What level of contact in kumite/randori do you prefer?

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Mitlov, May 23, 2018.

  1. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    I'd be interested in a straw poll of the karateka who are regulars around here...

    Karate, as much as any martial art, has a broad spectrum of contact levels. You've got knockdown clubs that do full-contact bare-knuckle fighting. You've got people who are crossing over to MMA or at least MMA training methodologies. But then you've got clubs that literally don't spar, or have such things as "no-contact sparring" where every technique is supposed to be stopped an inch from your opponent's skin. And in the middle you've got "light contact," which can be continuous or point stop, and can be interpreted in different schools as anything from "kiss contact" to thumping hits that make audience members wince twenty feet away. I think all of us would agree that you need contact to learn fighting ability. But particularly in an age of CTE awareness, and for those of us who aren't in our 20s anymore, it's not a simple question of more = better.

    So...with contact levels, what's your sweet spot? And does your current dojo cater to that?
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  2. BohemianRapsody

    BohemianRapsody Valued Member

    My favorite typical mode of sparring is continuous with what I would call medium contact. Sometimes when both people are closing the distance at the same time someone gets thumped pretty hard, but mostly we try not to knock each other’s blocks off on a regular basis.

    Occasionally we’ll put on boxing gloves and headgear and go a few rounds hard just for the experience of full contact but that’s maybe once a month. Usually leaves me with a bit of a headache. Our sensei’s general philosophy is it’s good to have the experience but bad for your long term heath to have too much of it.

    I’ve also started showing up for the point sparring classes here and there just because guys that focus on that seem to really cover the distance we’ll and it’s a skill I’d like to acquire.
  3. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    Depends on the nature of the session and participants I think.

    I'll sometimes have my guys spar really light and playful, deliberately dialling down power and speed to let each other try new or difficult techniques that they want to work on. So we might drill a 360 kick, work it on pads, then take it to sparring but spar at 50% to let people start to integrate it into their sparring.

    In competition people are in weight categories, but in most classes there aren't enough students to do that all the time, unless you want to spar the same 2 people every night, so you have to adjust power accordingly. There's no point in the 220lb bloke sparring full power against the 120lb teenage girl, so you have to moderate contact.

    There's also personal preference; people who compete will usually work at a higher level of contact, for example.

    In my experience people pretty quickly develop an understanding of the people who want to bang a bit, and the people who either don't or with whom it's not appropriate, so it's self moderating, within the limits set by the Instructor.

    Even in knockdown karate, at least the class I did, it was "power on pads, placement on people" most of the time. So the contact was solid, you knew you had been hit, but you weren't going to be unable to go to work the next day.
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  4. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    As a general rule I'll hit you as hard as you hit me and am open to all sorts of contact. Everyone gets a free hard shot on me (we can all make mistakes) but not 2. After 2 hard hits in the same round I will assume intent to hit hard and raise my contact accordingly (if I can...I'm not prime Enoeda, Kanazawa or Yahara).

    For general sparring I like fairly hard to the body (hard enough to wind or need to take a knee if something lands well but not hard enough to crack ribs) but lots of control to the head. Touch contact to the head to keep you honest but as a middle aged man with a bad back I can't be done with people trying to take my head off in something that I do for fun (in which case I will revert to my rule above).
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  5. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    My 'sweet spot', as with the posts above, very much depends on what I am looking to get from that particular sparring session - I don't think there should be a 'one size fits all' approach/mentality.

    That is not to say that we do not spar hard, on the contrary, but it is what I'd class as 'Heavy Contact' rather than full contact, something @Smitfire described perfectly above - Body shots are fair game, but not excessive, as are leg kicks and takedowns, but headshots are (much) more controlled.

