AIBUDO KUMITE THEORY AND PRACTICE
When you "square off" with your opponent and bow, attempt to relax yourself as much as possible. After the salutation, set yourself into your most comfortable and self-assuring posture. At this time, you must generate and be in your most confident mind set. Before any offensive movement is initiated, you must believe that you have already won the confrontation, because you are in total control of both yourself and the opponent.
The first physical operation to take place, is to place yourself at the proper distance from your opponent (maai), for your weapons to work. Do not let, even for a split second, the opponent set the distance for them. When they cross the critical or safe boundary, you must immediately without hesitation, execute one of three movements. One is to shift a half-step back, left or right and into an aggressive forward blocking attitude. Another is to immediately "explode" into and/or around the perceived attack and drive into the weakness of the aggression. But, do not allow yourself, at this time, to be put into the "red" level of spirit (or #4 in the scale of 1-5), but at only the time of contact. Maintain an open mind of orange or #3 level during the non-contact movement or transition. You must operate from the void only, during this aggressive movement. If you go into thought during this time and your opponent is as skilled as you or "lucky", you more than likely have just lost. The third, and the one that I prefer, is to "half-step" your opponent physically. This causes them to change their "Existing Attitude" into a "Nonexisting Attitude" and puts them on the defense. What ever weapon you intend to utilize, at your planned time, it must be very relaxed. There can not be enough speed with control if there is any tenseness in the weapon appendage. Do not at any time attempt to overpower your opponent physically. All you will accomplish is to "butt heads" and throw off your balance and the ability to continue forward. If your opponent lowers their posture, consider this as a crossing of your critical distance and perform one of the two afore-mentioned movements. Preferably the second. Because, at the time that they are setting into this new "neighborhood", there is a short period of time that an offensive movement is very unlikely. There is an exception, but this is generally for the higher skilled individual. If this is the case, then you both should be working "mutual escape" and no contact will be made anyway. Also, at the time of lowering the posture, an effective defensive movement on their part will be at its weakest, allowing you to be more effective in the "run over" control of your opponent. No matter what the movement (offensive or defensive), do not allow your back to "open" mentally, as this weakens your attack or block and the outcome will be to your opponents advantage. At every point of contact or "passing", you must be shifting into a forward attitude. Now this becomes a little difficult to explain, because of all the possible combinations involved. An example is as follows: You initiate and execute a front leg, hooking heel kick to the head. During the transition and lifting of the leg into the technique, the physical back is open. This is your most vulnerable point in time. If you are working with a skilled opponent, only execute this opening with "half-stepping" of their movements. This is to insure that you will not be countered at this time and over-run. If contact is made with the foot, you are relatively safe to continue "on down the road". But, if they slip this attack, you must immediately start shifting into a forward attitude. This shifting must take place as soon as the foot starts down and be completed before the knee gets below horizontal. If you wait until the foot becomes lower than half-way between the normal distance of your knee to the floor, the foot is committed to make contact with the floor and you are in a serious point of "no return". Another very important point to make, is with the relative position of the shoulders with reference to the hips. Never, allow the hips to rotate forward under the shoulders or the shoulders move rearward of the hips. Proper balance can only be achieved with the hips under or to the rear attitude of the shoulders. I want to clarify that this forward attitude is to be maintained during the posture or stance mode. Naturally, during most kicks, this is not the case. With hand movements, there will not be maximum power developed without this forward attitude. Whenever your opponent is initiating and/or executing a hand movement to your head, if you will maintain or shift into this forward attitude, you are able to block and temporarily "off balance" your opponent almost every time. A good example is as follows: You either have already seen or will shortly, if you are new to the martial arts, the typical execution of the back-fist from the side facing horse stance. This is a very commonly used offensive technique and is one of the easiest techniques to work around. All that is necessary to neutralize this completely, is to utilize the very simple forward inside-out wrist block. The block is made while the body (shoulders) is moving slightly forward. In some arts this movement is as a "punching block". This totally opens your opponents back and the moment is yours. Technically, as you see your opponent shift into this side facing horse stance, you should immediately move forward utilizing this "punching block" movement. This will neutralize, almost always, the hands of the opponent. Something to consider at this time is the feet of your opponent. You can tell by observing their knees, with reference to the feet, whether of not there is equal weight distributed. If this is the case, a kick with any commitment is not possible. At this time, all you have to do, is to shift or move your lead foot and shin (at a slight angle) directly towards and across their lead foot. When the above is performed at the same time, you have been given an "early Christmas present" for the moment.
In our system of kumite, we utilize mostly one of two postures and almost exclusively only techniques from the front foot. The two postures are the cat and fudo. In this way, we are able to maintain the forward attitude. Now, the position of the hands will be explained.
The lead hand and forearm are to be extended and vertical, with the hand maintained directly to the head area of your opponent. Never allow your lead hand to drop below your own chin or your elbow to "fly" to the outside. The rear hand and forearm are to be along and front of the obi area, but not touching, with the hand slightly to the inside of the front elbow. Never allow the rear hand to drift under the front elbow. Attempt to maintain the front leg directly under the forward arm. The set-up of the hands, arms and legs in this matter, with the cat stance, produces a very good "flower-under-the-leaf" attitude and an excellent defense. Shifting into a fudo allows good offensive, and fairly safe, movement.
Never allow your opponent to shift either to the inside or outside of this defense, as this half-steps them to you, and puts you behind their movement. If you see this shifting take place, then mentally and physically use this half-step as your initiation and act accordingly.
