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Featured Article / Review
Francis Hong Interview

Interview: Francis Hong - 6th Dan Goju Ryu
By: Jason Stanley, 3rd Dan Shitoryu
Edited for the Gojuryu Network and Gojuryu.net.

19th December, 2003
Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to meet Shihan Francis Hong. I could tell you all abo...... full article

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Kumite

Gojuryu is not a sport, nor has it ever been intended to be so. Kumite is a controlled simulation of combat engagement between opponents applying the techniques of Karatedo. Kumite in Gojuryu Karatedo and most Karatedo in general, can be broken up into three Major divisions:

Kihon Kumite
Basic Stance or rooted Kumite

Yakusoku Kumite
Prearrange Kumite

Jiyu Kumite
Free style sparring

Jiyu-Kumite
Jiyu-Kumite includes sport kumite. Jiyu Kumite is a matter of free style sparring in which the pinnacle of care is taken to use all of the applications learned in the previous divisions in both offensive and defensive manners, while making minimum or no contact with your foe. Thus stressing the practical theory that Karatedo is for defense only. During Kumite you must have absolute conviction, which comes only from constant practice. Kumite was designed to sharpen and apply your techniques since you have done them for so long without a partner or with your invisible partner. Much of your conviction or confidence will come from having restrictions and being aware of such and from having a strong mind which Gojuryu training has prepared you for such.

There are basic practices that make a great Jiyu Kumite player. They are Timing; Distance; Speed; Power; technique; Control; and most of all Character.

Character is what makes one fighter different from any other. Your character in Jiyu Kumite shows a direct reflection of whom you have been taught by and the surroundings you can normally be found in. In Jiyu Kumite there is no looser or winner however there is points of aggression and defensiveness. Jiyu Kumite must be felt and not feared and your mind is engulfed in the situation at hand showing your personal characteristics.

The exercise of free sparring or combat. Kumite is one of the final points of Karate. As the result of combat it is unlimited in its combination of techniques only by the practitioners level of knowledge and how many different ways the body can be used as a defense mechanism or as an offensive tool.

What we know today as tournament [Shiai] or sport Kumite was invented as Jiyu-Kumite in the early 1930?s by Gogen Yamaguchi Hanshi. It was devised as a way of preventing injuries commonly found from practicing techniques in the Dojo, and to avoid to such altercations as Kakedameshi (a true street challenge). Originally it was not intended for competition as it is now however both Jiyu and Yakusoku Kumite have evolved into a sport decision of winner or looser and is here to stay, which can be recognized as Ippon Kumite.

Dojo Kumite
Dojo Kumite consists of two primary types, Jiyu Kumite: Free Sparring, and Yakusoku Kumite: Prearranged Sparring. In Yakusoku-Kumite: This is the last introductory drill before Jiyu-Kumite, sparring. Pre-arranged single, double, triple, and more complex movements are preparation for sparring. In this type of drills the participant practice the patterns, alternating offensive and defensive actions.

Kumite Renshu: joining hands, sparring practice. Not sport Karatedo sparring. Kumite renshu encompasses the essence of kobo no kata: the application of those defensive and offensive activities within the kaishu gata that are more representative of actual fighting. Through kumite renshu one may identify the practical meaning (or real purpose) of kata. Please remember that kata is not only kick and punch but contain tuidi (grab hand), kyusho-jutsu (vital point techniques) and nage (throws).

A younger Chojun Miyagi training with Juhatsu Kyoda In Jiyu Kumite there is a great deal of moving in and out quickly and weaving from side to side, in contrast to the hard schools which concentrate more on straight forward movements. Naturally, all this fast motion lends itself to graceful and artistic techniques. A basic Kumite stance, called the cat stance, is a very soft one with one forward foot poised heel high, ready to move quickly in any direction. Extremely fast, it relies on an aggressive style of attack, with the emphasis on delivering blows "hard" but with easy effort and in rapid succession. Another facet of Gojuryu is the extreme closeness with which the blows are delivered in Kumite. The school emphasizes control of motions and a student is supposed to be able to stop a punch or kick only fractions of an inch from target. The opponents don't have much time to stand still and to look cautiously for openings. They are exchanging kicks and punches rapidly, always moving, not only forward and back, but maneuvering from side to side and aiming blows from the outside left or right. He believed that just the practice of Kata (forms) and the prearranged steps in sparring called Yakusoku Kumite inhibited too many of the students. Under the movements of the Okinawan system, he noticed that many of the students could not create combinations of techniques readily enough or follow through with an advantage when an opening presented itself.

