Reader Questions: Relation between Kihon, Kata, and Kumite?

What is the relation between Kihon, Kata, and Kumite?
What is the relation between Kihon, Kata, and Kumite?

Shotokan Karate is not self-explaining. However, especially elderly Senseis follow the strict Japanese and Zen Buddhist tradition that learning means observing not listening. While this can be a good approach to gain deeper insights. Many secrets will never be revealed to the Shotokan students. That can lead to an unsatisfying situation for Karateka. Thus, we want to address urgent and important questions of our readers to our audience. In conclusion, the swarm intelligence of the global Shotokan community can find answers together.

This time, we received a message from Giuseppe from Italy. He asked: Why is their no obvious connection between Kihon, Kata, and Kumite? Please, answer in the comments.

Giuseppe´s Questions

Hi, my name is Giuseppe, I am writing from Italy and I study Shotokan Karate. I am doing some research and I have some question for you. For me, it seems that there is not connection between Kion, Kata and Jiyu Kumite. That is why I want to ask:

The Stances

What is a Kiba-Dachi good for in fighting?
What is a Kiba-Dachi good for in fighting?

In Karate, there are more o less 10 stance. But only Zenkutsu is used in Jiyu Kumite  – How can you apply other karate stances in Jiyu Kumite? Take, for example, Kokutsu dachi. How can it be applied in Jiyu Kumite? And further: Sanchin, Hangetsu, and Kiba Dachi etc. What is the sense of going forward in Kokutsu Dachi and to the back in Zenkutsu, as we do in Katas and Kion?

The Uke-Waza

How can you apply Age-Uke, Soto-Uke, Gedan Barai etc. in Jiyu kumite?


Many explain it with the principle of action and reaction. In many Dojo, it is said to load the hip, give power to the techniques etc. But is there scientific evidence to it?

Is Hikite really important?

Kihon & Kumite

Is Michael Ehrenreich right and do we have to train in a different way to create good fighters in Shotokan Karate?

Many say, the pre-arranged forms of Kumite like Sanbon and Gohon Kumite are unrealistic and have no connection to free sparring. My question is: why should I train them?

Thank you very much for your answers!



  1. I’ll try to answer the different aspects from my perspective:

    Stances: stances are mostly just a momentarily expression while moving (if you could halt a movement with a ‘pause’ button at one point and your feet touch the ground somewhere, you get a stance). Don’t think to much about all the formal stances but more about, where your weight is distributed at one given point or how feet, knees, hips and pelvis are aligned and were the centre of your gravity is and how you you shift your centre of gravity. And then you have the characteristics of many stances in all kind of movements, be it in your daily life or in kumite. Stances in Karate practise give us a chance to explore and experience these characteristics of movements, weight shifting and alignment in a structured way. And look at these guys – they probably never heard of all the Karate-dachi and do them all the time while moving freely:

    Uke waza: as with stances, just think about how to use both hands in a concerted way and not just about the standard blocking (and besides, uke translates to ‘receiving’ – this can be offensive as well). Furthermore an uke doesn’t have to stop at the ‘end’ but can be flowing into further movements or techniques (I sometimes come to think, that most Filipino martial artist using their characteristic trapping do better ‘uke waza’ as many Karateka). I can show you an uppercut punch I do 100% exactly as a soto uke. And age uke is also quite common as a kind of flinching reaction e.g. And look at this self defense guy, what he teaches as ‘flanking’. He does a gedan barai (and probaly never heard of it):

    Hikite: well the explanation given might be just a small part. It’s not so much about power generation in my opinion but more about holistic body movement and supporting the punching motion (supporting the punching motion is not the same as power generation). Try to extend one arm and punch with the other without moving the arm already extended at all. It will feel awkward and tensing in your shoulders, right? Hikite trains both parts of the body, shoulders and back in a holistic way and also how to use both hands together in a concerted way. Furthermore hikite doesn’t have to be at the hip (you can also pull back to a guard position). And also think about weapon applications (if you swing a bo, you will have a hikite movement). It’s also about grabbing and unbalancing opponents (Funakoshi actually wrote about this) and can be used for creating enough space to punch (look a this for the last explanation – he has to create some space to punch in an infight situation and does it with hikite: )

    Kihon kumite: you certainly need some kind of pre-arranged sparring to build up experience and confidence for free sparring but sanbon- and gohon kumite done as you mostly see it also teaches much wrong stuff and therefore we don’t practise it (wrong stuff is moving back all the time, moving only back with too much a distance and not teaching how to close distances or angle the opponent and so on, only focusing on somewhat unrealistic counter gyaku zuki, nothing else, only blocking with one arm, nothing else…). So yeah, do pre-arrangend sparring but beside absolute beginners people probably can do better as with standard sanbon-/gohon kumite.

  2. There is so much I’d like to say to Giuseppe about his questions, but I’ll keep in fairly short. Firstly, there should be a connection between kihon, kata and kumite; there is a relationship, they are three essential parts of the whole learning process. The kihon are the breakdown of individual techniques, the kata is a way of putting them together in profitable ways, and the kumite is devised so that you might learn to move, target, find distance on the move et cetera. Sanbon and gohon kumite are merely to get you used to reacting as techniques come directly at you. The stances, all of the stances, when it comes to combat, are meant to be transitional while moving into and out of attacking and defending techniques. Lastly, all of the basic blocks that you learn are, like the kata, much more than they first appear; and that will become apparent in time. Karate was not originally designed for two karateka to face off; it was meant as self defence against unprovoked, habitual acts of civil violence; so, self defence, not sport.


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