Training for full-contact karate is a significantly different process than most karate practitioners engage in every day. That’s because the rules of most full-contact tournaments require a much different result than point-fighting events. Fighters must be able to deliver significant power in order to score, and their endurance is tested through repeated hand strikes to their body. In fact, most people consider full-contact Kyokushinkai karate tournaments to be a premier test of both strength and endurance.
As a result, preparation for tournaments is vital. Fighters will need to alter their approach to training their technique, improving their fitness, and developing physical toughness in their shins and forearms.
Differences In Technique- In a point-fighting environment, a heavy emphasis is placed on speed. While many tournaments state that a strike must have been able to cause a reaching to their opponent, there is a premium placed on landing strikes more quickly than your opponent. This causes many fighters to neglect power training and focus almost solely on their quickness and accuracy in their hands and feet.
In full-contact karate, strikes must cause a physical reaction to your opponent. Strikes will have to land with enough force to stagger an opponent, and knockouts with legal techniques result in a victory. From a technique standpoint, finishing the movement and pushing through impact is a vital skill. The best way to cultivate this habit is through work on the heavy bag. Also, any deficiencies in a fighter’s stance or footwork will result in strikes that are too weak to have a scoring effect.
Fitness Considerations– For people who’ve never been punched or kicked at full strength, it’s difficult to understand the profound effect that strikes can have on your cardiovascular endurance. A few well-placed strikes can knock the wind right out of a fighter–but they’ll need to keep moving or suffer repeated strikes. That’s why the most successful full-contact karate practitioners have exceptional endurance.
The best type of training for this is sparring. By engaging in lengthy, intense sparring matches, fighters develop functional strength and endurance. However, additional training, such as jogging and swimming, are also valuable. Karate tournament fighters need to borrow a page from the boxer’s handbook in this area.
Physical Toughness– Pads are typically worn during sparring sessions. Nothing can derail an unprepared fighter’s tournament more than checking a kick with their shin for the first time without a pad. The pain can be excruciating, and shins, forearms, fists, and feet are all susceptible.
To prepare for this, the answer is heavy bag work again. Fighters will need to spend months toughening up by striking the heavy bag until they are sore. Fortunately, there is one thing that can help hasten the process. Muay-thai fighters have a long tradition of using liniment oil to help them learn to withstand the punishment of full-contact fighting. Using this oil before and after training sessions can help lower the time required to condition your body–and make the next training session a little more bearable.
Full-contact karate is not a pursuit to be taken lightly. Specific, intentional training over a long period of time is required for fighters to have a reasonable chance of success at a high level.