Today I had an extended amount of time to think and surf the internet as I desperately hoped time would speed up. I decided to make use of my time by accomplishing a long time goal – I learned to play the ancient game of “Go”. For those of you who are unfamiliar (and most will be), Go is a game that has been around for about 4,000 years in China, Japan, and Korea. It is also known as “Igo” in Japan, “Weiqi” in China, and “Baduk” in Korea. The basic concept is to surround your opponents’ pieces with your own. Your pieces cannot be moved once played, but you can continue adding pieces each turn until someone’s pieces become surrounded and “captured”.
Why am I talking about Go? Because Go relates very much to Jiyu Kumite (free sparring). In Go, there is said to be two situations: Sente (Ahead Hand) and Gote (Behind Hand). This is talking about the idea that someone is on the offensive and someone is on the defensive. In Go, at first, someone places a piece down on an empty board. At this point in time no one is aggressing another. The second player can choose to do many things, but in most cases, if the first player is careful, then there is no “better” move to make. The second player guesses what the first strategy may be, and then responds. The second player now must make the first decision making move. The second player has merely thrown something down to truly start the match. The first player’s second move is the one that begins strategy. If he is not aggressive, his opponent will be and he will begin in Gote (defense). If he is aggressive, he will be in Sente (Ahead Hand) until his opponent either loses, manages to counter the attack into a draw, or if skilled (or lucky) turns it around and takes the position of Sente.
We can look at this as three different stages of both Go and Kumite:
Someone makes the first move.
The opponent joins the fight with a response move.
The battle begins when someone gains Sente.
Keeping this in mind, we can see why it is beneficial in sparring to not be stuck in Gote due to being overly defensive, but rather, to stay out of the fight until your opponent presents you the initial chance to seize control and push yourself into the position of Sente. Once you seize control, you must stay in a state of assault until your opponent succumbs to you and is defeated. We can do this in Kumite by using combinations.
When you attack with a single strike, you give the opponent opportunity to seize Sente. If at the time he puts up a block, moves away, or dodges your first attack, you are beginning your second attack. He is denied the opportunity to respond, and is forced into a second state of defense that will only lead you to your third attack. Playing a few rounds of Go can make this concept a bit more visible. While Kumite and Go are far from the same thing, their ideas and strategy can be quite similar if you want them to be. I advise all to keep these principles in mind when free sparring and see how much good comes to you.