For being a brown belt I'm very weak at kumite, I prefer the kata and technique bit of karate. But during a self defence course last semester we had some sparring sessions that I actually felt was fun, and I dared to actually go in and hit or kick my sparring partner with control. I think it helped that I did most of the sparring with my sensei, as she is about the same size as me.
During the sparring we were standing in punching distance and were throwing all kinds of light punches to the head and body, and light kick to the legs and between the legs. This might not sound as a good way to get confidence in sparring, but it actually helped for me! This helped me to dare go in to clinches during my brown belt exam, I've never done that before!
But it's not easy to come back to that confidence for me in the club I'm in. I'm the smallest and weakest grown up in the club, and going against mostly big men does not help. I need to trust my sparring partner that he or she won't hurt me.
At the Iain Abernethy seminar in December, we did a lot of bunkai from the Pinan- kata system. During this weekend my partner was a strong and stale male, a bit higher than myself. We went into a lot of different clinching scenarios. My partner was a good listener and tried to do the techniques on a level that we both were comfortable with. I had never met this man before, as he trains in Vågsbygd. But he was a very good sparring partner.
I have never been good at sparring, but I always try to do my best. And I have improved over the years, at least technically.
Last spring I participated in the SKAN- championship. In the first kumite bout I went against a former Norwegian champion. That fight ended in hikiwake (0-0), and the judges had to do a hantei (vote). No suprise she won with 4 votes against 1. But I was very happy that I was able to protect myself that well that she couldn't take any points on me.
So my guts in sparring needs to improve, I need to dare to do techniques without getting scared to get hit. I need to be able to protect myself during counter attacks.
Picture from http://www.grimstadkarate.no/