Never fade back from a technique thrown or initiate a fade unless you are prepared to immediately come back forward into your opponents executed attack or over their weakened or surprised posture.
All kicks should be initiated from the same "look". It shouldn't matter whether it is a front kick, roundhouse, crescent or whatever, they should all come up the same. They should all look as if you are about to execute a front kick. Do not allow the hips to pivot or shift until the knee has risen from the floor. Do not allow the hands to change position prior to kicking. This could become a warning to your opponent that a certain type kick is on the way, after they have visually witnessed you work after a period of time. Do not allow your eye contact to vary prior to the execution of a kick. Any unnecessary or sudden change of spirit can actually tell your opponent that you are about to attack. Maintain a calm and confident appearance, no matter how actually you feel.
I believe at this time, I would like to expand a little more on the strategy entity of half-stepping as it relates to our system. Half-stepping within the martial arts is extremely important and in the execution of kumite is as important as breathing. If you wish to be in control, it is an absolute necessity. The two types are physical and mental. In most cases they are inseparable, and require quick thinking if you are a junior blackbelt or as a master instructor, the utilization will come from the "void". They are used whether your posture is strong or weak. Mental half-stepping should be used every time you intend to set up your opponent, by appearing to them that you are extremely vulnerable by being in a weak defensive posture. Depending on the "sucker" posture that you are in, the available weapons of your opponent should be known and all you do is wait for the offensive movement to initiate. This waiting for a known movement is mental half-stepping. The movement that your opponent is about to make, should be your idea and not theirs, although they truly believe that it is. With this belief, they will explode right into your very powerful defense. It is hard for them to understand how you could have reacted so fast, to their "surprise" attack and put them entirely on the defense. You must remember though, that to be completely reliable, your attitude must be totally forward, with no reservation. Don't forget either, that this forward attitude must be both physical and mental. Physical half-stepping can be utilized as in the "Existing Attitude-Non Existing Attitude" strategy by controlling your opponents offensive drive. You can also use this physical half-stepping as a draw, by which you counter directly into or around their offensive move. They are totally helpless as they are hit right in the middle of their transition, with little to no "earth" available for their defense. An easy example of this is used when you have a very aggressive opponent. All you do is "feel" their intent to attack and just move slightly to the front, left, right or back. Or, just change the "look" of your defensive posture, no matter how slight it might be. Whenever they correct for this distance change, either hit them right in the middle of the transition or just continue this half-stepping to irritate. This put the "ball game" in your yard, for they (if not as skilled as you) will be continuously setting themselves up, over and over again. They won't even understand what's happening to them. If they are a master at this (which you are unaware of) they can play the game, giving you a false sense of security, and "right out of the blue", "blow up" right in your face.
An excellent example, where as mental half-stepping and the forward attitude control, can be utilized by either participant, is the proverbial side facing horse stance for the explosive back fist to the head. This side facing posture utilized by the unknowledgeable, is one of the most weak in the industry and is used by many martial arts styles as their "strong" offensive weapon. Mentally half-stepping this posture is like receiving a "Christmas present" in July, or whatever the month happens to be. This posture can also be used as a sucker setup and catch the unwary by surprise. When operating in and out of this posture by two knowledgeable half-stepping masters, the end result can be an extremely massive clash or won by the most quick of the two. After saying that, I want to remind you of the ultimate self-defense tactic or condition known as "mutual escape". That is the condition, whereas two highly skilled practitioners, never execute an offensive movement at all, as they are constantly "reading" the intentions of their opponent and mental half-step every technique, one after the other. It is a general standoff, with only the appearance of two individuals constantly changing their posture or look.
As kumite is a very personal and individual entity, it is very difficult to specifically state that you have to perform individual techniques in a very specific way. But, the individual system strategies (techniques) must be performed very close to theory or the system defenses will fail and so will the individual. If a specific technique continuously fails to function as expected with an individual, it is not necessarily the failure of that individual or the technique, by themselves. It may be a failure because of the combination of the two. Never, throw out a strategy, based only upon the failure of one or only a few practitioners, but judge its worth on the majority after a time worthy of judgment. A technique may only work with one individual within the system, but if that individual works this technique flawlessly, time after time, then the technique is valuable and must be maintained or considered as worthy. That technique, may then work every time with that type of individual in every case.
The forward attitude strategy, must always be maintained, regardless of the failures. Failures with this strategy is not the fault of the attitude, but with the individual in all cases. With this I will not give, bend or discuss! Time will cure the failure (fear) of meeting aggression (head on) and the system will survive with honors. But, never "push" yourself into injury trying to force your mind into accepting this unnatural entity. When your mind is ready to accept this unnatural experience, known as physical and mental aggression. it will, and without your help. Trying to think your self to courage is dangerous and your focus will be narrowed to the point of self destruction. Maintain patience in this, even though it may take you months or even years longer than some others. The normal expected time frame for this is 3rd Dan in our system and this should very easily be accomplished. With some it may come very close in the early or late Kyu grades, but never-the-less it is a personal thing and should not be judged. Patience is the key to most everything in life, the martial arts and specifically to the forward attitude.
Forcing the forward attitude just ends up being a hodge podge of crudely thrown techniques and movements with out purpose, except to try and impress on-lookers or friends. You only end up making your self look reckless and out of control, instead of the professional you are working to become.