What Yamaguchi Hanshi created was an open up movements to make for faster play and to allow greater freedom of movement. He wanted a system that could be tailored to individual needs yet still retain the basic fundamentals of the system. The idea he hit upon was Kumite, or free-style sparring. At first, the Kumite was systematized along boxing lines. After that, it was a natural step to go from free-style sparring to tournament [Shiai] play. But in Going from the Dojo to the tournament hall, the system of Kumite underwent further transformation. Yamaguchi called upon his knowledge of the other martial arts to set up a tournament [Shiai] style. This time he leaned heavily on the principles of Kendo (swordplay) in devising rules[1] of Hiai (competitive) Jiyu Kumite for sport. Kendo was favored for two reasons: it emphasized form when delivering a strike and it limited the target area. Despite many differences with others over the areas to be left open for attack, Yamaguchi settled on the torso, back side and head as target areas while accepting other body parts as being available for manipulation to attain these limited target areas.

As he explained in silencing his critics: "In Kendo, a real blade can cut any part of the human body and cause damage or fatal injury. But for safety purposes, points are made for striking only the head and stomach." So too for Karate, he said, the strike zone should be limited. And so were the types of blows that could be delivered. For Shiai, the opponents are restricted mainly to kicking and punching. Elbowing, clawing, and other finger and open hand strikes were disallowed. However, for Dojo free-style sparring, the play is wide open with no restrictions. For this reason, as has been often observed, the best player in the Dojo may often not be the best tournament player, and vice versa.

Kumite in Competition
Please note that point sparring Kumite is not a formal or integral part of Gojuryu. Although today?s Tournament Kumite is a derivative of Kumite, which was invented by Gojuryu Kai leader Gogen Yamaguchi. Its original purpose was to practice technique with the greatest of control. In time however, Gojuryu Kai leaders did sponsor and support tournament fighting as well as establish a reputation as the tournament [Shiai] players to be reckoned with especially during the 1960?s and 70?s, the time of Gojuryu greatest following of practitioners.

We recommend that you keep a weekly record of your training. Doing so is an excellent resource for tracking your goals and accomplishments and will dramatically improve your performance by monitoring routines. Seach further through the website Gojuryu.net for an excellent example.

The primary Ideals of any Kumite match are simple; that is, to win! By outwitting your opponent, developing mental superiority, tactical skills and strategies, and if the match is physical, then physical fitness as well then you will be successful in victory. Many principles of Karatedo as I have mentioned previously can be applied to life, because Karat-Do is a Budo. As with life itself you must set Goals and improve constantly to continue being the superior player.

There are many major factors that come into play for any one wishing to win in any type of Kumite:

Know the rules:
As with any type of competition [not speaking of Karatedo or Martial Arts] there are rules of engagement, rules of the game, rules to win the game. Kumite, either in the Dojo or Shiai will have guidelines or rules, basic or extensive. Play the rules to work into your best interests.

Kime:
The theory of Kime is the use of explosive attack to a specific target using the appropriate technique and maximum power in the shortest time possible. It is a theory that can be applied to striking blocking or kicking.

Speed:
Being highly responsive in everything you do is great, however doing it quickly and without hesitation is just as important. Do it over and over until your opponent has reached their breaking point or simply becomes frustrated with their lack to deal with your speed. Speed must be developed through practice and more practice.

Finesse:
Be aware that single techniques can been seen and read as easily as you can see and read those of the same nature from your opponent. Become creative in your attacks and defense. Use fakes, faint your shoulders, fake kicks for strikes, fake strikes for kicks. Give away nothing, however make what you do give away not what it really is. Remember the duck that sits still in the water is a Dead Duck or a Sitting Duck, however the duck that is flying in the air is a moving target. A much harder target to hit I might add. If you are moving, learn to move smoothly into and out of your stances so your techniques flow freely without loosing valuable time. Develop footwork from the basics of your Dojo and style and modify them to fit you. Know your opponent?s best techniques. Know his techniques better than he does. He has never seen them from your outside point of view. Either draw him to use these techniques so you may counter them or prevent him from using them or better yet, force him to use them expending energy while you counter them because you have already visualized how to do so.

Finesse is possibly the greatest asset any fighter can have. A combination of experience and confidence, the 35-year-old fighter who has knee and elbow problems can easily out finesse the 20-year-old un-experienced fighter with lightning fast however mundane and unrefined techniques. You must use your finesse to manipulate your opponent, forcing him to do your bidding so you can respond however you wish.

