There are three types of kumite:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.