    'The goal of Sparring is to update your software, without damaging your hardware'
    - Conor McGregor (not a fan, but have got a lot of time for this statement)

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  6. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    Thought I'd also share the source of the above McGregor quote (if he even said it 1st)

    The attached is a link to a video (shared to FB) entitled 'Hard sparring vs. Light sparring'

    Sonny Brown Martial Arts

    (Hope it works)

  7. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    **Double Post!**
  8. BohemianRapsody

    BohemianRapsody Valued Member

    After reading a few more replies I’d say I’m about exactly in the same page as most everyone else who has replied so far. Maybe the only exception being during our regular sparring sessions we don’t lay in the leg kicks too heavy. We do during the occasional hard session but wear Muay Thai shin guards for that.
  9. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    Haven't sparred seriously in ages, but my thinking's mostly in line with Smitfire's, I like to hit and be hit solidly, but with control to the head for obvious reasons, although I also enjoy both heavier and lighter sparring, and am (or at least used to be) used to dealing with contact during partner drills as well, as per the training done at my first dojo.
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  10. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    I haven't done Karate much, but similar sparring styles.

    Usually most people are familiar with each other in clubs I have trained at regularly, so it varies depending on the person. Someone 30kg lighter than me and usually younger, I will always start at a light level enough to touch and not enough to wind.
    Others will vary from honest levels of contact to the head without causing sparks, and about the same to the body, most places I have been have not trained much above kicking hard enough to knock you back.

    These days I work on the same sentiment as @Smitfire you get one hard shot and I will raise to the same level, otherwise the sparring is usually about medium by default.

    Only in MMA and Muay Thai have I regularly experienced a level of sparring harder than that. i.e. hard enough to give you a bloody nose/black eye/sparks, or wind you enough to take a rest for a few minutes.
    but I'm not sure how relevant that is in this thread, in kungfu/kickboxing there was only a rare occasions I was sparked.

    Such a brilliant quote on many levels :D
  11. Jaydub

    Jaydub Valued Member

    My Dojo practices a form of full-contact, bare knuckle Karate and we spar in accordance with our style. The level of contact varies depending on the goal of what we're doing at the time.

    Light contact: We do this sometimes as a cool down towards the end of class.

    Medium contact: This is what we usually do. The philosophy is that if you try something new, and get nailed hard, you're not going to attempt it again. This could potentially hamper your development as a fighter. Not getting folded in half every time you get hit means that you can keep trying a technique, or make adjustments as required, until you can make it work.

    Heavy contact: This is usually reserved for tournament preparation or a promotion. At this point you're expected to have a solid grasp of what works for you, and this tests your ability to employ it under intense pressure.

    ETA: Our instructor always stresses good technique and control at any level of contact.
    Last edited: May 24, 2018
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  12. Knee Rider

    Knee Rider Valued Member Supporter

    Not a karateka, but currently a kickboxer, which is essentially a sportive expression of karate.

    I agree with what's been said. Especially Mitch's comment about contact being naturally negotiated between partners though the spar/over time and Smitfire's comment about giving back what you recieve in terms of force and intensity/pressure.

    My preference is for high pressure (aggressive footwork and work rate) sparring with a solid amount of contact to the legs and body and the pepper easing off around the head on shots like the cross, hook, uppercut and overhand. Jab I think is worth keeping sharp and intentful. If I'm recieving shots that are drawing blood, ringing the ears etc then I'm completely fine with that and will return the favour but I'm never looking to get anywhere near dropping someone with head contact (or any shot really but it's happened to the legs and body) and don't expect to be getting dropped deliberately either (but it's happened to the legs and body).
  13. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    I'm one of those people currently training in a kinda-like-karate art, not literally in karate (specifically, I'm training in an offshoot of Tang Soo Do), but I thought I'd post this here because it's close enough, and I thought it would get more traffic and discussion here than in a more specialized forum.

    In JayDub's framework, my club starts with a default expectation of light contact, with folks dialing up to medium contact if both participants seem ready and willing to dial it up. If it's a 20-something or 30-something who enjoys sparring, it gets dialed up. If it's a grizzled veteran who has been sparring since the 1980s and is comfortable dialing it up (i.e., no old injuries acting up), it gets dialed up. If it's a 60-something who has been training for a year because their grandkid also trains at our school, it's never going to go past light contact. Heavy contact doesn't happen unless somebody gets overzealous or it's just bad luck. Personally, I like that arrangement, because I'm a little concerned about concussions/CTE if I did heavy regularly, and even with shots to the body, I don't heal as fast as I used to (I missed a decent amount of practice in the last month after getting a shoulder dislocated at a tournament).

