Bogu Kumite Sparring for Self Defense

Bogu kumite are Japanese words describing the type of full contact sparring studied by the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance. Bogu is talking about armor, it’s made up of the words bo: protect, and gu: equipment. If you are going to participate in full contact sparring, it is vital to wear the right protective gear. Kumite specifies the action, it’s made up of the words kumi: coming together (clashing, or as Wikipedia says, grappling), and te: hand or hands.


Even with the correct safety equipment, you can expect to get injured in bogu kumite. The injuries are usually relatively minor, but make no mistake that you take on inherent risk to your body in this type of sparring. Risk of injury constitutes the main con of this type of sparring. That is why participation is voluntary. Another con is that adequate safety gear is expensive. And finally, the bogu gear gives the participant an unreal sense of protection. That often leads to them acting out of character, similar to a car’s protection leading to road rage.

bogu kumite


When you have to move your opponent with your strikes in bogu kumite, you gain a sense of the power (or lack of power) of your strikes. The participant usually gets a sense that hitting somebody causes damage to that person. And that it also takes its physical toll on the person doing the hitting. Full contact sparring helps participants train to keep their cool when facing an opponent aiming to deliver full power strikes. In short, bogu kumite helps you prepare physically and emotionally for life protection situations.


They way you score a point in bogu kumite is by delivering a strike to a targeted area that moves your opponent back. It’s difficult to land such a blow on a moving competitor. But if you’re able to, you know that your strike is powerful and effective. The center judge must be a trained referee, and ideally there will also be four corner judges for each match.

The full contact of bogu kumite has many benefits and drawbacks. The study of this type of sparring can help you learn a lot about physical altercations. Practitioners can gain a lot from this dynamic part of training.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

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