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Preparing For What?

Sometimes I hear that this person or that person is very good at kumite. The implication is that he or she is a good fighter.

But Karate does not prepare us for defending or fighting against other martial artists, not really. Karate generally prepares us to defend ourselves against an untrained attacker, often one who attacks without warning. We catch a blur out of the corner of our eye. That's it. That's all the time we have.

There is no taking stances or getting ready. Right there, whatever we are doing, wherever our hands and feet may be, that is the position from which we have to defend ourselves. We might be sitting at a desk or waiting in line at the movies. We might even get punched in the back of the head -- and then have to defend ourselves.

My point is that this scenario differs greatly from typical kumite. At least in kumite you know who you are fighting, how many there are (usually only one), and when the fight begins and ends. At least no other people can join in during the match. Could you imagine if the referee started to punch you in the middle of a match? This may sound crazy, but it would not be so crazy on the street. The attacker's friend or friends might join the fight at any time. They might even be hiding.

It is good to be good at kumite. Kumite teaches us a lot. But there is much more to self-defense.

The best "fighter" might not be the best person at kumite. I put "fighter" in quotes because Karate is about self-defense, not fighting.


Charles C. Goodin