Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sparring Intensity in Martial Arts

Sparring is needed in martial arts. It is one of, if not the best way, to try and apply the basic principles and techniques you practise for hours on end, against an opponent who is doing his best to resist.

The level of contact which is needed when striking should also be given considerable thought. Although full contact techniques will quickly teach you how to give and receive blows and should definitely be trained, it is not always necessary or wise to spar this way and lighter contact may provide opportunities to practise different combinations, without the fear of being punished too badly for leaving openings.

I remember one time while sparring, I let my partner attack first as to get an inclination of the level of intensity and contact he wanted to use. By the ferocity and lack of control of his attacks, I assumed he wanted to spar full contact with high intensity, which was no problem for me. As the sparring pursued, I started to land some hard blows of my own and one of the things which I noticed was that the high intensity and hard contact which he started with, slowly started to ease off ending up with much lighter contact, so I also eased off a little. Afterwards I did not think anything of this, but I found out that this person was telling others that I was in a way bullying him and using too much contact.

After I heard about this, I was very disappointed with this person.

My own personal thoughts when it comes to sparring intensity are that whatever level of intensity one wants to use is completely fine as long as the person they are sparring with is in agreement. After all, one of the reasons we learn martial arts is how to fight, which means hard, fast contact must be used from time to time, weather it be hard strikes, furious throws or fast paced grappling. But one thing that I do not agree on, is that your sparring partner can not also use the same amount of intensity. You must be prepared to receive exactly what you give, without any excuses or any complaints afterwards. Everyone trains in order to learn and everyone will get dominated during sparring from time to time and the best way to deal with it is to practise more, reassess where you think you need improvements and always strive to better yourself.

Others may have different opinions on this and that is fine, but these are mine. Sparring should be an educational exercise. It should be used wisely, practised often and eventually improvements will be made. It should never be used as a way to beat others up, because sometimes you may find yourself on the receiving end.


 Subscribe to

Related Articles...
High Intensity Martial Art Training
Sloppy Martial Arts
MMA Fighters Endurance
Towel Chin Ups
Uchi Mata for MMA

Tags: , , ,

I'm reading: Sparring Intensity in Martial ArtsTweet this! Share


John Vesia said...

I can relate to your story about your sparring partner. If they lack control you have to make them pay and just hope for the best.

Sparring should be done with medium contact most of the time, but it helps to really kick it up a notch to get a good feel for what an actual fight is like.

KarateStudent said...


KS continues to come across traditional martial arts (TMA) writers who emphatically believe that the pre-arranged & orchestated type of '1-STEP SPARRING' of 'Hard-Style' karates doesn't stack up against real fighters, actual fighting.

One says karate doesn't work in MMA because your opponent isn't stationary like the stationary exercises done in karate. Boxing, he says, teaches how to fight moving fighters. Another says that TMA routines are great to practice the artistic side of TMA; for actual self defense, the TMA techniques are 'symbolic' compared to modern, military-like self-defense arts. A third says the TMA kata is completely worthless for fighting; he likens kata to dancing.

KS acknowledges that the views of these martial artist / applied fighters has truth. People use applied fighting methods because they work.

KS advocates that 'Hard-Style' karates '1-STEP SPARRING' does work. KS has set out this position in MARKS' Posts of "Is Sparring Useful in the Martial Arts;" "Sparring Mistakes and Progression;" "Sparring Variations." KS presents the very 1st two '1-STEPS' taught in Tang Soo Do (TSD).

In my last days sparring as a Yellow-Belt @ my current TSD school, KS faced a white-belt / beginner who, like MARKS opponent above, got carried away with his natural punching ability. My policy on free-sparring @ entry-level, to practice basics 'softly,' went-right-out-the-window.

My opponent was one of the minority of students smaller than KS. BUT, his natural speed was like a mongoose. Here I was trying to do the full range-of-motion basic TSD blocks and ... KS never got off a punch. The white-belt beginner mongoose-like speed punches were right in my face! His punches were so fast I literally couldn't see them.

The white-belt beginner wasn't a trained fighter; but at this moment he didn't need to be---scoring easily time and again. Well KS is not at a karate school to throw punches from basic instinct. So I continued to try and get the white-belt beginner to settle down and do the basics I was attempting. MY REWARD? Superfast mongoose punches flying right in my face.

The white-belt beginner was pulling his punches so I wasn't getting hurt (much). But he was clearly winning the match punching me incredably fast over and over--too fast for me to PRACTICE raw, basic form. I was able to buy some 'thinking' time by throwing front kicks into his face as he moved in. This did fend off his advances so he couldn't land those punches.

In a case like this where an opponent's natural ability far outshines your own, what do you APPLY? Unlike MARKS or 'John Vesia,' I did not want to escalate to 'harder-sparring' just to match his example. KS sought to keep it purely a learning exercise for both our benefit.

KS paused in his front kicks and the mongoose white-belt moved in ready to delight in throwing another mongoose-speed punch, none of which KS had avoided. At my pause, he stepped left and threw a left mongoose-punch right @ my face.

