Kumite is commonly known as sparring to us today, the kumite that many clubs practice today was developed in Japan . Originally in Okinawa kumite was just free fighting, which involved striking, locking and grappling. This type of sparring/fighting was used sparingly as injuries often occurred to path parties, body armour was developed for safety but it hindered the movements of both combatants so it wasn’t used very often. The original objective of kumite/fighting was to test a students fighting ability in a live fight without actually going out and starting one with a complete stranger.

When karate was taken to Japan it was deemed that this type of Kumite was unsuitable for the Japanese and would stop karate becoming popular. It is highly probable that the masters that had been given the job of spreading Karate from Okinawa realised that this was not a good selling point and were forced to make some changes as most people don’t like getting injuries so Kumite had to evolve. This is how we got set sparring where the attacks and retaliations are determined by the instructor, which would lead on to free jiyu Kumite sparring.


As karate spread across the world tournaments became more popular, the main goal of kumite was to score a point and win a medal as opposed to saving your life. Tournament then took on a another dimension when karate came to the western world, this included extra flashy/unrealistic scoring techniques and extra protection to make completion more safer and popular.

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