Simple Karate Kumite Drill [Video]

We all want our students to be accurate with their technique, right?

And we’ve all got karate drills to help our students hit targets, yes?

However some drills, while they might help with one aspect of training fail in another.

For example, you might have one person holding focus mitts, while their training partner hits them with certain combinations. Or if you don’t have focus mitts, you might simply hold your hands up as targets for your partner to hit. These are both drills I’m sure you’ve done over the years as I have. And they are fine to develop some basic skills, however they have their downfalls which I have pointed out below.

  1. Targets In Incorrect Positions

    The target holder must be acutely aware of where they are holding the mitts in relation to the real target position. In other words, focus mitts must be held exactly on  the intended target, otherwise proper distance, accuracy and timing will be incorrect.

    You may have seen targets (of course you’ve never done this)  held in a lazy fashion maybe 12-24  inches away from the real target (such as in front of the face, or to the side of the body). This mistake by the target holder directly affects the technique of training partner.Often, especially with kids, the targets are nowhere near where they should be. As karate students we should be a little more intent on the accuracy of our techniques… wouldn’t you agree?

    (In MMA you see this all the time – jab/cross/jab/cross types of drills where the coach holds mitts up to either side of the face and the fighter is throwing punches wide of the real target (the head), while the coach swats their punches with the mitts.)

  2. Holding Hands As Targets

    This is another common mistake when doing these kinds of exercises. Doesn’t it make more sense that we train our students to hit real targets (head, body, back, etc) instead of hand targets?

    The problem that arises from this type of exercise is that students (especially kids) will default to throwing their techniques at their opponent’s hands when sparring. I used to see this all the time with my own students, so that’s why I’ve moved away from such exercises and now make sure they are hitting the real targets instead.

    I want their default action/subconscious to instantly hit the real target when it becomes available (such as when their opponent drops their hands or when they do something unexpected like slip over). I want my students to be on that target in a split second like a frog’s tongue snapping up a fly.

Here’s a quick 2 minute video I shot last night to show you a very simple drill that develops awareness of the real targets, improves reaction time and develops “clean hitting” for the attacker, while the target person works on covering the exposed target. We do several drills like this, each with it’s own emphasis, but this is a good one to start the process of developing a fighter’s affinity for open targets.


Karate Sparring Drill to Improve Awareness and Agility

Here’s a video from earlier this year of some of my junior students showing a fun yet challenging sparring exercise.

As you can see the floor is covered with cones. The objective is to spar without knocking over a cone. So the rules for this particular match were you score a point for every technique you landed on your opponent, and also another point for every cone your opponent knocked over.

This exercise helps develop spacial awareness and agility. Surprisingly my students rarely knocked over any cones which got me thinking how could I make this sparring exercise even more challenging?

Here’s a few more ideas for you…

1) Add more cones

2) In the event a cone is knocked over, the other person wins by default.

3) Make the sparring area smaller

(For a full list of my awesomely creative skill building karate drills and exercises check out 125 Dynamite Drills here)

Can you think of other ways to enhance this exercise? If so, post ’em below!


– Jason

Assisted Clap Pushups

If you’ve ever had your class attempt clap pushups you’ll know it’s funnier than heck when they just try to clap without pushing up first. You’ll hear loads of clapping sounds followed by dull thuds and plenty of grunting noises as gravity does its work…

So I came up with a creative training method to help students develop their clap pushups.

Rather than me try to explain, watch the video below…

In fact you could use this same method to help your struggling students with virtually any kind of pushup…

  • regular pushups
  • one armed pushups
  • diamond pushups
  • deltoid pushups
  • etc.

Just place the belt under the part of the body that requires assistance. For example if you have a student who suffers from “hammock back syndrome” when doing regular pushups, you might place the belt under their hips to give them a little lift…

With this kind of assisted training, students can learn proper technique when before they had no hope of even getting started. Do this kind of training regularly and over time their strength and technique will develop.

What other ways could you use a belt to assist your students with developing core strength or karate technique?


Turning on your heels – Part 2

So a couple of weeks ago I told you about when somebody once told me to make rear leg mawashi geri it’s best to turn on the heel of the supporting leg.

I think we all agree that advice was absolute %$%3!

I then talked about my preference for turning on the balls of the feet for EVERY other transition (kihon and kata) as in my experience it gives more control and balance. However, I did discover one time when turning on the heel can actually be a good thing, and I promised to share that with you today.

I’m sure you’re familiar with at least some of the following kata:

  1. Pinan Godan / Heian Godan
  2. Kanku Sho
  3. Kosokun Shiho (Shiho Kosokun)
  4. Kokokun Dai / Kushanku
  5. Chatanyara Kushanku
  6. Empi

Can you tell me what all of these kata have in common?

