Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Expell Students Who Dont Spar?

Whilst reading a post on a martial arts forum I occasionally visit, I found a topic posted by a taekwondo teacher. In it he stated that he expelled a student of his because he refused to spar because of his fear of it. (here)

This is something which I have never heard of before. I have heard many times of students refusing to spar because of there fear of it but expelling them because of it, is something completely new to me.

Sparring can be a daunting part of training for some. There are others who can not wait to spar when they start martial arts training but for the ones who have doubts and fears, this is nothing uncommon and something that can be worked on.

The reason why many people start martial arts training is so they can learn self defense. Ask your martial arts colleagues and chances are this is the reason they shall give for starting their training. Sparring is key for this and should be undertaken if one wants to improve there chances of defending themselves better on the streets.

Through training one will be presented with many new things. Kata, bag work, shrimping, rolling, partner exercises, calisthenics, stretching etc. The list goes on. However, one of the most important parts of training which will be new is sparring.

Sparring is the exchange of techniques against an opponent who offers resistance. During sparring the two combatants try there best to subtly, skillfully and cunningly gain the upper hand over there opponents. Sparring is not an exercise where one is beaten unnecessarily. Yes, contact should be used in sparring but hard contact should be worked up to.

Ones initial sparring should consist of light, slow sparring so as he/she can get used to it. This way they can get used to throwing punches and kicks etc and can also get used to receiving them. Through this method of slowly ‘breaking them in’ the doubts and fears experienced before sparring are slowly treated and worked on and through time, one will be able to treat sparring as just another exercise whatever the type of contact used.

Regarding weather one should be expelled because of refusing to participate in sparring is really down to the teacher. Although most people train for self defense, some train simply to get fit, to socialize and don’t want to take the risk of injuring themselves through sparring. If this is the case then it should be considered, and then a decision made. If one refuses to spar though because of fear, then this is something else.

This shows that one is not willing to try and conquer there fears in order to better themselves and this, being one of the key principles of martial arts training, may be enough reason to expel a student.

Which ever way you look at it, sparring is a part of martial arts training. It is needed if one wants to become a good fighter. But, if one has no interest in fighting then there may not be a need to participate in sparring, but then again if one wants to learn martial art techniques without sparring then maybe they will be better off attending some kind of cardio kickboxing workout.

What are your views on this subject?

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Anonymous said...

Interesting post. When sparring in Karate it was never made clear whether it was light or heavy sparring. Therefore as a beginner I took several hard knocks that took away my confidence. I didn't see the value in this. The view was that 'you should be able to take it' therefore strength and aggression prevailed. There was no discussion of 'fear control' or the effects of adrenaline. Most students who were not aggressive went into adrenal dump and soon left. My own viewpoint is that it would have been valuable to discuss the affects of fear, valuable to have graded sparring with heavy sparring confined to higher grades. Instead it was an almost feudal experience with no psychological perspective at all. I learnt more from Geoff Thompsons books than I did down the dojo!

MARKS said...

When striking, I always feel the level of contact should be determined before the spar begins. If someone is new to it, I think learning timing, distance, how to throw successful combinations etc is more important than trying to land a blow hard. Becuase of this the level of contact should be light and harder contact worked up to.

Matt said...

I was surprised by the general attitudes on that forum thread. Of course you want your students to be able to spar right away and overcome that fear on their own, but what makes a great teacher is being able to pull the hesitant students out of their fear and build them until they can perform.

I've never believed in sink or swim at martial arts schools because it is the sinkers that truly need the help in their abilities to defend themselves. It may be tough, and it may take awhile, but as instructors of the martial arts it is our responsibility to do our best to find unique ways to help those people as best we can.

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") on "Expell Students Who Don't Spar?"

The THEN, top assistant instructor at my current TSD decided to make an example of KS and my reluctance to spar. He was determined to get me to quit, and thereby boost his reputation as helping the school's image, getting rid of the 'wannabes.' He was, I later found out, instrumental in having my Yellow-Belt test held up. And we all know that those who refrain from sparring are sissies and weaklings, at least at 'real' karate schools.

One day, there were three of us at an afternoon class. The top assistant instructor, threw a series of athletic-type tests at the three of us; KS did the poorest. I did even worse because I wasn't really trying--seeing what the instructor was trying to do. The two other students were naturally better athletes, and they made it known too that KS wasn't mustering up. Emboldened, the top assistant instructor announced we would be sparring, two-on-one.

