There are three types of kumite:

  1. Kihon kumite, or basic kumite, comprises five– or three–step sparring. This sparring uses pre-arranged attacks and blocks. It is a useful introduction to sparring for beginning students.

  2. Ippon/sanbon/gohon kumite, one-step, three-step, or five-step sparring, also involves basic, prearranged techniques, but adds emphasis on body movements and proper distancing from the opponent.

  3. In jiyu kumite, free sparring, techniques are not prearranged. The karateka may freely engage her physical and mental powers, but must strictly control her attacks — contact is prohibited. The karateka must be well–trained and disciplined enough to make a powerful blow that stops just before it reaches its target. For these reasons, only advanced students may practice jiyu kumite.

As a transition to free sparring, brown belts learn a combination of one-step and free sparring called jiyu ippon kumite. In this semi-free form of sparring, both sides must use basic, prearranged techniques, but may act according to their own rhythm and timing.