Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shobu Ippon Kumite


There are many variations of sports karate, some that I disapprove of completely but in this article when I use the term sports karate I am referring to the shobu ippon style of point fighting as per the video above.

The shobu ippon style of point sparring is one where within a given time limit the competitors aim is to score a decisive strike/point (ippon) which leaves the opponent no chance of defending against it, a slightly less decisive technique may score as a waza ari and the accumulation of two waza aris will equal a full point (ippon). The rounds are knock out rounds so if you lose you are out.

The only personal protection worn is a box or cup and a mouth guard, ladies will also have chest protectors and the mitts (3/8” or 10mm thick) on the hands are only there to prevent cuts and really protect the knuckles more than anything else imo, e.g. like diminishing the force of the blow.

I would say that it’s as close to bare knuckles as you can get, there are no weight divisions so if you’re a light weight you may find yourself facing a heavyweight, knees and elbows are not allowed and contact to the head should be controlled, shots to the body can be full contact.

The shobu ippon style of point fighting in percentage terms forms about 5% of all types of free sparring or jiye kumite within the dojo. The only time shobu ippon kumite might be practiced more than usual is if a tournament is around the corner and the competitors want to brush up on the skill set within the shobu ippon set of rules.

Is shobu ippon style kumite as bad as some people make it out to be, well imo YES if that particular karate school is so one dimensional and only ever practices shobu ippon style kumite, that is to seek out points and stop the match after a point has been scored.

Generally dojo sparring consists of continuous kumite/sparring and if time permits you will get a chance to spar for several continuous minutes with everyone in that class whether they are senior, junior or intermediates, this enables you to match your skills with people who are better than you, people that are below your skill level and people that are at the same level.

There are no referees and flag men in the corners because your not on the mat doing competition, scoring points has nothing to do with this type of sparring and is the least of your worries. Generally dojo kumite is all about learning to defend yourself by attacking, parrying, blocking and out maneuvering your opponent using the techniques found in basics and kata.

Now if I ask the same question again about shobu ippon and its worth when it only forms a small part of the kumite/sparring syllabus. I would have to say that shobu ippon as another feather in the hat is actually good to practice every now and again. The ability to deliver one good clean and decisive strike that will flatten your opponent is an attribute that most of us would want, but we also want to be able to go further than just one blow.

So while shobu ippon style kumite as another feather in your hat is a great attribute to have, on its own it really is one dimensional, and the karate masters knew this very well that’s why they were opposed to sports karate from the very begining, even today most of the great masters still alive and most serious karateka around the world don’t look upon shobu ippon too highly in the self defence department.

But some of the attributes that you may come away with from participating in shobu ippon type kumite competitions, is worth the time, effort and injury of competing and these attributes can serve you very well in any other type of arena too, so while shobu ippon on its own is one dimensional, shobu ippon as part of an overall kumite syllabus is an excellent educational activity to participate in.

For most karateka it’s the sporting side of their art of karate and shobu ippon is the arena with all its rules and regulations not forgetting the minimal amount of personal protection worn and the fact that there are no weight divisions.

The people I feel sorry for are the ones that only ever get to practice sports karate in their dojo i.e. the ones always searching for that point.

For the knockers of shobu ippon style kumite I only have one thing to say.

Have you tried it?

Matt Price sensei 5th dan shotokan karateka

Shotokan karate shobu ippon

Shotokan karate shobu ippon