Saturday, February 19, 2005

Stances in Kumite

Someone on asked why many different kinds of stances weren't seen in kumite (basically means free sparring in this context). Here was my short response. Since I didn't feel like spelling everything out for him, it isn't too detailed. Maybe I'll expound upon this later and create a full-fledged article. But for now, just this:

The perceived lack of utility derived from stances in kumite can be boiled down to one main thing: the limited nature of kumite.

By that, I mean that the reason behind many of the more "esoteric" stances (a term I use rather facetiously here) does not exist because there are so many principles, techniques, attacks and defenses that you will not do in kumite, mainly because they are against the rules or will not be given an opportunity because they usually are in response to things that are also against the rules. For the record, we don't use ridiculously long, deep front stances in our kata either, let alone our kumite because I don't see too much of a need for them.

But back to answering your question. What did I mean? Well, in the first place, if your kumite does not incoporate grappling or are even allows you to hold an opponent, then that eliminates the need and opportunity for whole sectors of the fighting paradigm, let alone stances. Much of the weight shifting (done to your center of gravity or your opponent's) is not needed simply because you're not manipulating his balance to take him down, you might just be doing it to hit him. If you're not going to throw the opponent or take him down and he isn't going to do the same to you, then there isn't necessarily a need for many of the deep stances that you see. Many of the stances are responses to situations that simply are off-limits in kumite. No, not built-in automatic, carved-in-stone responses to specific, narrow techniques, but conceptual responses to certain circumstances regardless of the actual technique.

Also, if you are not allowed to attack below the belt, than another important function of specific stances is also eliminated (tying along with the first point) which is to attack specifically your opponent's base (read: the legs). Many stances are actually manipulations or outright attacks against your opponent's legs, which are against the rules, are also things you will not see. This goes beyond simple sweeps or things like that.

As a combination of points one and two, another function of these stances you won't see in kumite is after you've taken the opponent down, the legs are applying a lock or otherwise attacking/controlling the opponent when he is on the ground as well. Once again, you won't see this if you aren't going that far.

Lastly (for now), I use various stances in kumite. Even in straight out punching/kick/block only kumite (which I do with very little frequency due to what I perceive to be its limited training utility), there are various stances you can employ to aid your movement and positioning and manipulate that of your opponent's. This holds true even if you are only kicking, punching and blocking without grabbing and only above the belt.

If you really do need me to cite a laundry list of things you can do with regards to stances both in more "complete" kumite and rather "limited" kumite, then perhaps you need to talk to your instructor or senior students in your dojo. They should be able to tell you.

You will have to forgive me if I sound a bit critical here. If your interpretation of the utility of stances is limited basically to "If he and I squared off a couple feet from one another, what stance would be practical now in this kumite match?", then you are woefully undeveloped in your analysis of what stances actually are. Saying the utility of stances is limited because they aren't found in kumite is looking at it completely backwards. It is because kumite is limited in and of itself that you won't find as many of the stances in it.

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