Monday, 14 July 2008

Sparring Without Gloves or Pads

In today’s society, with the need to work and earn money to support not just yourself but also your family, people who train in martial arts don’t want to look bruised, blooded and broken each day. This is one of the reasons why gloves, shin guards, mouth pieces, cups and other protective equipment are used during sparring.

The problem about wearing protection all the time when sparring however is that you can get to used to it. Sloppiness can set in sometimes with technique, the thought of avoiding strikes can sometimes be ignored as getting hit by a soft 14 oz glove or shin padding sometimes does not inflict enough damage to hurt and awareness, timing and rhythm when fighting does not get trained as much.

For this reason, maybe sometimes it is best to spar without any protection, nothing at all. The idea of covering up without boxing gloves when your opponent is throwing hooks and straight punches becomes a more difficult task. Firstly you would be taking some of the blows on the back of your hand and if you try just tapping the back of you hand with your knuckles you shall see that it is quite painful, so you can imagine how a hard punch would feel. Secondly, without big gloves, you would not be covering up much at all. Your opponent would find it much easier to strike around and through your “covering up” as your hands do not defend as much as your face as you would have hoped for. This way of defending may now be substituted by parries, body movement and stop hitting, which all work your timing reflexes and awareness much more.

A lot of people also get into the habit of taking shin kicks to the thighs when wearing shin pads without the thought of defending them. If anyone does not know the pain of getting hit hard on the thigh with an unpadded shin let me just say it hurts and you don’t want to get into the habit of taking them when fighting. When shin protection is out of the equation you shall find yourself relying on correct technique when shin blocking, again you shall learn to move out of the path of the shin kick and hopefully you may start to learn to move whilst staying within a striking range, ready to counter.

Sparring without protection keeps you on your toes. It helps you to think better, move better and reminds you that without good technique you could easily find yourself in an awkward position. As mentioned above, most of us have jobs and families and cant afford to get hurt so keep the sparring controlled and sensible. Contact to the body and thighs may be a little harder. The level of contact can be agreed with your sparring partner before you begin.


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Anonymous said...

I would like to add, it would probably be worth while to check out RioHeros on youtube to see some bare knuckle fights between trained people. Might give a visual of what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

While normally I’m all for realistic training this is just a bad idea: if you want to practice without big gloves use MMA-ones (you did have a good point about relying too much on covering up due to the size of the gloves) but getting hit in the face with a bare fist is just too dangerous and simply not worth the risk. You’ll end up with a broken nose, cuts, concussions… and I fail to see what that will teach you (other than the triusm to avoid getting hit in the face at all cost).

Even if you do not spar with power it’s just too easy to do real damage with bare knuckles and you do not want to injure yourself or your training-partner, let alone get punch-shy (getting punched with a gloved fist is not pleasant but you’ll live, getting hit for real is enough to want to quit boxing forever). You should always defend every attack that’s coming your way (unless it’s obviously fake) but I do not need to get hit without protection to know that. Might aswell get beaten up on a regular basis to ‘toughen up’ and be turned into a killing-machine (like they do in some thaiboxing-clubs or in certain branches of the military, at least they used too).

I’m sorry but that it is not my way: while I have great passion for the martial-arts and I do want to get as good as I possibly can (which include enduring pain, learn what it’s like to get hit… I’m not a sissy) this is just not worth it. I do have a life outside the martial-arts and since I’m quite fond of my brain I’d like to keep in mint condition for aslong as possible.

Just look at those video’s on youtube and you’ll see what I mean: truly this is nothing but blood-sport, barbaric and totally unhealthy. Boxing professionally already carries high risks (look at Ali: he literally got slapped silly and he’s certainly not the only one) and it would be a bad career-move if you have even half a brain but fighting bare-knuckled is just plain stupidity. I do appreciate a good boxing-match or MMA-fight and there is alot of violence there too (controlled violence, with rules and at least gloves to protect the participants from the worst) but this is just sick. Why not give them swords and let them kill eachother for our entertainment?


PS: this is not ‘hardcore’: hardcore is going oversees to fight for your country and risking life and limb for A WORTHY CAUSE. Bare-knuckled fighting is just lowly, degrading entertainment for idiots by idiots. Just look at those guys: a bunch of cavemen if I ever saw them. Luckily there’s not much of a brain left to destroy…

MARKS said...

ZARA - I think you have misunderstood what the artcile is about. Sparring without gloves (occasionaly, not always) is a great way to get used to not taking blows becuase of the fact that they hurt. To many people nowadays take blows during sparring becuase they are padded up, and this will lead to the same during competition fights or street encounters. Sparring without pads will force those people to move, parry, and practise other defensive techniques. Obviosuly going full contact without pads is not right and not even needed as even soft blows can be felt without doing damadge.

It is just an occasional change from the normal sparring with pads and should be often done.

Anonymous said...

