When is it ok to have 100% intensity in Kumite or Rolling? The answer is never.
For the sake of this thread, I’ll use the term Kumite to cover kumite/sparring/randori/rolling. It seems almost necessary to see how far you can push yourself in Kumite. How do you know how you will perform in a ‘real’ fight if you’ve never gone 100%? That is a question I’ve been asked before. What we train in the dojo is meant to gain control, cause pain, or even injure (or worse) if need be. Certain techniques (like shoulder dislocations) cannot be practiced at full speed otherwise you’d run out of training partners very quickly. Kumite gives us the opportunity to train at faster speeds in order to work technique in real time, sharpen reaction-time, but to also -most importantly- develop timing. Timing is a very crucial skill in martial arts and can realistically only be learned through Kumite. So why not go 100% in Kumite?
The primary answer is partner safety. The more intense you fight in Kumite the more likely someone will be injured. The #1 concern at the dojo is safety. We all have day jobs and most of us have families we want to go home to without a stop at the ER first. With the nature of what we do, accidents will happen and injuries will occur from time to time, but we must work diligently to mitigate injuring a training partner. Part of that is being conscientious of how intense we are fighting and working to communicate with each other when the match is escalating. Your ego should never be more important than your partner’s safety. If you are that person who is always in it to win it during Kumite, or constantly becoming too aggressive, then you become ‘that guy’. ‘That guy’ is the one people don’t like training with. Be the person people enjoy training with; that will give you the opportunity to practice more, longer, and enhance your skill.
The other reason you never want to go 100% is to learn how to control your energy. The more you develop skill, the less energy you are required to use. Think of your first kumite session; you were probably exhausted before the 1st bell rang. However, after a while you’re able to fight longer and better without becoming exhausted during a match. I usually use the imagery of a scale from 1 to 10. If you’re fighting at the intensity of a 10, becoming exhausted, showing little progress, and have nothing left to give, then you’ve exhausted your max and there is nowhere else to go. However, if you can learn to fight at the intensity of a 4 or 5, have plenty of energy, executing excellent techniques, then you have plenty left to give if the situation calls for it. Save that 10 for when you’re in a real fight, while becoming very skilled at fighting at just a 5.
Furthermore, keep in mind that in Kumite, weight and strength do matter. In real confrontation, I’m not ‘sparring’ with the person so the worry of injuring the attacker(s) is not my concern (of course depending on the situation). However, in controlled partner Kumite (especially rolling), if you have a 20lb, 30lb, or even 50lb+ weight advantage, it will matter. Trying to pressure tap or out-muscle someone who you know is smaller/weaker is a very poor way to practice your skill. In fact, if you’re going with someone lighter or less skilled you should back off on the intensity in order to be a good training partner. Give the other person the opportunity to work and don’t just try to show them how good you are. I usually fight just above someone’s skill level to give them something to work with, but not too much to be discouraging to their growth.
- Take care of each other.
- Never go 100% and risk injury.
- Communicate with your partner while fighting.
- Never let your ego get you or someone else injured.
- Realize your weight and strength could be an advantage and use it with caution.
- Adjust your intensity to help other people grow, because you will grow as well by doing this.
- When it all comes back around to it, just be a good training partner.