Good stuff, Rick and Joe.
Also the contact in kumite can be a good test of your blocking and conditioning if you work it that way.(And yeah, I just love the give and take of kumite and hard bunkai.)
This is very true and very useful. I also found hard free style sparring, as Walter and I, just one example of the many of us, did in tournament competition, where light contact to the head was a safety consideration_ but full contact to the body and sweeps were allowed.
I am a firm believer in 'operant conditioning' especially when it comes to put our formal training into practice, under the most common street attacks. You will do as you train without even realizing it.
At our dojo we have the 'Bob dummy' which not only provides excellent feedback of our abilities and effectiveness of our strikes_ but also programs us to hit the essential targets and penetrate the same according to workable concepts.
This implement quickly makes a martial artist 'honest' as to his abilities along lines of force and directions.
You can find and strike vital points on BOB to learn how to stop an advancing attacker. You can hit BOB's throat, along with his eyes, nose, mouth, solar plexus, and stomach...while using the Uechi techniques in kata.
You can Stand with your back against BOB and practice defending yourself from this vulnerable position: elbows to the ribs and reverse head butts to the nose/mouth area, etc.
This will program into 'muscle memory' where to hit, how to hit and how effective the hit will be by the 'feedback' of the dummy.
We have a few of us who can knock down this 270 lb 'brute' as you will see here.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oICRCZPcPw
We combine the 'Bob' training with the 'on the floor' heavy bag training to program low kicks 'under the radar'...the bag will give you the feedback you need as to your KO power.
There is also another aspect to this type of training that needs to be kept in mind:
By repeatedly striking and kicking the BOB and the bag, you activate all of the major muscles groups in your body. The arms, shoulders, waist, and leg muscles must be coordinated and conditioned. This training also builds athletic qualities such as speed, power, balance, timing, and coordination.
This facilitates the gross motor response action congruent with 'fight or flight'_