Timing now that you can respond, when is the right time? Visualize what the benefits are of starting just a little earlier or later and how to take advantage of the opening timing can create.

Distance: To far is too far; too close is to close. Choose your techniques according to the appropriate distance using your speed and timing to fill the space between you and your opponent. It is very important to maintain and control your opponent within your range and distance.

Reaction: Be aware, eyes open, ears listening in all directions. See everything you opponent does even though your eyes are set only on one spot. Respond appropriately. If you have been practicing and visualizing different scenarios then
you should have multiple options available to respond with. You should however never wait for your opponent to attack. Constantly push him so you actually have control of his attack. Giving him the opportunity to attack only when you want him to and how you want him to. Limiting how he can actually attack will allow you to pick and choose your reaction.

Aggression: Don?t be afraid to attack first or to attack at all for that matter. In any form of battle whether it be mental or physical, it is still battle and there will be a time you must either attack or counter attack or be defeated. When you are on the attack you have more openings exposed the when you were not. Because of this you must know of your weaknesses when you are attacking and be prepared to counter based on your opponents knowledge of you weakness. Intimidate your opponent with your spirit and use your aggressiveness to weaken him so you can attack him not only physically but mentally and from the inside as well. When you are an aggressive fighter, be aware that all eyes are upon you. You must change your style of fighting for each opponent you face for just as you have been watching them they are now focused on you. To be an aggressive opponent you must have the stamina to last 10 times longer than the average match, which is 2 to 5 minutes. That?s and average of 30 minutes time both aerobically and an-aerobically.

Defense: You must not trust your opponent in battle in any way. Rules are not concrete on any level of battle in life. Courtesy is not a requirement. Keep your guard up at all times. Polite gestures can be considered a byproduct of Budo, however true to life battle is more like a Bujutsu.

When fighting any kind of Kumite you must be fully confident of what you have learned and practiced. You must be at your peak at all times, prepared without a moments notice to react and overcome with lightning sharp techniques delivered by a professional player who has trained for moments that can come at any time. You must have self-control and a desire to win. When you travel either across town or across the country to compete or to due business, you must Go knowing and wanting to return successful. The same goes when your opponent or opponents come to your hometown or backyard. There must be no second thought of your destiny, which only you can control. Not every technique is for every player. You must define your Kumite to fit you and refine it to a point that it appears you have your own style of Karatedo .

For some fighters it is ok to have a set pattern or series of attacks as long as those patterns and attacks can be modified to suit the match at hand. Have these patterns and attacks well rehearsed and ready to switch to a different one all together at any moment.

Shobon Kumite:
Competitive or sport Kumite has changed with the times. As with Children from generation to generation becoming smarter and smarter. Kumite has evolved into a highly technical art. No longer can traditional training methods be strictly followed. Modern day scientific application and Kinieseology play a major factor in the decisions of who will become the champions on an International and National level.

There are some important points to remember while participating in these competitive tournaments.

Win matches one point at a time, Win tournaments one match at a time.

You must visualize yourself winning and what techniques it will take to overcome you opponent. Positive visualization. Tell yourself how you will win.

Avoid the ideals of the political match. Whether or not there is such a thing, having a conscious thought of such will weaken your spirit and hinder your performance. Causing your own Blackballing within certain regions is not worth the hassle because you felt their was bias is the decision of an outcome.

There is no referee in the world who got up this morning saying "Today I am going to make sure that person does not win". Your performance and its outcome are purely your own responsibility and destiny.

Create a list of Kumite Goals:

If you compete or just practice kumite in your dojo, create a list of Kumite Goals. Items you would like to do in kumite, accomplishments - technique by technique. By writing them down you will likely perform them in practice or competition. Read and imagine your kumite goals over and over before every Competition and before or after classes. Whenever you find a new weakness in yourself, add the solution to your list and read it again. We've listed some items below to use as examples:

