A critique on Kihon Kumite

Styles with roots in Japan/Okinawa including Genseiryu, Goju-ryu, Isshin-ryu,
Kyokushin, Wado-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Shotokan, Uechi-ryu etc.....
Thoar
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A critique on Kihon Kumite

Unread post by Thoar » 16 Sep 2019 (12:01)

Dear all,

Many Japanese ryuha have them; ippon, sanbon or gohon kumite. In Genseiryu there is the yakusoku kumite, gohon kumite and henka kumite.
I came across the following article, written by Andy Allen, which can be considered as a critique on kihon kumite:
https://appliedshotokan.com/step-sparri ... -the-past/

I would like to know your opinion upon this matter; how do you view kihon kumite?
How do you deal with such critique? And is the critique of Andy Allen justified? Does he has a point?

Thank you very much.

Best regards,
Thoar

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Peter Lee
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Re: A critique on Kihon Kumite

Unread post by Peter Lee » 17 Sep 2019 (15:05)

Dear Thoar san.

Interesting subject, and I do agree, but only in the sense that most people tend to practice the basics forever and ever without any development. Too many teachers keep teaching this way even to what is supposed to be advanced students, and this is very wrong. Kihon is something you learn in the beginning, but as you develop your skills and understanding, you should move away from this kind of training in order to develop a more intuitive understanding of what fighting and self defense really is. The word Kihon does actually mean basics, but this is often forgotten by too many teachers. If the teacher is lacking in skills and does not understand fully what he is teaching and also does not know how to teach, then such a teacher tends to keep the students at a low level by convincing them to keep practicing kihon forever and ever. The reality of it is, that Kihon as well as Kata exist to teach you something in particular and thus preparing you for the next step and so on. Unfortunately not many teachers understand this, and in their desperate attempt to keep their power, position and status as a teacher/master at the top of the food chain, they keep teaching what is easy to teach in order to keep their students below them. In other words, if a teacher is more concerned with his own status, than he is with actually helping and teaching his students, then noone will ever learn anything of value from such a teacher. It is good that Andy Allen is now questioning all he was taught, but it is very unfortunate, that his own "findings" makes him believe, that everything he was taught is wrong. In all martial arts - including karate - it is essential to have a firm grounding whenever a punch or kick lands at it's target. He seems to not understand this at all, meaning that the research he claims to have done, cannot have been that thorough, as this is one of the most basic and critical foundations of any technique and martial art in any part of the world. It is also a very easy principle to demonstrate, thus there is no excuse for not understanding this especially if you claim to be an advanced student or especially as a teacher/master.

He is correct when he says that there is a problem, but the problem is not kihon, kata or kumite or even karate in general. The problem is the lack of qualified teachers, and that many unqualified "teachers" then take it upon themselves to teach even though they do not fully understand what they are teaching. If someone does not fully understand something, but they teach anyway, then they pass the problem on to their students without any means of resolving the issue. The problem just gets passed on, creating more confusion and inadequate teachers again further down the line. It is the never ending story of a lot of people complaining but they actually have no real knowledge of the essentials of which they are complaining. They might even have been taught the answer, but in their frustration they don't see it, or they simply disregard everything in order to justify their own new understanding of everything no matter how wrong they might be.

A few weeks ago, I accidentally bumped into a video on YouTube where Jan Christoffersen from Gladsaxe Karate Klub (a dojo in the suburbs of Copenhagen) is attempting to explain the details of the kata SANSAI. The video is 7 minutes long and a big waste of time for anyone who watches it, as everything he says is all wrong. He has a completely reversed understanding of the kata and the principles behind the techniques. If anyone follows his explanations they would perform the kata in a very wrong way, exactly as the student is so keenly demonstrating. This is a classic example of the real problem. Too many so-called teachers teach something which they have no real knowledge about. The way the student is performing the kata is not the level it is supposed to be performed at. Just because you have "learned" a kata, does not mean you know the kata. The student performs the kata only with a very basic understanding, the kind of same level he would use to perform Heian Shodan. The higher levels which is supposed to be developed by training Sansai will never be revealed, as the keys to unlocking the kata is gone or was never learned by his teacher (who in the video is attempting to explain the details). This is the result of bad teaching by a teacher who does not himself know what he is attempting to teach. Thus the higher levels eludes completely and what was supposed to have been learned by training Sansai is lost and obscured in the basics. The higher levels are never reached, because the teacher who is supposed to show the way does not know the way. He himself was never taught it. It is like telling a person to be at a specifc place at a specifc time, but he does not know the place and have no clue to where in the world this place is. The only way for him to find the place is by means of a map or by trusting you to explain the directions to him. The same applies to karate. If the teacher does not know the way, he cannot explain the directions to take, thus the teacher keeps pointing to the basics. If the teacher did not point somewhere - to the basics - the student would get completely lost. In the video, only the basics are applied. So in this regard, there is no difference in teaching Sansai or Heian Shodan to the student, as the student will not develop his skills or evolve. He will perform Sansai in a wrong and pittiful way applying only the basics making the purpose of learning Sansai in the first place dissappear into oblivion. There are so many mistakes in the performance of Sansai in this video, and so many clear misunderstandings of bunkai (if in fact he even has any clue about bunkai at all) that if Sansai was performed in this way at a grading for Shodan (1st dan) he would not pass. The student is not to blame here, the teacher is the one to blame.

Anyway, Andy Allen was clearly taught by teachers who had their own misunderstandings and was thus not able to teach him correctly. Now that Andy Allen is teaching his own students, the problem has become evident to him, and he now questions everything but without any possibility of getting a clear understandable answer. So now he is lost. It is actually a common problem. A much bigger and more common problem than most people think. Lack of good teachers creates problems with no real sense of direction or development of skill in the students. Andy Allen seems to have come one step further by realizing the problem though. He is openly asking questions, which is something most people usually never does. Instead they simply quit or in most cases cling with a never-let-go grip to the basics. As long as Andy Allen is asking questions and is trying to find the answers he is looking for, some development is taking place. And that in itself is a good thing. Where he will end up though, is something noone can know. Unfortunately it is very easy to end up even more lost, when asking too many questions and desperately clinging on to some elusive answers that may in fact not even exist. In order to get the right answer, you must ask the right question, but in order to do that, you first need to understand the problem.
I am only responsible for what I say, not for what you may or may not understand.
If you don't fight for what you want, then don't cry for what you have lost!
I am a warrior, I never lose! Either I win....... or I learn! No matter... win or lose!
Peter Lee, Shihan, 7th dan. Official examiner, 5th dan. Chief instructor in Denmark & Europe.
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Peter Lee
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Re: A critique on Kihon Kumite

Unread post by Peter Lee » 28 Sep 2019 (18:29)

Those in need of a visual example of my point above, can have a go at this video with Jim Carrey. He is the perfect example of how most martial arts classes are conducted the world over.
Even though it is made with comedy in mind, the video touches the actual issues most perfectly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_vvI26NnwE
I am only responsible for what I say, not for what you may or may not understand.
If you don't fight for what you want, then don't cry for what you have lost!
I am a warrior, I never lose! Either I win....... or I learn! No matter... win or lose!
Peter Lee, Shihan, 7th dan. Official examiner, 5th dan. Chief instructor in Denmark & Europe.
Visit Genseipedia, an official encyclopedia about martial arts.

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