How to Increase Speed in Kumite – Tomoko Araga Seminar


Tomoko Araga is a multiple World Champion in kumite, and is an active karate instructor today. Her younger brother, Ryutaro Araga, is a current World Champion. They come from a karate family, and their technique reveals how strongly they are rooted in karate fundamentals. Even at high speed drills, Tomoko Araga demonstrates that each punch and kick can be done with perfect form.

This video was made many years ago, but the fundamentals stay the same and she explains basic drills to improve speed and reaction time for kumite.

There are three important points in this video

  1. How keeping your chin down increases your punching speed
  2. A mawashi-geri so fast your opponent cannot react to the kick
  3. How to block kicks by training your eyes from making this one common mistake

Why Should You Keep Your Chin Down?

In this part of the video, Araga demonstrates a ten-count chudan-zuki drill. She points out that all punches should hit the same spot.

The most important takeaway here for tournament karateka? Keep your chin down. 

As Araga shows in this video, keeping your chin up decreases the speed of the chudan-zuki. A punch's direction and speed is dependent on where your head is at the beginning of the punch. Keeping your chin down and thereby limiting your head from moving about too much will increase control and speed over your punch. 

Watch the video below for her ten-punch drill, where each punch is a complete, yuko-worthy tsuki-waza.

How to Increase Kicking Speed

As shown by her younger brother with the kizami-zuki, the mawashi-geri with the front leg can be made unpredictably quick.

Many karateka telegraph their kick by sliding the back leg in the direction of their opponent. As Araga says, any human being will notice this and step back. Instead, she recommends taking off with the back leg and only landing on the back leg after the front leg has completed the mawashi-geri.

Watch the video below to watch the former world champion's mawashi-geri. It is ridiculously quick.

Training Your Eyes to Block Kicks

The most valuable point in this video, and this transfers very well to tournament kumite, is to learn how to block attacks.

Kind of obvious, right?

But how often have you been hit with an attack where you've seen the kick come all the way up, landed, and went back down. To be followed by a "Yame!" and ippon to your opponent?

Your feel helpless and angry at yourself for seeing the attack coming in, but not being able to do anything about it.

This is where Araga's most important lesson comes in. (video below)

Look at your opponent's eyes.

If you look at their leg coming in for the kick, you will be too slow to respond. Look at their eyes. That, and your peripheral vision, will tell you about the kick that's coming in. Keep looking at your opponent's eyes, and then use your hands or arms to block the kick.

Note for Sparring Partners

Again, since kumite is done with two people on the tatami, tournament arena, or 'the ring', you should practise these drills with a sparring partner.

Araga points out two things about practising with someone else.

One. Light contact, and nothing more. If you're making excessive contact, go practise against a wall and you'll quickly figure out what light touch is.

Two. Watch out for your fingers when blocking attacks, especially in kicking practice. Jammed fingers can take you off your training and are no fun.