Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thoughts on Sparring

Tournament is coming. As such, I have been attending Fight Club and Tournament Club to practice my sparring and my kata. Mostly sparring since I can practice my kata at home. 

I honestly had little intention of going to tournament to spar. Ultimately though, I decided it would be good experience to go and see what its like. Tournament sparing has been described to me by Nick as playing tag. And from the way the rules have been explained, it more or less seems like its going to be that way. You don't even have to make contact to score... how is this supposed to teach us anything about real fighting? You have to pull your punches, you're not allowed to make contact, if you do, it should be only light contact and you should not follow through. Whats the point? This is MARTIAL ARTS, this is learning the art of war, learning how to kill, maim and destroy your enemy, how to protect yourself and your family. You should be expecting bumps and bruises, you need to know what it feels like to get hit and have the wind knocked out of you.... anyway, enough of my soapbox.

The point is, I have been giving the matter some thought.

Fight Club last night we were going over rules, the targets that are ok to hit, among other things. We practiced sparring at 20% speed to work on less power, focusing on combinations, paying attention to fighting to the judges point of view. (This is because if you hit them to get a point, and the judge doesn't see it, you don't get the point, so you could still lose even if you technically score more points or are a better fighter)

After that we did some sparring tournament style.

My observations and thoughts are as such. If was actually kind of interesting to slow things down a bit and not have to worry about just trying to defend myself and attack at full speed. Its good to focus, to look for openings, to be able to try get your foot work down and concentrate on body movement, checking, countering, etc. Even if point sparring is nothing like a fight, I think it can still help you build some of the fundamentals and at least help you get a grasp on the mechanics of a fight. Especially if you've never been in a fight before.

Its very difficult to put into words what I am trying to say, perhaps I'll be able to articulate it at a later point, but for now, I'll just say that even though I think point sparring is for the most part... pointless. (haa) It can still have its uses. I think the trick is to make sure we do not ever confuse sparring the dojo or at tournament with a real fight. When you sparr, it is good to have control and discipline so you do not hurt your partner. I also think this will be good experience for when I want to be a teacher, being able to fight or demonstrate without hurting or overwhelming my students. 

With that said, when you practice kicking, punching, kata, etc. Do not hold back, practice your forms like your life depends on it, and if you are ever in a fight for your life, don't hesitate and don't hold back. Work on things like breathing, proper form, and power generation so you can defend yourself if you need to. Take sparring for what it is, and learn what you can from it. There are times when I want to full on contact sparr, which I can sometimes do at the dojo with my upper classmates. Sparring is sparring, a fight is a fight. They are not the same thing. Do not confuse the two, realize that sparring is nothing like a fight and do not train in bad habits and reactions from sparring. The trick is, I'm not 100% sure how to NOT do that yet... I have mentioned my thoughts, what I think you can do to help keep this from happening, but I don't know for certain.

I'm still trying to make sense of my own thoughts on the subject at this point, and how to not practice one as the other, so this post is probably a bit jumbled. But I feel like it is a step in the right direction at least. 


  1. I kinda see tournament sparring a lot like sparring in the training hall. In the dojo, I'm trying NOT to hurt my uke, so I'm not punching with full power. In the ring, I'm actually punching - although also not quite full-power so as not to blast my opponent too much - but my timing is the same as it would be if we were really duking it out. It is like a game of tag, but a roundhouse or a reverse punch to the gut hurts still. The difference is I'm able to say "Ooo! Good hit!" and continue "fighting." What it isn't is "real" fighting - you're kind of right about that - but I'm hoping this is as close to actual hand-to-had combat as I ever, ever have to get...

    For me, I guess the differences are INTENT and INTENSITY. But both are also different depending on if I'm fighting white belts or other black belts in the dojo. Or on the street: am I trying to stop the fight or stop the person (as in FOREVER)? Running away will stop the fight. So will smashing a forearm hard enough to make some nerves scream/break a bone. So will knocking someone out. Which one I chose will depend on the situation.

    Fighting in the ring/in the dojo are just different situations to me, that's all. But I hear you :-)

  2. I think for my school its kind of the opposite. At tournament we're trying not to hurt each other and asked not to make contact. From what I have gathered this changes as you progress through the ranks, with black belts making controlled contact. When we practice at my dojo, we spar with control, but we still hit each other with force. I have had the wind knocked out of me and received some bruises, but its not personal or out of aggression. I think another element to this is the fact that I'm sparring people who are 3, 4, and 9 ranks above me. If I were sparring another yellow belt I wouldn't spar with them the same way I do with the black belts, like you said.

    Its also not like I want to go out and pick street fights, or that I hope I am ever in a situation where I have to fight for my life if I am abducted or something. I'm saying is that, IF that happens, I want to be well equipped to deal with it.

    Again, I'm just trying to get some of my thoughts out. I don't like or agree with the idea of point sparring, but I am seeing that it can and does have its uses, even if I prefer the more rough and tumbled approach.

  3. Tried posting a comment and it didn't work. So here is the link to my site where I wrote some suggestions.

  4. Nice post, you get the point: stress and the ability to get more training even if it does not get you a trophy: Perspective and awareness, ... ;-)