Contact in Sparring

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Azulx, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. Azulx

    Azulx Black Belt

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    Different school's have different levels of contact rules during sparring. (ex: no contact, light, moderate, and full) Why is this? Are all contact levels effective? Our school only allows up to moderate level strikes. We had a black belt from Germany come to our program and his school had only no contact sparring. At first he was a bit awkward with the contact, but after a month he was actually pretty good. I don't know if that was just a specific case, of his ability do adapt to our style, or if it isn't an easy transition to be able to go from different levels of contact. So for example if you have never made contact during sparring will you be able to adapt to a situation were you need to use full, or lethal contact on the street, or any dangerous situation?
     
  2. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    You would have to ask the owners of those schools. I would guess you would get as many answers as people you ask, though.

    Effective for what?

    That's another question that I doubt you will get a consensus answer to, because I doubt that there *is* one answer that fits every situation.

    There are some self-defense techniques, I am sure you know many of them as well as I do, that cannot be performed 'full force' in the dojo. Breaking elbows and knees and collarbones, for example, is frowned upon. Yet if we find ourselves in a self-defense situation, we may wish to do exactly that? How, then, should we train so that we can instantly apply deadly or very damaging techniques on another human being, without having done it 'for real' in the dojo?

    I do not think there is a good answer for this.

    In general, I believe it is good to practice with some contact in the dojo. At least enough to understand when a technique is working and when it is not. To be hit with enough power to understand something of what it is like, to hit with enough power to get a notion of how the opponent reacts, how the hit feels, and so on.

    I know that over time, my power, speed, and precision have increased. I am no master, I am only a student, but I do know that when I hit or kick now, if I do not restrain myself, I hurt people. I presume that means that if I had to do it 'for real' I would NOT restrain myself and I would in fact hurt people; hopefully the right people for the right reasons. Would I 'hold back' as they say, 'on the street'? I do not know for myself, but I know that some of my dojomates have had to apply their training in self-defense situations and it worked for them. I can only hope it will work for me as well.

    But this is guesswork, based on some limited experience and observations and listening to others describe their experiences.

    In the end, I cannot train 'full force' and would not want it done to me. I am a martial artist, but I am also a 54 year old man who has to go to work in the morning. I don't mind explaining the occasional bruise or black eye or why I am limping a bit, but I have to be able to type, I can't have broken bones and permanently damaged joints and so forth. If that was required, I'd stop training. I am too old for that nonsense anymore. If my training, which is moderate contact but not full-force is not sufficient, then oh well. It is what it is.
     
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  3. Azulx

    Azulx Black Belt

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    For these type of questions, I am looking more for other people's opinions, than a right answer. I find it very interesting to see what other people do in their schools, and what their perspectives are on things.

    In regards to effectiveness, what I meant by that was, will that type of training prepare the student to be able to defend himself/herself, if necessary, outside of the dojang.
     
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  4. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    OK. My opinion is that although it would be ideal to get lots of actual practice breaking a human knee or elbow or collarbone, that's not practical, so we do the best we can without permanently injuring each other, and hope for the best if we ever have to use it.

    Depends on the individual. I can tell you that I have military training which I received alongside thousands of other men, identical training. We do not all respond the same way when the situation calls for violence. Some people freeze, some fight like demons, some are foolhardy and take stupid chances, some are both brave and smart, some run away. But they all had the same training.

    It's not the training as much as you might think. People are different. Situations are different. Training is important but it's far from the only determinant of how a person defends themselves or fails to do so in a given circumstance.
     
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  5. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    It's a trade-off. Higher levels of contact allow a more "educational" training experience in a number of ways. On the other hand, the higher the level of contact, the more injuries you will sustain over time and that can impede your training (not to mention your life in general).

    I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer. I do think that a serious martial artist should explore hard-contact sparring at some point along the way, but I don't think it needs to be an all-the-time thing.
     
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  6. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    My general opinion is that a person wouldn't be able to adapt and defend using their fighting system if they haven't done contact sparring

    There's a lot of sensory information that the brain analyzes when making contact and that information becomes beneficial when fighting. The way a punch feels when it lands on you sometimes gives you necessary information that you need in order to respond. Things like was the punch hard or just a distraction can be determined by the impact that it makes. The brain processes and analyzes information received through contact. The better the brain recognizes the impact the better it'll do in processing that information.

    Even when I practice arm breaks, I make contact because I need to understand hand placement. Some of my sparring partners will practice knee breaks by slowly kicking me in the thigh as if they were breaking my knee. This helps the understand the required distance and foot placement that's needed. I couldn't imagine wrestlers and BJJ practitioners never making contact during sparring and still be efficient with BJJ.

    If on a simple level of riding a skateboard or rollerskates, or even a bike, can you really learn how to do those things without making contact? Can you learn how to shoot pool by only practicing without making contact with the pool stick and ball. Playing tennis or basketball is the same thing. So I don't see why martial arts would be an exception.

    Non-contact sparring means that only visual information is being processes. Contact sparring means that both visual and tactile information is being process.
     
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  7. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, my answer above was assuming the OP practices a striking art. For grapplers, contact is a given from day one.
     
