward backfist or punch or, the foot body overlap on the same vertical plane, foot, of either hand or, kicking techniques. If you examine tournament video, you will begin to see the horizontal lines I speak of. These examples indicate a lack of maximal energy development. You will also notice in the vast majority of techniques which, are today scored as points, the back unloading leg never fully unloads and is most often bent, with the heel raised, at the critical instant of energy delivery. The energy developed therefore is almost exclusively, the centrifugal energy of the upper body and without the lineal force provided by the leg joints of the lower half of the body.These are examples of karate techniques which are not fully formed and should not be scored as points. I fear and have long felt that, if we continue to score points where the major consideration is distance and being on target, then that is what the athletes will train for because, they are being rewarded for it.

- Should you ultimately decide to implement these considerations, initially fewer points will be scored but, athletes will soon begin to adapt their training towards the maximal energy development and delivery required of fully formed karate technique. This can carry over into grading examinations of all our members, competitors or, not. Olympic officiating standards for competition will be required of the karate world soon and must match the standards of other long standing Olympic sports. I believe that these proposed changes, towards the selection maximal kinetic energy as a new measurable officiating standard, will go a long way towards helping us achieve that Olympic standard expected of us. Improving the athletic performance and officiating standards to an Olympic level will be necessary, for karate to continue as an Olympic sport beyond the Tokyo Games. We must decide if it is a game of tag that we show off in Tokyo or, the fully formed and fluid techniques of karate-doh.

- Utilizing these ideas in your upcoming tournament can actually help our athletes transition to the new expectations of, the maximal kinetic energy development of their techniques. Your tournament will probably not be awarding team selection points and so, will not affect their provincial standings.

- Again, I feel it important enough to repeat that, these proposed officiating changes, towards maximal energy development, performed by our athletes, in no way contravenes the current competition rules used in Canada.These proposed changes provide a precise, measurable way to judge our athletes performance, within the rules and help to decide whether, or not, fully formed karate techniques have been used. It removes opinion, of which there are many and replaces them with a precise and measurable physical standard that, should be acceptable across all karate stylistic lines.

- In any case, what you have Shiva, is the opportunity to be the first tournament in the world to introduce maximal energy development as the main criteria for deciding points. I believe that these changes are the future of officiating and provide a way to get there. After all, how else are we to improve the performances of our athletes and quality of our officials with one simple and precise idea? What are the alternatives to maximal energy and will they accomplish as much?

- These changes are a Canadian idea and it is my hope that we will not wait until others adopt it and then have to accept them under the tutelage of others. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration of this proposal.
Regards
Malcolm
 

PRACTICE FOR KUMITE:
Practice Phases:
Phase I = doing techniques individually;
Phase II = doing techniques in combination, one following another;
Phase III = doing multiple techniques simultaneously, which is the highest form of kumite. This simultaneous action is usually a block and a punch. Knowledge of what your opponent will do and when or, making your opponent do what you want him to do, when you want him to do it, is required when using this phase of kumite.

These phases are learned by incorporating them in all of the various kihon and kumite practices.

The only time that an opponent will stay still, allowing you to successfully attack, is when he is just about to attack. At that time his focus on moving forward, not backward.

When using the strategy of attacking an attack, phase 3 techniques can be used more effectively than the phase 2 techniques practiced in most dojos. Phase 1 techniques require the correct footwork to be successful.
 

MISCELLANEOUS KUMITE ISSUES:
When attacking move toward the opponent's open side. Then the opponent has to reposition him/her self in order to deliver an effective countering reverse punch. In some cases it is advantageous for the attacker to interchange his feet (start with right foot forward instead of left foot forward) and/or to shift his/her lead foot laterally towards the opponents open side in order to enable this motion.
 

PAN-AM COMPETITION:
In July 2015 the Pan American Competition was held in Toronto (Mississauga). Karate kumite on a matted surface under WKF rules was a featured sport event. Numerous competitors adopted a bouncing stance in which their rear foot pointed at almost 90 degrees to their line of attack. As a result there was little use of step-slide to cover distance, the competitors tended to be too close to one another and there was extensive use of hook kicks. This extensive use of hook kicks indicated that most competitors could not cover distance fast enough to avoid them. Further, the referees were not looking for maximum potential energy delivery capability.

To be effective a hook kick must be highly accurate. Successful application of a hook kick often involves grabbing the opponent to control the distance. It is extremely difficult to safely control a hook kick while maximizing potential energy delivery. The kick relies on use of the heel against a vulnerable target, the side of the head. To some degree the kicker relies on the high friction matted competition surface for both energy development and delivery control. In WKF rule competition most hook kicks lack potential energy because the kicks are executed without simultaneous unloading of both legs.

A few competitors were consistently able to use step-slide to their advantage for initiating and executing takedowns. However, the competiton demonstrated that most competitors lacked sufficient kihon training in step-slide and had modified their stance and distance in an atttempt to compensate.
 

This web page last updated January 27, 2017.

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