11 Shotokan Karate Tips

To Help Your Kumite

Here are some very basic shotokan kumite tips to help with your sparring, many karateka ignore these basic areas, in favour of intricate combinations and sparring drills. But these 11 Shotokan Karate tips, focus on the areas that create great karateka!

Some karateka hate the kumite part of the class and some only go for the kumite!

But whether you enjoy the sparring, or are petrified, there are certain basic principles that can ease the pain for the people who find the sparring difficult and dramatically increase the fighting effectiveness of the people who are more at ease with this area of Shotokan Karate.

shotokan kumite tips
hits all by itself

We could go a lot deeper with these shotokan karate tips, but we will keep it short, because this is where it all starts.

Kumite is the spirit and Kata is the soul of karate, but without both, there is NO Karatedo!

Shotokan Karate Tips


1. Intent
2. Reactions
3. Explosiveness
4. Speed
5. Target
6. Impact
7. Distance
8. Control
9. Relax
10. Adapt
11. Awareness

1. Intent. When practicing at full intensity, your attitude should be as if your life depended on every karate move and even though you are controling your strikes, you should have ‘the intent to do harm’ on every strike! Strong spirit always!!

2. Reactions. Your reactions need to be lightning fast. Reaction training exercises are great for helping in this area.

3. Explosiveness. The start of each karate move should be Shocking! Explode into the move, DO NOT start slowly, then try and gather speed.

4. Speed. When practicing at speed, you should be at maximum speed, try and move so fast you shock your opponent. As I stated in tip 3, try not to start slowly, then try and gather speed, or start fast and then slow down. From the start of the technique to the completion of the technique, move as fast as you possibly can.

5. Accuracy. Obviously, you need to hit the target! Try some target training under pressure.

6. Impact. It is good to hit things! Make sure you have power in your strikes, punch bag, striking pads or makiwara are excellent training devices. There are people learning karate and never hit anything, DO NOT be one of these people.

7. Distance. If your distance is wrong, your karate techniques will be ineffective. Think of a magnifying glass, the sun and a piece of paper. If the sun, magnifying glass and paper are in aligned correctly, the paper WILL burn. So in karate, if your distance is good, your counter attacks and attacks will be effective. Karate classes are great for working on distance, concentrate on the basic sparring exercises, these will give you a good foundation for having correct distance later on.

8. Control. Attacks in the street can be vicious, people can and DO die! Most of the people (animals) who attack innocent people, DO NOT care if their victim lives or dies, in fact, most of these animals will continue attacking until their victim looks dead! This is something that nice people struggle to understand. So if you have been training correctly in the martial arts and some idiot decides to attack you, you may soon find yourself beating the attacker, if this happens, you must know when to stop, or pretty soon they may be locking you up and throwing away the key. Then of course, a nice lump of tax payers cash will be handed to your poor attacker, who will say he was the innocent person and you just started doing all this weird karate stuff, for absolutely no reason at all!

9. Relax People will say, ‘how can you relax in a fight’, but experienced martial artists will say, you must relax in a fight. Being relaxed is essential. How many tense boxers do you see? If you are relaxed, you can react and move to the ever changing environment, if you are tense, you cannot move without relaxing first, by the time you relax, it’s too late! Here we are talking about the body and mind, with constant training, automatic reflex will eventually happen and as the legendary Bruce Lee once said, ‘ I do not hit, it hits all by itself’

10. Adapt In a fight, things can change real fast, one minute you are on your feet, then suddenly, you are on the floor. There is one attacker, then in the blink of an eye, there’s two! Solid ground, slippery ground, standing, seated, waiting for a bus, shopping, talking on the phone, etc, etc. Being able to adapt to your surroundings and attackers is imperative.

11. Awareness Wherever you are, Dojo or not, you need to be aware of the people around you, the people moving towards you, away from you, the people who are looking at you, your surroundings, the ground you are on. Remember Zanshin at all times!


I hope you found this Shotokan karate tips on kumite useful. Click Here for 13 shotokan kata tips to take your kata to the next level.

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Within our karate membership site we have lots of shotokan videos and articles with many more Shotokan karate tips to help your karate get better and will continue to add more as time goes by. Oss!

Linden Huckle

About the author

Linden Huckle has been practicing and teaching karate for over 50 years and believes first and foremost, karateka should enjoy their karate. He says 'there is nothing better than seeing a person develop into a great person through their karate practice, while at the same time enjoying karate.'

Linden Huckle