Teaching kumite in karate, a teacher's story

Mélodie, a karateka since the age of 10, passionate about kumite (sparring) and a karate teacher, explains how she teaches to best prepare her pupils to face an adversary.

Teaching kumite: a teacher's story

Karate is a martial art with a rich history and kumite is one of its foundations. Kumite is Mélodie's passion, a passion she tries to pass on to her pupils in every lesson. Here, she shares her teaching methods and how she tries to help pupils realize their potential in kumite.

Karate, from passion to teaching

I began karate at the age of 10. This sport brought me so much over the years, and I really wanted to pass this passion on to others. That is why I passed the exam to become an instructor at the age of 18 so I in turn could teach lessons.

Just after I got my diploma I was giving technical lessons and teaching non-contact karate and kumite (sparring).

Being an avid kumite competitor, it was quite natural that I soon found myself wanting to teach more of this type of lesson. Anyway, that is the subject of my article!

How my kumite sessions are run

First, you should know that every session, teacher, and club is different, so I'm going to explain how my sessions run in a broad sense, but I'm going to focus on my way of learning.

The bow and warm-up, followed by basic techniques, relaxing for a minute, and then entering combat

Firstly and foremost, karate is a sport of respect, before you step on the tatami, the first thing you do is bow, standing in the musibi-dachi position (heels together, feet in a V-shape).

The teacher also begins the lesson with a bow. Pupils stand in a line facing the teacher, ordered by grade, and bow to the teacher before the lesson begins. 

Training begins with a warm-up before stepping it up with cardio, stretching, a bit of muscle strengthening, as well as repeating certain movements that will be practised more in-depth throughout the lesson.

Teaching kumite: a teacher's story

Starting with basic techniques

You need to know the basics of karate before you can take part in kumite. The position used for combat is fudo dachi, which is an upright position with your weight spread equally between both legs, making small hops to move more quickly when attacking your opponent.

Each teacher runs their lessons in a way that suits them, but personally, I like to start with exercises in pairs using basic techniques to continue warming up muscles, for example by taking turns to punch, then kick, always taking it in turns with another uke (the person receiving the attack) holding a target to help improve responsiveness. The purpose of the uke is to lead their partner to attack as quickly as possible.

When people are well on their way, I move on to a series of techniques using punches and kicks with a tori (the person executing the exercise) who attacks and an uke who blocks, dodges, or responds to the tori's attacks. 

In the middle of the session I take the time for some muscle strengthening and a short calm-down before the randori (sparring).

Randori, stretching, bow at the end of the session

The purpose of the randori is to fight with as many different people as possible of different sizes and levels, and also different specialities. Some people are more comfortable with punches, others with kicks. Some fighters favour their left leg and others their right. It's important to know how to work with any kind of partner so you can be more at ease with the different kinds of opponent you'll encounter in competition. 

The lesson finishes with stretches and calming down. It's important to stretch well to prevent pain after training. 

Karate is a sport where respect is very important, so the lesson ends how it began, with a bow.

Sharing pride and pleasure!

Again, this training is not general, but it's my way of sharing my passion with my students. The people who participate in my kumite sessions are the ones most involved in competition. It's always a pleasure to be able to coach them and see them really applying new techniques. That is my greatest price! When the fighters are proud of their progress and take pleasure in fighting in competitions and when there is a medal at the end of the day, it's very emotional. 

This is the reason I love this big karate family, for those moments around the mat, and while it's a combat sport, it's also a sport full of respect and humility.