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.