Imagine you are a point karate champion with lots of trophys – you are at the top of your game. You take some well deserved time off an attend a party with your girlfriend. You happen to mention you are a champion and you start getting questions about MMA or Mui Thai belts? When you tell them that it is in one of the iterations of point karate, a practitioner of jui-jitsu or MMA ask if you have ever done any real fighting?
This may seem surreal to many but various types of sport karate and many martial arts do not seem to have the same level of respect as some of the other fighting arts. In this post I am going to limit the discussion to various point karate and full contact karate sport matches. The focus of each will be examined along with my opinion. One correlation for context might be the difference between fencing and sword fighting. Here is a quick video of fencing followed up buy a sword fight for your perusal.
I liked how quick the fencing thrusts were in this match. One could easily imagine that if they were using light swords, how easily skill with a foil might translate into winning a real sword fight! No disrespect to any fencers but it also looks like some of the points would not really do much damage. These are electronically scored I believe so just a touch to the trunk of the body will score a point. I would say fencing is a lot like point karate. Now lets look as some armored broadsword fighting that is my correlation to full contact karate.
These guys look like they were having fun! You probably noticed that the level of contact went way up in the broadsword fighting. I really liked that they did some hand to hand combat and used any weapon at their disposal. How do you think each group of fighters viewed each others sport?
I think both groups of fighters were good at what they did but I also think the broadsword fighters would probably be perceived as having the edge in a fight. Why? Because more contact seems to be closer to a real fight! Is this realistic? I don’t know for sure because the fencers do well with their rules and the broadswords men do well with theirs.
What would happen if the broadswords fought the foils? I think it would depend on the rules… would they be attached to an electronic point system? Would the broadswords forego their normal armor for light padding and dulled swords? Or would the fencers be made to wear armor without an electronic point system? I think you are beginning to see the perception issue. Either weapon without rules and protective gear would be deadly. Lets examine some point karate.
This was a match between a couple of point fighting greats, Joe Lewis and Chuck Norris. Did you notice that each attempt at a scoring point stopped the fight? The judges were trying to score who got the first kick or punch. Both of these men would be good street fighters and Joe Lewis went on to become the first heavy-weight full contact champion. But for my original question of how point fighting is perceived, lets look at a full-contact fight and review.
I slipped in one of my favorite all time fighters, Benny “the Jet” Urquidez! Did you notice in full-contact karate match – the fighting stopped when they were tied up? Each time a they scored a point, they still had to watch out for more strikes! The major differences between full-contact and point karate is the force of the head strikes and when the matches stop.
Now that you have had a taste of each sport, which one do you think is better in a real fight? Many would say the full-contact fighters have an edge. The rules are different in each type of fighting.
Point karate can be anything from non-contact to heavy contact with kiss contact (light contact) to the head. Non-contact depends on judges scoring likely point base on the first kick or punch with some bend in the elbow or knee that could have been a good strike.
A semi-contact point match is easier to score because one has to actually hit the other guy. In the lower belt divisions the head shots are out due to safety concerns. Some advance belts get to use varying levels of force to the head as well as full-contact to the body. Groin shots are legal in many open to all styles point karate tournaments.
Full-contact or kickboxing matches have varying rules depending on the governing body but generally there are no groin kicks or ground fighting allowed. Knockouts to the head are allowed and the matches are only scored if they go the distance.
Ok – who would win in a fight between a kickboxer and a point karate fighter? Again as with the fencing vs the sword fights, what are the rules? The point karate fighter is probably good at kicking the groin. If the kickboxer had to use kiss-contact to the head – both the semi-contact point fighter and kick boxer are used to full-contact to the body (I’ve broken the ribs of my opponents in tournaments and won points). The only difference is the groin kicks and contact to the head.
What if the semi-contact fighter was in a full-contact match? Well were do you think kickboxers come from? There is a transition to be made. When I was learning kickboxing, I had to learn traditional boxing so my hands would hang with the kickboxers. I had to stop most of my lunging moves as the goal was no longer being first but rather getting the best strike. There is a transition just like the kickboxer would have to make in a semi-contact point match.
What if it was a street fight and there were no rules? Well both fighters would be out of their comfort zone. In a real fight (yes I used street fight as real fight), there are no rules. It is perfectly ok to throw sand at your opponents fact and then break his knees. I know many non-contact or semi-contact point fighters would say because of their years of experience at self-defense moves in formal karate, they would somehow have an edge. I kind of poo-poo this idea because all of the karate type disciplines have the same tools, and I would argue none of them practice street fighting… it is too dangerous.
What do I think about the who has the edge? It depends on the person. I don’t think the style or rules make too much difference but rather the individuals attempt at fighting excellence that makes the difference! I’ve seen some black belts that cannot fight their way out of a paper bag and I’ve also seen some full contact fighters that give me hope when betting on fixed fights (I don’t really bet on fighting)!
So the next time you see a kickboxing fight or point tournament match, remember that good practitioners deserve of respect if they are the top tier of their respective competitions.
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