Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Sparring Variations

“Sparring is a must”.There are many articles on this site that state that exact phrase and articles in the future will continue to state it. What is also stated in some articles on this site is the fact that sparring has to be varied. Regardless of what style you practise, sparring in the same manner every time will not only prohibit your ability to specifically work on a certain area of sparring but may also get boring.

Varying your sparring from time to time will give you and your sparring partner the chance to work on specific weaknesses which will help in your overall unique fighting style. Below are a few recommendations for sparring variations,

Degree of contact – If you spar light contact, pad yourself up and spar full contact for a few sessions and vice a versa for full contact fighters.

Different quarters - Agree with your sparring partner to spar within a certain distance from each other. For example, during close quarter sparring, a gap of no more than a foot must be kept at all times.

One attacks, one defends – One person attacks and the other can only defend without countering. This is great for “shy” martial artists who may have trouble finding the will to hit there opponent. It does happen.

Concentrating on certain weapons – This can be either hands (boxing) only, legs only, or if its grappling, trying to submit each other with nothing other than arm bars, or leg locks, or chokes etc.

Working on weak defences – Picking one type of defence and sticking with it. Maybe it could be bob and weaving, parrying, ducking, stop hitting etc.

Combination sparring – Every attack must be no less than 3, 4, 5 or more techniques long. For this, it is best for someone watching, to call a number which signifies the amount of techniques in a combination before each one is carried out. This is great for learning to follow through with attacks. Each person takes turns in attacking whilst the other person allows the combination to finish without countering or doing anything to stop the attack.

Limiting the areas – Agreeing to spar only body shots or only head shots etc. Grapplers can maybe agree to stay above the waist, meaning that attacks on/with the legs, either by submission, sweeping or in order to control is prohibited, and that they are only used for moving.

Sparring in awkward positions – Sparring whilst pressed against a wall, cage or even another person, or sparring in small confined areas like corridors, toilets etc, is great for getting used to obstructions around you. Many times fights have broken out in toilets of nightclubs, or corridors in bars where space is limited. For combat sports athletes who fight in rings/cages, this is a must.

These are just a few examples of sparring variations that can be used to work on weaknesses or to sidestep boredom that may occasionally pop up through training. When trying variations in sparring, stick to that specific variation.

Obviously, during a sparring variation, one person may be at a disadvantage to the other and may think he/she is “losing”. It is very easy at this point to let pride take over and start fighting in a way which does not keep within the rules of the variation. Try to stop this from happening.


 Subscribe to

Related Articles...
Sparring Mistakes and Progression
Gi or No Gi Grappling
Street Fighting Weapons
Sparring Intensity in Martial Arts
Ring and Cage Fighting

Tags: , , ,

I'm reading: Sparring VariationsTweet this! Share


Lori O'Connell said...

Great post! Very true. We also like to do sparring against multiple attackers to change things up on occasion. It's amazing how different it is from sparring one-on-one.

MARKS said...

LORI - Yes, it is very different to sparring against one person. Is great practise for keeping you on your toes. If I did not have an article about it, It would be mentioned in this one.

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") on The 4th Progression in Hard-Style Karate '1-STEP SPARRING.'

KS has presented three kinds /levels of progression found in Tang Soo Do (TSD) '1-STEP SPARRING TECHNIQUES.' @ MARKS February 2009 post, "Sparring Mistakes and Progression."

With this 4th Progression, KS is going to recognize a critically important theme MARKS has posts on, regarding variations and reality testing your sparring / fighting.

To review, the 1st TSD '1-STEP' goes:

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

NOTE: We didn't say what kind of Right Punch the attacker threw. Typically in karate, this is the lunge punch (Shotokan) or straight middle punch (TSD). This punch is problably the easiest to block because of its chambered start, linear path and extended position (Applied fighters will jump all over this!).

Well, what if the attacker is a boxer who has a variety of punches at his disposal. These could be right cross, overhand right, right roundhouse, right jab, or even right hook. These, just as boxers claim, can be difficult to block. Furthermore, the dangerous Right hook could go around your block and really 'clock' you.