  • Stay off the line of attack.
  • Never step backward. Only step to the side then counter attack as my opponent goes past.
  • Circle and move. Never turn my back to escape. Step back one-step maximum.
  • Increase my stamina.
  • Keep smaller opponents outside of their range to attack and within my own.
  • Use my body length and weight to my advantage, pressuring smaller opponents and out-finesse larger ones.
  • Out finesse all opponents.
  • Sweep smaller opponents continuously with follow up. Smaller opponents should never sweep me.
  • When dealing with an opponent who grabs switch to a boxing style.
  • Have stronger focus and concentration than any other persons in the room.
  • Smaller opponents should never be allowed to score with a kick.
  • Keep my hands up. Keep my knees bent. Turn my body making my torso a smaller target. Keep my hips forward as in Sanchin.
  • Keep my eyes open and aware.
  • Be overaggressive, using caution, counter attackers can be dangerous.
  • Make minimal movement with the shoulders while striking; strike with the elbows close to your body. Only motion my shoulders when fainting or dropping my Gyaku Tsuki under my opponent.
  • Intimidate hometown and tournament favorites. NEVER let anyone beat me in my own backyard!
  • Watch for openings or set them up. Use your timing to exploit them. Have excellent timing while being patient with your attacks. Your elbows should not drift away or your body when blocking or striking.
  • Know the rules before entering the ring, if there are none then take no prisoners.
  • When defending you should also be attacking. Block and strike at the same time or consecutively.
  • Keep moving. When you pause still you are a target. When you opponent stops moving he is either setting up for power attacks, trying to conserve energy and tired or he is thinking of his next movement. In any case this is an excellent opportunity to attack him viciously and intimidate him.
  • If you have been taught to ?always leave your opponent a way out,? then limit his options to the way out being either running from the ring or being beaten.
  • Do not provide my opponent with openings he can exploit (i.e. watch out for that Gyaku Tsuki).
  • If he pauses to adjust his glove or Gi or anything, Hit him hard and hit him repetitively. Take advantage of his every error. If he misses on an attack you must counter without hesitation. Force him to make mistakes of this nature and pay the consequences.
  • Focus on his center, when he inhales this is the time to attack, when he leaves the ground this is the time to attack. When he hesitates or faints-exploit them.
  • Pay attention to your Coaches or Sensei recommendations, they can see thing you cannot from a third person's point of view. Use their experience and knowledge to your advantage.
  • With any attacking combination, step off the counter attacking line immediately.
  • When charging use multiple attacks in combination to sweeps and kicks head strikes and body shots. Continuous combinations.
  • O-Kuri Harai, Gyaku Tsuki.
  • Fake Mae Geri to Mawashi Geri.
  • Pump fake front Mae Geri, 2 times, lift back knee to Mae Geri and attack Gyaku Tsuki.
  • Fake Mawashi Geri.
  • Mawashi Geri to Ura Uchi
  • Fake Mae Geri to Reverse Mawashi Geri [Kake Geri]
  • Fake Oi [Kizami)]Tsuki [lunge punch], while stepping forward and Shifting weight use that front hand to knock your opponents front hand down striking him with your other hand before he has the time to recover.
  • Gyaku Tsuki low, use trained block / strike method.
  • Block opponents Gyaku Tsuki with Kaishu Chudan Uchi Uke, Strike Gyaku Tsuki.
  • Grab opponents front hand with your front hand and sweep with the same front foot forward. Then strike Gyaku Tsuki.
  • Grab opponent with front hand, sweep with back foot and let go before striking Gyaku Tsuki.
  • Do not allow Ashi Barai, visualize it coming, lift your leg, and do not hesitate to strike when the opponent goes by.
  • Fake a strong Jodan Ura Uchi and follow up with Soto or Mawashi Geri.
  • Side step with the back foot, sweep with the front, strike Gyaku Tsuki, continue to follow through.
  • Fake Jodan Oi (Kizami) Tsuki, followed immediately by Jodan Gyaku Tsuki, follow with a very focused and deliberate Mae Geri.
  • Block Mawashi Geri with arm of sidekick is coming
    then strike with opposite hand.
  • Kizami, Kizami, Gyaku Tsuki.
  • Step with front foot to 45degrees off the line, slap down (hard) opponent?s front hand with my front hand, strike Uke Ken. Prepare and recover quickly for response. Or set up Mawashi Geri with new lead foot.
  • Hiki Ayumi Ashi-Ashi Barai followed with Gyaku Tsuki.
  • With back foot-step 45degrees circling your opponent
    while at the same time to adjust your balance Ashi Barai his front
    foot with yours followed by Gyaku Tsuki or Kizami/Gyaku Tsuki.
  • Dictate my opponent next move. Allow him only to move where I want him. Set my apponent up 3 moves beyond our current position.Yamagughi Gogen Hanshi

The Movement and Momentum of Gojuryu
Once, while warming up before attending a seminar noticed movements of an old Japanese man wearing a sweat suit. Before he was introduced to the class, even before most of those there knew who he was (the room had plenty of other older Asian men wearing Gi and Black Belt), I knew clearly he was a long time Gojuryu instructor because of the magical fluidity in his hands, his strong hip movements and his feather-like walk. Teruo Chinen of the Jundo-Kan did give an excellent Seminar that day.

