Kumite – Hand in Hand with Your Opponent

(by Marc Janott, June 2015, revised June 2016)

Part 1 of 8: The Diversity of Kumite

Kumite is well known as one of the three Ks of karate: Kata, Kihon, Kumite. The first two, kata and kihon, are commonly performed as solo exercises. The third, kumite, requires a partner or opponent.

We know how karate comprises a wide range of activities, so we may expect kumite to be as diverse as karate itself.

In fact, the term kumite is used in a variety of contexts. And although these contexts do overlap in some aspects, they still can be very well distinguished.

What we can all agree on is that kumite is some kind of partner work as opposed to practising alone. But exactly what kind of partner work we think of depends on our personal karate background and history. It might be very different from the image that our fellow karateka has in mind.

So whenever we talk about kumite I think we should clearly state which type of kumite we are referring to at any point in the conversation. We therefore want more precise terms to refer to specific types of kumite.

Specific types of kumite? – We'll get there in a minute.

First, let's be clear about what the word “kumite” actually means.

Now we're ready to grapple with those different types of kumite. As a possible disambiguation I personally use the following nomenclature:

Of course there are subtypes if you want to be even more specific. And, although I think I covered the most important types, there are possibly some more types of kumite out there.