They all have a turn with a JUMP.

I’m not going to go into the purpose or bunkai of the jump as there are many interpretations, but typically the person performing the kata will do one of two things immediately preceding the jump.

  1. They take a small step with the launching leg to gain momentum to give height to the jump.
  2. They shift both legs, bend both knees and then jump, again to give height to the jump.

Take a look at these videos below and note the launching leg each time. First the Japanese team at the WKF World Champs performing the kata Empi. Watch at 1:25.

See the little step before the jump?  

What about this one of Rika Usami in her instructional video, shifting BOTH legs before the jump? Watch the video at 5:13. You’ll have to watch it a few times to catch it, pause it to see. She moves both feet closer together before the jump, then takes a step to gain momentum!

Some time back someone asked me how to get height in the jump without taking the step?

I’m glad I’ve now got the answer. Check out this video from Jesse Enkamp of the Turkish team at the 21st WKF World Championships.

Watch at 1:08 and you’ll see both the guys on the left use a heel turn and the guy on the right seems to use the ball. Either way, nice clean jump.

Then watch again at 1:30 and you’ll see them all use the heel turn before the jump.

I like this because I like simple, clean and sharp karate. There is no extra step and no double leg shift. Just a simple, clean turn and jump using the HEEL as they pivot. And they get some serious air!

The reason this works so nicely is because the weight is not over the ball of the foot during the 180 pivot. The heel provides the swivel point which allows the ball of the foot to whip around and then make contact with the floor and launch the players into orbit. It gives the momentum without the need for the extra step.

(It’s a little different to Taikyoku kata in that the 180 deg turn goes counter clockwise, not clockwise, in which case I still prefer to use the ball during that time of 180 turn.)

Pretty neat, huh?

Nice one Turkish Team!

Finally I just found this one of the female Serbian Team doing Unsu. This is really nice. No noticeable heel turn, or ball of the foot turn. Very clean. Watch at around 2:45.

So there you have it… there are times to use the heel and times to use the ball of the foot.

Like the old adage says, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

(Weird visual – who thought of that anyway?)

Until next time…

– Jason


Block and Multiple Counter Drill [Video]

Last night my entire production crew (Larry holding my phone), shot this quick video of Mike and I demonstrating a simple drill we were working on during class.

It’s a good karate drill for practicing close range techniques with fast reactions. It uses 4 different techniques that you can string together, and unlike a lot of karate drills that involve stepping with a single counter, this drill makes use of multiple counter techniques.

  1. Stand at punching range and have the first person punch to the face (mae ken zuki) while their partner makes and open palm push block (nagashi uke).
  2. Person 2 now counters with a back fist strike to the head (uraken), follows immediately with a reverse punch to the body (gyaku zuki) and finally with a front hand punch to the face (mae ken zuki).
  3. Person 1 now counters by making nagashi uke, uraken, gyaku zuki and mae ken zuki….
  4. The process repeats…

(click the play button below to watch the video)

Karate drills like these are great because they help develop fast reflexes at close range.

Hint: When you teach this for the first time, save it until the end of class. During class, practice each of the techniques in the drill as basic repetitions. Once you have it down, use it as a warm up in future classes.

Share and enjoy...

- Jason


Are You Environmentally Aware?

So on Monday night I took a handful of my junior kids outside for some environmental awareness training.

Gone were the cushy mats…

Gone were the mirrors and regular training equipment…

Hello concrete, stones, stairs and walls…

This was a very important training session for the juniors who hadn’t done anything like this before.

Cries of “This is the best class ever!!” were heard often.

I had them perform basic reps standing barefoot on stones, running sprints in the parking lot and some up close and personal self defense training.


One of the things we worked on was the need for environmental awareness – and I’m not talking about the effects of leaving trash around or recycling your plastic bottles.

Of course I’m referring to being aware of your surroundings, identifying exits and how you can use the environment to your advantage.

We did plenty of different exercises that helped them become more aware of the things they should watch out for like sharp objects, stairs, dead-ends, etc.

Below is a quick video I shot for you with the kids doing a simple self-defense drill were one person is the aggressor and the defender moves inside the line, blocks the incoming technique, strikes and projects their partner into the wall.


If you choose to do outside training be sure to do it with responsible students. I do it a few times per year with my adult class, and occasionally with my juniors who can follow directions and pay attention. NEVER will I do it with really young kids or ones that aren't mature enough. The last thing you want is some kid getting hurt because another one thought it would be fun to push him down the stairs...

Maybe next time I'll have them do it in regular street clothes or wearing heavy jackets... these are just other ways to make the exercises a little more realistic.

What other ideas can you think of?