    One idiosyncrasy I've noticed is that when we run a tournament, it's in a point-stop, but "Monday night sparring night" is basically always continuous sparring. As a training experience, I much prefer the latter to the former, but I realize that scoring can be a challenge in a tournament environment.
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  14. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    As a side issue, I'm slowly moving to thinking that knockdown karate rules (no headshots) may yet turn out to be the best rule set for the long term training of martial arts.

    The more we learn about the long term effects of concussion, especially repeated concussion, the more I think that sparring that avoids hard headshots is a good idea.

    The implications of that for many arts are, if you will pardon the pun, striking.
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  15. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    I'd agree as to competition format. It preserves the brain but still gives competitors objectivity as to what they can and cannot do (hitting too hard is very subjective, blocking off the head to punches is not). I also personally prefer a continuous competition format to point-stop.

    As to a training format, at least for improving overall martial ability instead of training specifically to compete, I prefer light head punches to be in the equation. When I first moved from taekwondo to karate, I was very used to hard body shots, but I had no instincts to protect against head punches, and I found them very startling at first. I don't want to get my bell rung too much, but I also want to know I won't mentally shut down from a single face punch. And with training partners you know and like, with no "win" on the line, I think it's more likely that moderate head contact will not progress to excessive head contact.
  16. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    By choice, I'd go for light-to-medium contact - with the emphasis on light to the head. I like a reasonable amount of contact because you need to learn to absorb a hit as well at to give them out, but to be honest I think even the establilshed kyokushin tournament style would be a bit heavy for me. I don't mind taking a knock in the name of fun and excitement, but I don't want some big fella pounding me in the ribs until I fall over - I've already cracked them a couple of times doing medium-contact, so full contact doesn't sound healthy.

    I like the idea in theory, but I don't understand how this training method doesn't lead to severe or permanent injury. In particular, when you see kyokushinkai guys smashing each other in the collar bone repeatedly - a fractured collar bone is no laughing matter and these are generally big chaps with a hearty punch. Same with these shin-kicks to the side of the head - a strike that's enough to daze you is basically a minor concussion and can lead to long-term neurological problems, particularly in repeated cases. If I thought it could be done safely, from a long-term perspective, I'd be all up for doing full contact karate, but I remain sceptical about how many people end up being "weeded out" of training with lingering injuries.
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  17. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    To go on a slight tangent.
    We were doing some one step stuff tonight and I managed to get hold of another lad who's trained for a long time and was up for it.
    I find that if you can get someone of the right mindset drilling prearranged sequences like one step kumite can be incredibly fun and beneficial as you're both willing and able to go at pretty much 100% with limited risk while still pushing each other hard , and if I'm honest I enjoy this training at least as much , if not more , than actual free sparring.
    Before anyone says it , I'm not claiming this kind of training is more efficient than free sparring , but , at my age and ability I feel I can still train quite hard with honesty and still be safe.
  18. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    I actually do like this as an occasional exercise.

    With the right intensity it can be a good compromise between real stakes, getting the adrenaline going, but also minimising the risk of injury.
  19. Knee Rider

    Knee Rider Valued Member Supporter

    Do either of you include relaxed footwork/movement in this drill? I think it'd be better if you did. It'd be more representative of the choices around distancing you would see and implement when using both the offensive and defensive technique. It avoids it becoming a highnoon, reaction time drill where you are just sitting waiting intently for the one technique you know is coming and lends itself better to rhythmic variation. Making it slightly more 'honest' imo.
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  20. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    Again , when I can get hold of the right people , then yes we do , I still know what attack is coming and he still knows what defence I’m using , but , we move around each other more and try to “fake” each other out.
    Unfortunately the majority of people fall into the same traps you talk about.
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