Well, Student No. 1 ("YBS"), a young man who was bigger, taller & stronger, had just received his yellow-belt. However, his karate technique was very sloppy; and to boot, he lacked mental confidence.

Student No. 2 was a military police commander ("MPC"), a major who had returned from overseas. He was getting back into karate, having won, as a black-belt, several tournament trophies in his younger days. He was a fairly strong guy; now @ orange-belt testing for green.

Having handily surpassed KS @ the athletic tests and getting the assistant instructor's approval, both students kind of annointed themselves as 'gladiators.' The assistant instructor (portrayed himself as a 'gladiator') started the round robin with MPC & KS against YBS.

MPC took it easy on YBS, but YBS was still unable to put up much of any kind of fight. KS played along, drawing upon my tofu-fu / aero-bofu experience, much to the glee of the assistant instructor and amusement of the other two students. My aero-fu manner even gave YBS some hope he could prevail.

Next, it was YBS and KS versus MPC. YBS couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag; I did my best (TIC) to participate as weakly as possible again. Both MPC & YBS lapped it up, saving themselves for the upcoming slaughter when it would be those two against me. The top assistant instructor eagerly aniticipated a slaughter as well. After all, poor (academic) white-belt KS has practically stumbled through the physical tests.

The top assistant instructor lined up the other two directly on each side of me and said, "Go!"


What was the fate of fearful, reluctant, academic KS, the white-belt who, "wasn't up to sparring?" Would the 'sink-or-swim' ritual 'expel' KS & uphold the reputation of the school as judged by those around me that day?

KS's answer is @ MARKS POST, November 2009, "SPARRING HARD AND SOFT."

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") Epiloge to the "Two-on-One Against KS @ MARKS Post, November 2009, "Sparring Hard And Soft."

KS was kind of 'hard' on his opponents. This was because they weren't really practicing their karate; they were using their natural physical ability to take out their aggression on a seemingly disadvantaged, lower rank. QUESTION, "HOW HARD IS THAT?"

Furthermore, they were pawns, maybe unwitting, of the undehanded, self-promoting top assistant instructor. So in KS's mind, they deserved only some mercy. MPC came out relatively unscathed--he wisely backed off when confronted. Note
some important concepts:

One, is the use of the pre-emptive strike (here the rising Chinese Kempo Backfist) used against YBS. This is a key fighting stratey advanced by many experts in real fighting, including the 'Urban Sammuri' and other contributing experts to MARKS TRAINING. Also key is the readiness to employ follow-up knockdown blows in order to ensure the opponent can't continue.

Two, is the cross-training of other styles leading to a better understanding of your core art. Here, KS followed the path along the lines of Wim Demerre and his kung fu background; with KS it was some basic Chinese Kempo. Incidently, the full-chamber high block in the hard-style karates has similar ATTRIBUTES to the Kempo backfist mentioned.

The part of the sparring with MPC could not be handled by a single, pre-emptive strike type approach. MPC was a fairly good technical fighter, again a kickboxer style. The key lesson here is that the physically-adept fighter (MPC) can not beat the mentally-adept fighter who is physically conditioned. And it's not being 'clever.'

The overall ATTRIBUTES are taught first with basics, then self-defense moves, then on to, yes, Hard-Style Karate's '1-STEP SPARRING.' KS calls it, (1) advance, (2) neutralize & (3) destroy. You tactically position yourself, deal with the attack, then go for the exposed target.

KS has posted @ MARKS two distinct examples of how karate does this against the aggressive, oncoming opponent. MPC received a lengthly version of what the fierce red-belt experienced in my Yellow-Belt test. I'm sure MPC, who was clearly afraid at the time, never realized I was only going @ about 1/2 power, enough to get him thinking about his own vulnerability.

IMO, if the top assistant instructor wants to expell students who don't spar, that's fine. BUT GET THIS: A class or two later, when the top assistant instructor announced sparring, KS requested that he be my sparring partner. The experience of the YSB & MPC versus KS fresh in his mind--HE DECLINED!

So KS has come up with his own sparring rule. IN THE TRADITIONAL KARATE CLASS, 'GLADIATOR WNANABES' GO STRAIGHT TO THE REAR--several rows behind the academics like me.

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