I still disagree and strongly so: I once got hit during training (it was a prearranged exercise, not a sparring-match, with hands left bare as we usually do but he used a rather effective block I was unfamiliar with at the time and I literally ran into his fist) and it nearly broke my nose. Blood was pouring down my gi and luckily they managed to stop it there or I would have been in for a trip to the hospital. What you do during your training is your business but I’d rather not repeat that experience.

Now if you practiced karate for years and have superior control over your strikes (meaning you can stop only inches away from your target): sure, go ahead but even then I would recommend using at least MMA-gloves (and you’ll still feel getting hit with those, believe me, they’re not much bigger than your fist anyway). Training to pull your punches is bad form anyway and it will seriously diminish your fighting-abilities. Fighting depends on reflexes and what and how you trained will manifest itself instinctively.

Like I said: if you deliberately and continously take punches during sparring there’s something seriously wrong with your training and in that case I’d recommend going back to the basics and practicing your defences more. Sparring is not fighting and it has its limitations but most of those limitations are there for a reason: your safety and that of your training-partner.

I do not train for matches or to become ‘the world’s deadliest fighter’ (whatever that is), I train for self-defence, because training is fun and for the sake of the martial-arts themselves and safety in training for me is paramount. I already have too much injuries as it is (due to carelesness or a boodly stupid macho-attitude) and I want to continue doing this for a long, long time. To each his own but I still think this is a rather bad idea: if professional combat-athletes do not train like that (except maybe in pancrease but at least there they use palmheels instead of fists) why should you?



MARKS said...

ZARA - "keep the sparring controlled and sensible". This is what I stated in the lst paragraph. Contact should be sensible becuase of the fact that there is no padding. Slightly harder contact to the body may be acceptable and leg kicks can also be slightly haarder also if agreed by the people sparring. To spar full contact with no pads always is silly and not needed. However becuase of light contact if a technqiue does accidently land, it will be light and will not do damadge, but will remind the people sparring that there defence may need to be tighter.

But as you say, everyone is with there own methods. I dont expect everyone to practise this occasional sparring variation and that is perfectly fine.

Anonymous said...

You know aswell as I do that sometimes in sparring you hit harder than you meant to and in those cases (even if you mutually agreed to keep it friendly and light) the consequences of being on the receiving end of a bare fist will be greater than a gloved one and if you just happened to step in to attack and your opponent countered on the exact same time (called running into a punch)the force of the collision will be anything but light.

But hey, like I said to each his own and if you feel you benefit from that kind of training than that's good for you. You probably have way more experience with sparring than I do (in ju-jutsu we don't do it much, only recently with the addition of kickboxing elements we started making it a part of the routine) and if you're both very experienced and in control I can imagine it would be worth the risk. It's just not for me, certainly not at this moment in time and the training-stage I'm in right now.

Just enjoy your training and be safe.


Anonymous said...

Just one last remark: if you want to train realistically and learn to always keep moving and not just eat the punches like a boxer would (those gloves are alot like little shields, in reality you wouldn’t want someone to punch your hands unless it’s absolutely the only way to protect your face) you should try knife-sparring.

Knife against knife or knife against empty-hand, it doesn’t really matter, but with a knife you know for sure you cannot afford to get hit. With an edged weapon every cut or stab inflicted can be potentially fatal and in knife-fighting the cardinal rule is simply this: get out of the way of the blade and keep moving at all times! You do not want to be where his attack is coming and there is no man on earth who can defend a knife-attack just by blocking (not even Bruce Lee as my sensei would say), let alone by covering-up: he’ll simply cut through your defences or just change the angle and still get you.

At our dojo we train a fair amount of empty-hand vs knife and some knife vs knife and I can ensure you: if you can defend against a knife you can pretty much defend against anything (except of course a gun at long range or a sword which is basically an enlarged version of the knife).

Now I’m not an expert on the history of boxing but I do know before the Americans came to the Phillipines they all boxed in a rather deep stance with the hands stretched out (John O’ Sullivan-style), much like traditional styles like karate or kung-fu still do(even the blocks were practically the same). As American soldiers and sailors encountered the Philipino-styles they organised a few bouts, expecting quick and easy victories against the relatively small Philipinos.

Guess what: they got their asses kicked. The Philipinos were moving around all the time, evading and angling for better attack-possibilities and the Americans just couldn’t keep up. This is because the Philipino-methods of unarmed combat are derived from the knife and meant as a defence against the knife: with a knife quick footwork is all that stands between you and a bloody death and if you keep your arms outstretched he’ll just carve them up.

That’s where boxing got its evasive tactics like bob-and-weave from (which is basically what makes the art so strong, evasion and quick footwork combined with solid, quick punches) and if you train like that you’ll put less emphasis on covering up and absorbing punches.

Don’t get me wrong: covering-up is a great tool and if you got surprised or there are so many shots flying you do not know which to block first it’s often best to just cover your head (better to get hit in the arm than in the nose, temple or jaw) and retaliate when there’s a lull in his attacks. That being said personally I prefer the knife-sparring to bare-hand sparring as a means to achieve the goal of mobility and proper defence/evasion (which is of the utmost importance in any form of fighting, I think we both agree on that).

Just my opinion, nothing more.


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