Whether it is the slightest twitch in the hip at the end of a technique, the thrust in a kick or the over exaggeration of the hip when blocking, the hips consistently generate that necessary power that differentiates the experienced Karatedo practitioner from an eclectic amateur.


So what are we saying? "MOVE YOUR HIPS". Many motions, attacks, defenses and postures as previously said are taken from the nature world and/or based on our natural surroundings. Animals, bodies of water, mountains and landmasses, mythical creatures even the Constellations have played an inventive part in Martial Arts.

Another signature motion of Gojuryu is the fluidity of the hands. To make the hands appear as they are flowing like water is to make the proper technique. When we block we do not block with the fingertips however the fingertips should be as far away from the block as possible. Your fingers should always flow behind as practiced extensively in Tensho. Gojuryu is a graceful art.

1. Always turn on the ball of your feet and keep your knees bent (with the exception of Zenkutsu Dachi). Turning on the heel of your foot is an easy imbalance as well as straightening you legs completely removes the opportunity to lower your center of gravity as well as limits your immediate first motions (whatever that or they might be). This limited motion is because the knee must first bend before momentum can be delivered into any direction unless falling from gravity. Straightening the knees and turning on the heels is equivalent to standing a pencil on its sharp end and expecting it to stay erect! It?s just not going to happen. Also remember that when one leg leaves the ground the other must bend. This also applies to Sagi Ashi Dachi.


2. Look before or maintain visual contact with oncoming opponents.

3. Maintain your head level.

4. Remember for every action there is a reaction; for every "Go" movement or technique there is a "Ju" movement or technique; for every attack there is a counter; for every counter another counter and so on [Sabaki].

5. For every pull there is a push - for every push there is a pull and so on.

6. Tenshin and Sabaki

7. Character in Kumite

8. The shoulders must stay down and are always relaxed

9. The hips must turn and rotate

10. The wrist (hand) must tense only at the proper point of execution.

11. From birth humans know how to strike and kick however blocking must be learned.

The tensing that is carried out during the breathing exercises is similar to that carried on in dynamic tension and isometric exercises. Tensing is believed to build up physical strength. And that goes internally, too, where the breathing is said to strengthen the heart and other vital organs. Generally whenever you are pulling your hand to chamber or blocking you are inhaling and when you are extending a part of the body, hitting the floor, or striking you will exhale. There is another side to the breathing exercises, the side concerned with the mental and spiritual aspects of Karate.

By its very nature, this is the side most difficult to grasp for many persons. The most advanced type of breathing exercise is that in which all of one's strength is concentrated on a specific feeling or thought. It is through concentration and meditation that man learns to improve himself. The student is taught never to exhale all his breath at once but to ration it out in short breathes. One reason is to always save a little breath so that an opponent cannot strike when one is out of breath and at one's weakest just before inhaling. The idea is always to save a little breath to counter.

Striking & Targets
The body is almost unlimited to the possible combination of ways to strike what to strike with and where to strike. What is limited however is what strike is effective when used in certain ways or to attack certain points. Specific striking used in a non-specific manner is a waste of time, energy and efficiency.

The absolute of all basic striking is Seiken Tsuki or front fist strike. Most other strikes covered and performed can be accomplished beginning with Seiken Tsuki. To make a proper Seiken Tsuki, place the hand out in front of you, roll the fingertips [not including the thumb yet] to a point as close to the bottom of the fingers as possible. Next roll the knuckles down so all the fingers collapse into the palm making the ring finger and the pinky especially tight[2]. Then fold the thumb over the second digit of the fingers.

There is a great deal of moving in and out quickly and weaving from side to side, in contrast to the hard schools which concentrate more on straightforward and linear movements. Naturally, all this fast motion lends itself to graceful and artistic techniques. A basic stance, called the cat stance, is a very soft one with one forward foot poised heel high, ready to move quickly in any direction.

[1] See also appendix on WKF, WUKO, USANKF.
[2] Some reference for this section came from 'KICK' illustrated, September 1983, 'Basics of Basics'.

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