Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Sparring, Winning and Losing

The aim when one spars to be the best. Everyone wants to win without ever getting overpowered and everyone wants to be able to dominate whoever it is they spar with. It is a great feeling to be able to spar with everyone in your dojo/gym and have no worries about being dominated by anyone.

The problem is though, if you are always getting the upper hand of your sparring partners and do not face difficulties or pressure during your sparring, firstly you may become over confident in your abilities thinking you are able to beat everyone, (which is never the case) and secondly you may never work on your weaknesses to improve them.

The following are ways in which you can be easily dominated by your sparring partners, with the purposes of working your defences more, bring up your weaknesses and become a better overall fighter. (For these exercises, it is best to spar with someone who not only understands to control his techniques but also someone who is the same or of similar ability to yourself)

Spar with a handicap – This type of sparring is great for bringing up any weaknesses in your fighting as well as putting yourself at a disadvantage to your opponent who should dominate you. For instance say you are a great kicker but your punches are not so good. You then agree to use just your hands to spar maybe even limiting it to a few punches only, excluding elbows, clinching etc, while your opponent is free to use any technique. Simply because they are able to use more techniques they should dominate you, forcing you to work harder to bring up any weaknesses.

Start from a bad position – No one likes having a good grappler behind them as most likely they shall fall prey to rear naked chokes or other submissions or strikes. In a nutshell, it is a bad position, but one which one can be of use. Starting your sparring from this position or other similar ones which provide your opponent the upper hand are great so as you can get used to them and provide you with the ability to work defences to them. Another good one is to start your sparring with your opponent gaining a full double handed tight clinch, in which you must break free or reverse the position whilst defending close range strikes.

Spar against two or more opponents – When one spars against two or more people the tables soon turn if it is you who are always in control of a single opponent. Having the disadvantage of having to fight multiple opponents will not only put you on the defensive more, forcing you to train areas you do not usually train but is also a great way to practise for real life street scenarios.

Perform drills which go wrong – Drills are used to work techniques over and over again repeatedly, so as they become second nature. However, one practises drill with a (most of the time) compliant partner who will go with the movement and allow you to perform the techniques correctly. (Which is the correct thing to do). A variation to this though, is for your partner to sometimes resist the technique and try to defend it slightly. This will then force you to flow with the nature of the defence into another completely different technique. This will help one to develop awareness to when things go wrong and how to flow from technique to technique, something you may not be doing if you are always dominating your sparring partners.

Regarding submissions, since you will be at a disadvantage to your opponent, chances are they shall catch you in them. If you do find yourself on the receiving end of them don’t try and fight them if they are locked on tightly and don’t let pride get in the way. Simply tap out and continue with the exercise. Similarly, with striking you shall also be caught in bad positions where hard strikes would end the fight. This is where your “good” sparring partner recognises this and does not strike hard to hurt, but just enough to let you know that you are in a bad situation which you must get out of quickly.

These exercises and other similar ones which you can easily create for yourselves are great in order to work areas you do not usually work, but most importantly, they help in bringing ones pride and cockiness down which can easily become out of control, especially if one is always beating up there sparring partners.

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TheMartialArtsReporter said...

So true. Great observation and insight.
In sparring, there is a fine line between being overwhelmed and not being challenged enough.
Years ago after being top dog at a karate
school I switched to a different dojo with
top notch competitors. Boy, did I learn a lot
in really short time just to "survive".
I enjoy your post and your blog.

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") follow on to KS's Comment on MARKS post [February, 2008] "IS SPARRING USEFUL IN THE MARTIAL ARTS?"

At KS's first martial arts school (base, Tae Kwon Do), the assistant instructor's root was in Shorin-Ryu Karate. He was big on forms, those pre-arranged patterns of karate techniques.

I had been there only weeks, when the assistant kind of talked-down-to-me, saying that I, one day, would be doing the "Pinan" forms--before I could even think of, "... getting to his level." I asked him what 'Pinan' stood for; all he said was; "Pine tree."

During my intial tenure at this school, I didn't do anything with forms. KS, though, tucked the conversation with the assistant away, not forgetting the emphasis on forms.

Several years later, at KS's first Tang Soo Do (TSD) school (remembering my first assistant instructor), I was resolved to learn forms. I had been to several martial arts school, but had done little with forms.

The branch instructor at the TSD school showed KS the entire white-belt test exercises. This included the first beginnger hyung (TSD form), Hyung Il Bu. I asked the branch instructor ( a she) how many beginner forms; she said; "Three." I said show me all three and she did. In addition, on KS's request, she showed me the related curriculum for the three belts (white, 1st orange, 2nd orange). I trained all three beginner hyung and the related through Orange 2nd exercises.

After about 3 months, the branch instructor asked if I was ready to take the white-belt test. I said I was still learining the 3 beginner hyung and would test once I knew them well. When I promised; she relented.

After about 5 months, the branch instructor, one day, decided to spring and improptu sparring test on the class. I had always opted out of sparring and she was problably curious how her 'good' student would do--especially since I hadn't tested for white-belt, now overdue.

She split the class (begginers and lower ranks) into two halves, lined up across from each other. You sparred with the student across from you for a minute or two, then moved to the next student to your right, repeating. It was pretty 'light' stuff. I think I had about 6 or 7 sparring partners, including the Branch instructor who joined in.

After class, the Branch instructor approached KS and complimented, "... [I] had done well." I said, "Thanks, so how about showing me the rest of the curriculum up to 1st Degree Black_Belt? She, having an aggressive side like most TSD people, shot a challenge back, "Are you going to take your white-belt test?" She included a face indicating her disapproval, since the test was overdue.

KS said, "No, I changed my mind." Nonplussed, the aggressive she instructor shot back emphatically, "You promised!!!"

KS looked the Branch instructor right in the eye and said, "I just passed my test--I OUTSCORED EVERYONE I SPARRED, INCLUDING YOU!" After a moment of sterness, her gaze changed as she realized I was right! KS then said, "What's next in next forms?" As she got to Bassai [sp?], I asked what were the previous,and what belt level? Answer, "Pyung, 1st Degree Red-Belt." I said, "I'll stop there, teach me those." And she did.

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