Let's take the dangerous Right hook since it is theoretically good boxing counter against this 'elementary' 1-STEP. Referring back to an article by a Guest author @ "RossBoxing," website, claiming the superiority of boxing vs. traditional martial arts, the Guest author-20 year boxer says, "[sparring with boxing brings real fighting ability] not from memorizing any sort of pre planned moves." The Guest author-boxer apparently dimisses karate's 1-STEP SPARRING.

Progression, together with the culmination of skills utilized in '1-STEP SPARRING, provides the answer (not a guarantee!). FIRST, the type of blocking action set up by the 1-STEP has an arcing-type motion, rather than say the most basic, rigid outside middle block (These are APPLIED techniques). SECOND, KS has stressed the building of mental strength through concentration, as well as tactical intelligence. Against the standard karate punch described above, the block is targeted to contact where it has the maximum effect. A concept is learned: the key words are CONCENTRATE and TARGET. YOU ARE NOT just throwing a 'memorized movement' up against a standardized attack. Specifically, you have learned a conceptual defense and counter attack against a certain offensive situation--someone trying to punch you.

The applied karate goal is for the block to have the MAXIMUM EFFECT, i.e. to work well, BY CONTACTING THE TARGET WHERE THAT MAXIMUM EFFECT WILL OCCUR. So, as the striking arm changes, the target changes, and you CONCENTRATE AND alter the Left blocking motion to hit the TARGET as defined. In MARKS' words, "Sparring Variations."

What else is useless (TIC) about this 'memorized pre planned studpidy?' Even the boxer should agree that since you have stepped out at an angle, the attacker must change the punch's original trajectory to follow you, robbing them of time, some power, accuracy, at the least making him/her shift position [which a good boxer certainly could do].

Finally don't forget You (the defender) are synonomous with the block, rocketing a power strike to the left side of the Attacker's head. Once your 1_STEP reaches Step (2), there's two problems facing the Attacker. And altering or changing the punch to miss your block is not the immediate or biggest worry!

If the boxer succeeds in foiling my 1-STEP SPARRIMG counterattack, what would you think my next 'progressive' move might be. SORRY, too late! KS has already done it!

KarateStudent said...


MARKS has done a number of recent posts this year about marital arts training, basic and advanced. MARKS mentions that it is of utmost importance to think of basics as learning attributes of martial arts skill, not just simple routines.

MARKS continues saying that as these basic attributes are learned and practiced, they take on the character of 'advanced' technique.

Some time ago, MARKS posted a Shotokan Karate master, Hirokazu Kanazawa, "H.K. on Kata" [August, 2008]. In that post, H.K., and MARKS in follow-up comment, talk about the interprtations and variations of Kata Bunkai (applications) that make kata practical and according to H.K., "... come alive."

KS is going to take this advice and relate it to Tang Soo Do (TSD) '1-STEP SPARRING,' in the form of a 5th Progression of skilled application, a variation for the very first 1-Step Sparring Technique taught in TSD. The kind of variation may surprise you; I remember it did my opponent.

See MARKS November 2008 Post, "Sparring Intensity in Martial Arts."

Anonymous said...

Wеll to mе Mаrtіal Aгts means respect and discіpline.

I hаνe trainеԁ in different Martial arts nоw for well above
15 yеars. Ι have seеn а considerable
amount of people come anԁ gο but one other thing that I haνe noticed is the respect
anԁ discipline haѵing changed thosе peoples ρеrceptiοn of life.

Chilԁren that have staгted which have been on
the wrong side of the traсkѕ,
alwауs in tгouble аnd no iԁea
hoω to rеsреct other κids. Place
them іn a controlled environment with ԁіscіpline and fighting and they
soon start to understand.
Martial arts is a great technique foг infants and adultѕ to get rid of their aggression without hurting or bullyіng anyone.
Here is my page ...

Post a Comment