This time, though, KS's wasn't there. Instead of kicking, as the mongoose-beginner stepped left, KS stepped out Right, hands chambering @ R waist shifting simultaneously to Left Defense-Blocking his L punching arm & Right High Punching the L SHOULDER. And..., I put some power [intent] into that punch, which SMACKED straight into his shoulder.

The 'sting' KS put in that punch caused the mongoose-beginner to stop & drop both his hands. A look of realization came across his face. Overzealous reliance upon his greater, natural ability had caused him to lose the fight!


KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") Analysis of 5th Progression in Tang Soo Do (TSD) '1-STEP SPARRING.'

What happened here? Using the very 1st '1-STEP SPARRING' Technique taught in the TSD curriculum, KS 'took out' a fighter whose natural, physical ability [here, speed] I could never match.

PART 1 in the analysis, review this 'CANNED' technique, as one of the TMA critics mentioned in my comment above, FLAT OUT SAYS CAN NEVER WORK, refers to TSD's '1-STEP SPARRING.'

(A) Attacker: Steps forward right, throws a right punch, then stops (left hand chambered @ L side);
(B) Defender (YOU):
(1) Steps out [my] Right (attacker's left) @ angle into a horse stance, both hands chamber @ waist;
(2) Perform a closely coordinated L block to the attacker's Right Punching Arm & R Punch to the Left side of the attacker's head.

The sharp-eyed TMA critics in the group mentioned above--incidently all claim to hold advanced-degree blck-belts in TMA--will jump and say, "...this isn't what happened in the mongoose-beginner sparring match." And they are exactly right!

First, KS went to the SHOULDER, instead of to the head. WHY,? for safety sake since I actually forcefully hit the mongoose white-belt. Second, according to the critics, according to their thinking, I did the '1-STEP' WRONG; KS should have stepped Left (the the attacker's Right side) against a Left Punch. WHY:? (1) Because KS didn't want to run into a superfast Right mongoose punch--I wanted to stay away from both punching hands. So, I went to the outside of his striking zone for either hand! (2) In committing to those superfast punches, KS recognized the white-belt beginner (probably) leaves himself open to the type of strategy & tactics demonstrated by the 1st TSD '1-STEP.' And, this is how it played out.

KS reponse to the three non-believers of traditional martial arts (TMA) fighting: You have confused memorization with learning. Memorization is a first, basic mental training OBJECTIVE, in the overall GOAL of learning technique, tactics and strategy of '1-STEP SPARRING' usage.

KS likes to say that, "... karate starts physical and goes mental." Although KS used the structure of the very first TSD '1-STEP,' I deliberatly stuck the shoulder instead of to the head. I deliberatly went to the opposite side compared to what the 'canned' technique taught.

As the goals for the situation changed, in other words, as circumstancs changed, KS consciously changed his actions. KS changed what he did with his karate, BUT still adhering to the underlying principles. The guiding TMA Maxim: The MIND directs the body AT ALL TIMES.

To the three TMA naysayers, KS says, it's not the TMA training that is 'canned,' it's your thinking when you are doing TMA training that's 'canned.' TMA is a mental exercise, not a physical one (Remember MARKS Post October 2009 Post, "HOW TO FIGHT?").

Author, Don Graden comes across pretty bad in the video because (in my opinion), you can't do justice to the mental aspect of martial arts fighting in a couple-of-second video clip. Rhetorically (for argument sake), however, Don Graden saying that , "...fighting is 90% mental;" is absolutely right.

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") on Analysis of 5th Progression in Tang Soo Do (TSD) 1-STEP SPARRING;

------------ PART B ----------------------------
The 5th part of the analysis has a second part. You could actually call it the 6th or 7th (KS is losing track!) Progression in 1-Step Sparring, if you want.

This Part B actually opens the door into an area of the mental aspect of martial arts training. KS believes the two dimensions of traditional maritial arts training that separates it from the athtletic, applied fighter, boxer type trainig is (A) Full Body Power (both external & internal) and (B) [Discliplined] Mental Power.

Analysis Part B covers the fact that we can either (i) do the 1st TSD 1-step sparring technique on the inside of the opponent's striking hand [as taught], hence blocking Left against opponent's R; or, (ii) we can go to the outside of the striking hand [not taught], hence blocking Left against L. In (i), we are inside the opponent's defenses & it's hard for the boxer-type fighter to cover their entire head with only 1 hand. In (ii), we are outside the opponent's defenses, however, both of his potential striking hands are tied up by the L against L block. Your R has a free shot to the head.

KS knows this is hard to understand in verse. But the message is unmistakable. The exact same side 1st TSD 1-STEP SPARRING TECHNIQUE CAN BE USED USED AGAINST EITHER A R OR L HAND PUNCH! Moreover, the recommended practice of training both R & L Side approaches now gives you four alternatives against incoming punches. Of course you have to gauge the situation carefully and make the appropriate adjustments. Remember, karate is a mental discipline, not a physical game.

MARKS BASIC TRAINING MAXIM unlocks the dynamic effectiveness of karate: WE ARE TRAINING ATTRIBUTES; NOT ROBOTS.

Post a Comment