Kata-based sparring

If there’s one aspect of martial arts training I don’t get enough of, it’s kata-based sparring.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been reading Iain Abernethy‘s “Bunkai Jutsu.”  In one of the last chapters, Iain talks about kata-based sparring and methods on how to train for it.

It is often said that kata and kumite are the same.  If your kumite is kata-based then the preceding statement is true.  However, if your sparring is based on the rules of competition, then the statement is false.

Several times in the past, we’ve been challenged to employ only kata-specific moves in practice – say, for example, we can only use moves from Wansu or Anaku.  I found this really difficult to do because it’s hard to play tag using these moves.  And yes, I just referred to competition kata as tag.  It’s fun to do, you need to be in good shape to do it, but it’s really just a game of tag.

It’s taken me a long time to realize how close kata and kumite are, or should be, related.  After reading this book, I’ve realized that kumite is for practicing what we’ve learned from kata.  It’s our exam after reading the textbook, if you will.

I like to spar for competition, but I’d much prefer to spar for self-defense and real-life application.  I was at a tournament just before my black belt test and I decided to give sparring a try.  I lost both my matches.  One of my opponents would fly in at me, but I remember charging him all the way back to the edge of the ring and knocked him over into the crowd once.  I was confident that, in that case, I could’ve defended myself against that person if he was on the street.  He was playing tag, I was trying to fight.

Someday, I hope to get back into a position where I can do more sparring.  But instead of competition, I would like to use some of Iain’s methods of kata-based sparring.  I want to use the theory that kata teaches and use it in a realistic scenario.

I want to shy away from competition kata and kumite and get back to the kata practiced by the masters.

By Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is a B2B marketing professional, a black belt martial arts instructor, DDP Yoga instructor, and a personal trainer.