  8. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    I was assuming the same thing as well. It's just the grappling example was much easier than me trying to explain that I can sometimes tell which direction a person is going to move after punching me because sometimes a person will push off from the punch instead of quickly returning the hand. Grappling was the "low fruit" visual

    I think the OP actually answered their own question because the OP stated that the person who had never done contact sparring was awkward for a month. My guess is that in a real fight he would have been awkward as well.
     
  9. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    In our school, we start students with no contact (mostly because new students might not even have gear...) and then progress contact as training progresses.
    We spar with hand and foot pads and a mouth guard. We do not normally use hogu.
    Contact levels are initially kept light to avoid injury. This is especially important with students who have never actually been hit in their lives. It takes them time to learn that no, they're not going to die just because they got tagged.
    Contact levels are allowed to increase as students mature, but this is by consent, not mandate. This is worked out either by the people talking to each other ("Hey, I'm kind of sore today, can we keep it light?") or behavior - our convention is that the lower rank sets the level of contact and the higher rank will match it - or by simply knowing the persons preferences.
    Personally, I prefer to spar with a fairly high level of contact, but I am not looking to knock out or injure students, so it's certainly not full contact. Bruises, yes. Broken bones, no.

    If one of the reasons you're training is to defend yourself from an attack (not everyone is) then some degree of contact is preferable. I do not think full contact is really necessary, except (arguably) for those training for knockout competitions.
     
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  10. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Full contact and light contact are different games.

    To break that idea down to one technique as an example. I can block a light contact head kick with one hand. I should not block a heavy contact kick like that.
     
  11. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    Contact, yes, but it's still controlled. In my (admittedly limited) experience, grapplers apply techniques with increasing force, giving the person time to tap out, and generally (except for the most thugish) stopping short of applying enough power to actually break or dislocate the limb, as opposed to instantly applying as much force as you can.

    Full contact in either grappling or striking (other than at the highest levels of competition) is likely to result in a lot of time spent healing instead of training.
     
  12. crazydiamond

    crazydiamond Purple Belt

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    We do various types of sparing - grappling, weapons, kick boxing, and boxing. In most cases our instructor is telling us to keep it at about 20-30% power. The intensity of the boxing sparing (at least for me a beginner) has the power/energy similar to this video. Except my instructor does not want headgear.
     
  13. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Well put. To answer the original question, I think ALL levels of contact (including "no contact") have their place. In my classes, brand new students are not allowed to make contact with strikes - they simply don't have enough control yet to keep from hitting people hard. Once I can trust their control, strikes are very light contact. Mid-range students are light and moderate contact. Advanced students are moderate contact, with some heavy contact where appropriate (occasionally when sparring/practicing with equal skill).

    Less contact means less injury and purer form, usually.
    More contact means truer reaction, better feel for punching, and less shock at getting hit later.
     
  14. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    "Development Sparring" it's good to hear people using this approach to sparring.
     
  15. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Just a follow-up on your comment on the kick to the thigh to simulate the knee. We use similar near-target strikes. In fact, last class I was teaching some defenses against a bear hug attack, including groin strikes. For the groin strikes, we typically slap the front of the thigh with the back of the hand. If the slapper and the slappee both trust the slapper, then the slap can be pretty hard. Interestingly, this gets a pretty appropriate reaction from the guys in the class. :oops:
     
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  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Agreed, though even there it varies. There are some throws that can never be done full-power, unless you have a special landing pad AND a very skilled partner. And even the softer throws and takedowns, those have to be done slower and softer with newer students until their falls improve. This is pretty analogous to the progression of strike contact I mentioned earlier.
     
  17. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Agreed. Striking with zero contact, in my experience, breeds some odd weight shifts, sometimes strange movement, and even bad form (contrary to my earlier comment).
     
  18. Buka

    Buka Sr. Grandmaster

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    Allow me, if you will, to be a complete and utter hypocrite.

    We only do contact sparring. I don't know anything about no contact, can't even imagine it. How heavy the contact depends on what we're doing and who's doing it. Advanced guys boxing, kickboxing, rolling or just karate slamming are one thing, newbies are another.

    But I don't allow hard kicking to the legs in any dojo I teach in. Sweeps, reaps, checks, sure, but if you repeatedly power slam your shin into my thigh, when the night is over I'm going to run you over with my fricken' car. Why? Because I hate getting kicked hard in the legs! Personal weakness. I'm such a dick.

    Like I said....hypocrite.
     
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  19. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Agreed!

    Frankly, I was going to point out that if one of my guys kicks someone full power in the leg, it's not training, it's being carried out. All of us who are adults in my dojo have way too much power to be kicking anyone we don't hate in the leg. Not trying to brag, I expect it's true most places. There is exactly one other student in my dojo who lets me hit him as hard as I can, and the dude is a monster with pain tolerance. No other student could take a full power shot anywhere, I'm pretty sure. And many of them could drop me like a bad habit also. So we just don't go that hard. We can't.
     
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  20. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    That can't be true or I would know a very lot of dead uechi guys, who were killed by a hit and run driver.123
     
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