Sosai Masutatsu Oyama trained in many different methods of martial arts, taking from each the best he believed they had to offer. He instituted these various methods, along with his personal style, into what he established as Kyokushin Karate. When Mas Oyama founded Kyokushinkai, several styles of karate already existed in Japan. What set Kyokushin apart was not only its incorporation of many different components of several styles, but also its intense training requirements that included physical contact without the use of protective equipment during kumite training. Sosai's idea of full, hard contact, as in classroom fighting, was at that time unheard of in karate. It was for certain not permitted during the practice of kumite in the other styles.
In the martial art of karate, kumite is regarded as the pinnacle of one's training. It is during kumite that the students of karate test their skills against one another. It is where the expression of karate's fundamental purpose - self defense - is exhibited.
In Kyokushin karate, many facets of training are required of a student before engaging in kumite. First, the student should be able to demonstrate a relative degree of proficiency in the basic blocks, kicks and strikes. Second, the student should be familiar with the bunkai (practical application) of each kata and understand that kata is the bridge that spans the distance between kihon (basic techniques) and kumite (sparring). Finally, students should have practiced renraku (transitions), consisting of several combinations of blocks, kicks and strikes executed in series while moving forward or backward across the floor.
Effective kumite requires the presence of three elements, which must come together in a compatible merger. These important elements are cho shin (body control), cho soku (breath control) and cho shin (mind control). The first, cho shin, requires that the body has a firm base (stance), from which it is easy to adapt and move. This requires that the body be flexible and that you maintain a suitable distance between you and the opponent. Cho soku is the controlling of one's breathing. Breathing should be coupled with each movement. It should be slow and deep to prevent tension while reducing anxieties. The final element, the second cho shin, is for many, the hardest. This is the control of the mind. When engaged in any form of combat, including kumite in the dojo, there is some degree of fear. One must learn to control these fears and use them to their benefit. Fear produces an increased flow of adrenaline. This increased flow of adrenaline should be manifested to energize the body and allow unconstrained movement. When these three elements come together, the fundamental purpose of karate - kumite in its correct form - will be realized.
Kumite is learned in the same format as all other applications of karate are learned, beginning slowly with basic movements and gradually building to those that are more complex. The following represents the order of progression for kumite training in Kyokushin karate: sanbon-kumite (three-step fighting), ippon-kumite (one-step fighting), kihon-kumite (basic-technique fighting), yakusoku-kumite (predetermined fighting), tanshiki-kumite (limited-technique fighting) and finally jiyu-kumite (free fighting).
The exercise of kumite is a viable training tool. It assists the student in developing coordination, speed, agility and motor skills. If utilized properly, kumite an help develop and enhance a student's confidence. It can also enhance the student's awareness of his training and teach how to learn from mistakes.
Sosai Masutatsu Oyama began incorporating into Kyokushin the element of contact that other karate styles lacked. Oyama's intense training tregimen was fashioned after his own training developed years earlier in the mountains. Such training had one purpose: to condition the mind and bodyto its fullest. In the beginning, injuries due to the contact were sustained during training sessions. But as students' physical conditioning became stronger, injuries waned. The decrease in injuries was not only because of their strength, but also because the students were becoming more effective in their blocking and evading abilities. This contact training by Mas Oyama and his students influenced the development of full-contact no pads fighting (jissen-kumite) that was exclusive to Kyokushin.
Jissen-kumite is, in effect, jiyu-kumite (free fighting), but with two exceptions. First, in jissen-kumite, the opponents make full-contaact with one another. Second, the opponents are without any form of protective gear. To Oyama, his form of fighting was more realistic and applicable to self-defense scenarios than the non-contact fighting employed by the other karate styles.
In the jissen-kumite of Kyokushin karate there are few restrictions. Techniques not permitted are limited to three: gouging of the eyes, direct attacks to the joints, and groin strikes. All other areas of the body are considered viable targets. Takedowns, sweeps and throws are also permitted.