By far the person I learned the most about Dojo sparring from, other than Dingman Sensei, was my old instructor Terry Proctor. Terry was a stalky guy that looked kind of like a hockey Goon, not the kind of guy you wanted to mess with because, while he was one of the kindest guys I knew, he looked like he could mess you up pretty good. He was bow legged and square chested and his salt and pepper hair and hair brush mustache made him look like a right wing for the local hockey team!
The two things I can say about Terry would be that he may not have looked it but he was crazy good at free sparring and he never hurt you or showed that he had any kind of ego. If you scored a point he said “good” and he encouraged you to work. He never put you down and he always had something nice to say…or he would say the bad things in a way that did not hurt as bad. And about being crazy good…you could spar with him for half an hour and not get hurt, not worry about getting hurt and yet he would score 20-30 times to your one…and yet still you felt like you accomplished something with him.
From Terry I learned a lot about timing, looking for openings and not just throwing a technique to see if it lands, and also that Dojo kumite and Shiai kumite are really not the same thing. I saw him manhandle this one athlete, threw him about, frustrated him and basically spanked him for ten minutes. Found out later that the guy was a national level Kumite guy and was well known for fast wins and lots of them. Like Terry, my instructor used to say that Shiai kumite is great, it is exciting and can be good for Karate….but it is not Karate. It’s a off shoot of training in Karate. True Karate is that true feeling in Kumite when a technique lands, you know it would end the fight and you keep moving, because maybe it didn’t. No one is going to stop you and say “oh, you won” and you are not going to get frustrated and try to kill the partner because its not over yet.
Now the other thing I learned from Terry was the California Blitz. Well he called it Blitz’n, but I renamed it. Terry always said that when you see an opening you go at it like a Heat seeking rocket and blast towards it…but he also taught me a special kind of attack, a feel to the attack that can only be described as throwing yourself at a target with reckless abandon as you pile drive in attacks in multiples. As modern day MMA guys call it “punches in bunches”…but its more than that.
The California blitz is something I use when I competed and had someone that was very fast and moved away quickly when I used to do the traditional “hunt and peck” style of attacks you see in traditional Shiai kumite. The “hunt and peck” is when you see an opening and lunge in with a single technique. Its what you mostly see in Kumite today, a single technique that is supposed to be “one punch one kill” kind of mentality but if you miss its “one attack…air ball” and you have to reset. If you use this “hunt and peck” attack and the defender moves away, your whole strategy is to reset and look for a new opening…not effective in ending a fight quickly.
The California blitz is when you attack an opponent with multiple attacks and shifting steps…this means when they move back one full step you have used four half steps to “Fly at them” and your arms and legs are shooting out at the original target as well as any new ones that open up.
So, an example of my “California blitz” would be seeing an opening for Jodan…the steps will be; move back leg in, short front stance, move front leg, longer front stance…repeat as many techniques as you are doing with the arms. The hand attacks, as that is all I am showing here at this point, would be; reverse punch to face area, long jab to face area, reverse punch to ribs, Jab to face area, Back fist to chest, jab to chest area…switch step and back fist to reverse punch…..so you attack with a bunch of hand techniques strung together and shifting in and switching sides as you attack….simple right…maybe not so much!
From the time we are white belts we are taught single side, single attacks. Sanbon and Gohon kumite we step in and throw single attacks, Ippon kumite is a single attack, Jyu Ippons are one side single attacks again…then all of a sudden we expect students to develop the ability to do combination attacks and we are shocked when they can’t do a double hand technique off of one step…they look awkward and uncoordinated for months if not years. And teaching them the multiple combination attack like the Blitz is awkward and frustrating for the student as well as the instructor.
The Blitz works so well because students are not used to the multiple attacks of the Blitz, its hard to defend and all you can do is flail at the attacks to try and not get hit. But the truth is that the best defense other than movement is to counter when you see your own opening…and that is often after you get hit like seven times! A good Dojo Kumite fighter will see an opening and move in to attack using the blitz idea and score enough targets to confuse the defender and then retreat and get ready for the next attack. A perfect sparring match is not like a tennis match with point, counter point, point, counter point type sparring. This kind of “dialoged” between two combatants is common but gives a false sense of self-defense.
Practicing Kumite should may take more years than people are given before a black belt is awarded and it should actually start with combinations done as a single attack at green belt or purple belt. The focus today is on single perfect techniques and while I see the value in perfect techniques, perfect singular impact techniques I think that combination attacks should be focused on before they are lost completely.
The Blitz or California Blitz is more of a system or way of attacking and not a set drill. Its something you can use and train with and can be very effective in sparring and with other combination attack drills and systems can lead to way better and more realistic sparring for students and seniors alike.
Just my 2.3 cents worth on kumite!