Kumite - Sparring

Kyokushin is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Masutatsu Oyama who was born under the name Choi Yeong-Eui. Kyokushinkai is Japanese for "the society of the ultimate truth." A very practical method of self defense, Kyokushin is deep rooted in the philosophies of self-improvement, discipline and hard training. Its full contact style has had international appeal (practitioners number between 10 million and 20 million. Kyokushin has influenced much of the "full-contact" school of karate, emphasizing realistic combat, physical toughness, and practicality in its training curriculum. Many other martial arts organizations have "spun-off" of Kyokushin over the years, with some adding additional techniques, such as grappling, but continuing with the same philosophy of realistic and practical training methods.

Sparring is used to train the application of the various techniques within a fighting situation. Sparring is usually an important part of training in most Kyokushin organizations, especially at the upper levels with experienced students. In most Kyokushin organizations, hand and elbow strikes to the head or neck are prohibited. However, kicks to the head, knee strikes, punches to the upper body, and kicks to the inner and outer leg are permitted.

In some Kyokushin organizations, especially outside of a tournament environment, gloves and shin protectors are worn. Children always wear head gear to lessen the impact of any kicks to the head. Speed and control are instrumental in sparring and in a training environment it is not the intention of either practitioner to injure his opponent as much as it is to successfully execute the proper strike. Tournament under [knock-down rules] is significantly different as the objective is to down your opponent. Full-Contact sparring in Kyokushin is considered the ultimate test of strength, endurance, and spirit.

Competition and Tournaments

Tournament competition is an important part of Kyokushin and most Kyokushin organizations sponsor local, national, and international competitions. Kyokushin tournaments are held throughout the year on every continent in the world, but the largest are held in Japan where they are televised on Japanese television and draw crowds of thousands. Tournaments are organized as either weight category or open tournaments. IKO1 is holding their 9th World Tournament Open on November 16-18, 2007 in Tokyo, Japan. This event, nicknamed the Olympics of Kyokushin, are held every 4 years. Kyokushin culture believes that accepting a "challenge" represents a Kyokushin practitioner's commitment to the principles of the art. One way to participate in a challenge, in which a Kyokushin student tests his/her courage and desire to defeat one's adversary, is through tournament competition.

Most Kyokushin tournaments follow "knock-down" rules in which points are awarded for knocking one's opponent to the floor with kicks, punches, or sweeps. Grabbing and throwing are generally not allowed in Kyokushin tournaments. In the cases that they are, they are legal only if performed in less than a second. Hooks are usually legal if performed for a 'split second.' Arm or hand strikes to the head, face, neck or spine are usually not permitted, but kicks to the head are allowed. If however the opponent turns his back while the opponent is throwing a technique, there is no penalty. Outside of Japan straight kicks to the front of the knee are usually disallowed. Knock-outs do sometimes occur and minor to moderate injuries are common, but serious injuries are rare.

The most common injuries are concussions, broken clavicles, and fractured limbs and sternums. Many Kyokushin tournaments follow an "open" format that allow competitors from any martial-arts style, not just Kyokushin, to enter and compete. At least one Kyokushin organization, Kyokushin-kan, charges that some Kyokushin organizations have become too competition-focused and that thus, the "real-world" application of the art has suffered.

Multi-man Sparring

One aspect of Kyokushin's grading system is requiring upper-belt candidates to fight with multiple opponents in succession with little rest in between each opponent. Also, the upper-belt candidate is expected to continue fighting even if injured in earlier matches or bouts. This method is designed to test the "fighting spirit," as well as the application of the technical knowledge that they've learned through (usually) years of studying the art. A favorable win to loss ratio is not necessarily required of the candidate (in most cases), just the ability to continue fighting until the test is over. In addition to requiring multi-opponent sparring for upper-belt tests, a special tradition of Kyokushin has been the 50- and 100- man fight.

The 100-man fight was designed as a special test for advanced practitioners of the art. In these extreme examples of multi-man fight, the subject of the test fights 50 to 100 opponents (depending on the test) in rapid succession, usually two-minute bouts separated by one-minute rest periods. The subject has to "win" (i.e. not get knocked-out) in at least 50-percent of the bouts in order to be deemed as passing the test. One example of someone who successfully completed the 100-man fight is Miyuki Miura. Reportedly, only 16 people have successfully completed the 100-man fight and 20- the 50-man fight. Masutatsu Oyama is reported to have completed a 300-man fight over 3 days.