Monday, 23 November 2009

Sparring, Hard and Soft

When it comes to sparring, there are two ways in which it can be carried out, which are hard or soft. Weather it is striking, throws and takedowns, ground grappling or a mixture of all, sparring can be done in a hard fashion or a soft fashion.

Hard sparring – Hard sparring means that sparring should be carried out with full intensity and that your aim is to win every encounter with your opponent. An encounter could be something as simple as defending your opponent who is trying to pass your guard, or attacking with a 3 punch combination followed by a roundhouse kick. In hard sparring, the aim is to not let your opponent off with anything and to take advantage of every opportunity.

Soft Sparring – During soft sparring, although the intensity should still be high, your aim is to not always win every encounter, but to purposely let your opponent sometimes get the better of you and vice versa. By doing this, there is an allowance between the both of you to practise certain techniques, combinations or strategies with the satisfaction of being able to practise, something that does not happen in hard sparring. If you have your opponent in your guard for example and he is trying to pass, allow him to pass you a few times, or if striking, allow your partner to practise a defence and attack combination without fighting back. Offer some resistance, maybe 50% worth but allow your opponent to practise techniques and hopefully he should do the same for you.

Hard sparring MUST be carried out when preparing for competitions, simply because the nature of competitions is to win. Also hard sparring is a must for self defence. One must always have in mind to win on the streets and if one does not train to win and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes there way, no matter how “dirty” it may seem, then they shall be doing themselves an injustice.

By soft sparring only, one will not truly prepare for battle adequately, and rarely will be able to cope with the rush of competition fighters or a self defence situation on the street. However, saying that, soft sparring does have its place. By sparring softly, one is able to practise techniques and is able to alter any problems that occur with them with them, under sparring conditions where there is some resistance. Soft sparring allows martial artists to programme timing, movement and a repertoire of techniques into there muscles so that they can be used without even thinking, when engaging in hard sparring later.

Sparring is a means to an end. A way of practising for real combat, be it on the street or in a sporting event. Sparring must be carried out thoughtfully and with patience. Those who use sparring as a way to beat up people are doing themselves and there sparring partners no favours. Sparring gives one the chance to practise executing the techniques, they spend hours learning and drilling, on bags, up and down the dojo or even from books and videos. If it is used wisely, it can produce some unbelievable results.


Marks
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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark, Reminds me of a colleague who enrolled for a Karate beginnners course. The time came for his first sparring session and the Brown Belt facing him hit him full force in the stomach after the bow. My colleague retorted "Why did you do that!" to which the Brown Belt responded "Well, You've got to learn haven't you". Suffice to say my colleague never returned for lesson 2.

John W. Zimmer said...

Good post! Yep the trick is to learn and not run out of sparring partners either so both are important.

The only thing I'd add here is teaching people is a fine line. On the one hand you are trying to hold back so they learn stuff but of course holding back you can be injured by the odd overzealous combination.

Anonymous said...

Good info!!

There should probably be goals in mind for each:
hard sparring
1) work on timing and distance. anyone can pound the heck out of a bag...the real kicker is can you make contact on a live person.

2) practice executing various combo's or new techniques.

Soft sparring
1) work on new combo's and techniques in a somewhat safe environment

2) worst case scenario- let your uke get to the desired "winnable" position and see if you can find the counter. try a number of locks/holds and fight your way out. especially important for ground work.

john

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") on Final Answer to MARKS POST, March 2010, "EXPELL STUDENTS WHO DON'T SPAR?"

BACKGROUND: The then top assistant instructor at my current Tang Soo Do ("TSD") karate school tried to get me to quit. He did this by setting up a round robin two-on-one sparring session. The final round had KS against two athletically better, higher-ranked students.

Student No. 1 was younger, bigger, taller & stronger ("YBS"), stood 3-4 feet to my left. Student No. 2, a military police commander ("MPC") was set the same distance to my right.

KS was aware from their manner that all three were tacitly anticipating my slaughter. The top assistant instructor, there by himself that afternoon--so clever no one to step in if things got out of hand; said, "Go!" WHAT HAPPENED?

KS immediately slid left in a horse-riding stance @ YBS, and threw past YBS's karate guard, a chinese kempo-like rising backfist strike @ YBS's face, hitting him with force. YBS was knocked right to the ground, falling and hitting his head. This temporarily put YBS out of the fight.

KS pivoted and faced MPC who though surprised, stood his ground. KS advanced purposely (just like forms teach you) hands in TSD guard and ready to go. MPC tried to fight but quickly decided to back pedal away. In the meantime, YBS had recovered and came @ KS while I was preoccupied with my attack on MPC.

Once YBS appeared in range, KS repeated the same sliding horse stance / Chinese Kempo rising backfist strike @ YBS's head. This time, YBS thought he was prepared, having changed his TSD guard to that two-hands-held-high boxer's guard.

RESULT: YBS was knocked to the floor a second time. WHY? The power of my rising backfist smashed into / through his boxer's guard--his arms & hand(s) and my forearm (some combination of) slammed again right into his face.

YBS was now out of the fight altogether. Had he tried to get up, he sensed KS would have hit him again with that same full-body power backfist. And this time, however, I would have hit him just as he was getting to his feet--to completely finish him off. YBS (mentally) gave up.

Suddenly, I realized that MPC had closed and thrown a front kick to my groin (Pulled, thank you!) which would have scored on the street. As MARKS has said, multiple opponents are nearly impossible to escape from without injury. MPC, however, was no match for me one-on-one.

WHY did this one kick score? KS had made the fatal error of momentarily dropping my MENTAL guard, was perhaps too absorbed on finishing YBS with that possible 3rd Chinese Kempo rising backfist. It's a judgement call; and sometimes it's a win_&_lose situation.

FIRST LESSON: The effectiveness of the BOXER'S GUARD, can be put to the test by a full-body power karate strike. The essence of the whole-body power strike is the concept of 'one-strike-kill.' People get so caught up in the one-strike-kill as if it's a technique.

The more valuable lesson of the concept is that you hit your opponent so hard that he is hurt, then disarmed, then ultimately disabled. The sensible approach is to plan for three such blows--here it took two to 'take out' YBS.

SECOND LESSON: The power karate develops in the body is not exactly the same as athletics. The applied goal of that whole-body power is to be able to 'BAM' dynamically hit your opponent & he's hurt; BAM, he's down; and maybe BAM one more time & he's out of the fight.

THIRD LESSON: You don't need a lot of technically complicated techniques or advanced boxing skills. It's the telling effect of seemingly basic, here Chinese Kempo rising backfist, thrown from one of those awful, fixed, immobile? karate stances, the (TSD, Kempo) sliding horse-riding stance, using full body power.

This quick, decisive knockdown capability, to KS, is the essence of karate-do. And I didn't acquire it from free-sparring.

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