"sparring" with bigger, more experienced people

Discussion in 'Women of the Martial Arts (Women Martial Artists)' started by ClaireRose25, May 18, 2012.

  1. ClaireRose25

    ClaireRose25 White Belt

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    Hi, I'm new on here although I've been lurking for a while! I wanted to get some opinions on a situation I'm finding difficult. I do a martial art and as part of a special training course I'm doing we have to spar. I want to spar and want to learn to fight, the only thing is that sometimes we are told to go for it 100% and I'm mostly sparring with men.

    I'm relatively experienced in my MA but have done very little sparring and I'm being asked to fight with guys much bigger than me who have considerable fighting experience. So far I haven't been hurt much because the guys never go near 100% despite the instructor telling them to, but it does worry me. I also constantly feel like a failure because I rarely get near them to land blows since they're mostly a foot taller than me and I just don't know how to get close!

    Quite a few of the less experienced and smaller guys have been hurt in the class because they're up against bigger guys with 15-years of fights behind them (and these guys still aren't really going 100% - if they were they'd be breaking bones and knocking people out). It's abit of a macho culture and the instructor is all about being tough and says on the street you have to fight with who comes at you. While I realise that it just seems dangerous and not actually a very good way to learn. Am I just being a wuss? Anyone got any tips on how to deal with this/spar with guys much bigger?
     
  2. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    Firstly, rest assured you are not being a wuss about this. I don't know how experienced you are in your art but, even if you are several years in, if you have not been sparing a lot then this will be uncomfortable for you at the start. So, do not be afraid to deflate the 'macho balloon' by being confident enough to ask either your sparring partners or your instructor as to how you art goes about trying to offset the physical advantages of an opponent. That is going to be your first step towards reducing the trepidation of facing someone who is trying to hit you. Once you get more comfortable with that then you will be able to start taking on board the lessons that sparring has, which are primarily about reading distance and timing.
     
  3. Blindside

    Blindside Senior Master

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    Well, generally speaking if you are going against bigger, stronger, more experienced opponents you are going to lose. Throwing newbies at experienced fighters and asking the experienced fighters to go 100% is just stupid and dangerous, the normal progression should be to have the experienced fighters push the new fighter by just fighting above their level. And nobody should be going 100% in the day to day sparring class, both because people get hurt, but more importantly because it is hard to learn when you are going full tilt boogie.

    As a smaller guy, sparring larger guys is my norm and my strategy is typically to find the very edge of their range and then dart in for flurries and get back out. But quite frankly, if the other guy is simply better than you, that won't be real successful, better is better. For the real world, bigger, stronger, more experienced opponents is why I bring some sort of equalizer along with me.
     
  4. Never_A_Reflection

    Never_A_Reflection Blue Belt

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    No matter how experienced you may be at your art, when you start sparring you have a whole new set of skills to develop. The timing, distancing, explosiveness and movement are much different from any kata or self defense drills you have done, and you will have an opponent in front of you who is actively seeking to thwart your attacks and strike you.

    To fight bigger people, it's generally best to get inside their range where their strikes are less effective and yours are more effective. This is terrifying until you get used to it. Even then, if they are more experienced then you there probably isn't much you can do.

    To fight more experienced people, spar more often to get more experience.
     
  5. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    1) Sparring consistently at 100% is just asking for injury and a bad idea in general. My gym has a lot of amateur and professional MMA fighters. They often spar hard, but not 100%. If you think about it, fighting at 100% is what you do in the ring when you are trying to knock your opponent out. If you do that every time when sparring with your regular training partners you'll end up getting injured or concussed on a regular basis.

    2) Telling larger & more experienced fighters to go all out against their smaller, less experienced sparring opponents is just irresponsible. As Lamont says, the experienced guys should adjust their intensity to push you just beyond your comfort zone. Are you sure the instructor isn't just telling you to go 100% on the assumption that your more-experienced sparring partners should be able to handle it? If he's really telling them to go 100% against you, that would be reasonable grounds for finding a new instructor.

    3) Learning to handle opponents who are significantly bigger and stronger is certainly possible, but it takes a lot of time and work and good guidance. You need to be in great shape, you need really good technique, and you need lots of experience. Besides sparring, you should be practicing specific drills to build the distancing and timing you need.

    4) If you're fighting someone for real who is both bigger and more experienced than you, it's time to look for superior weaponry and/or an escape route.
     
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  6. Gentle Fist

    Gentle Fist Master Black Belt

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    Most important point when it comes down to it!
     
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  7. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    This is one of the limitations of 'sport' MAs. You can't have big differences in height or weight and ask people to spar 100%. It just can't work. In real life you are going to take out a knee or do some other nasty technique. In a social sparring situation like this you have had your guns spiked while your opponent has only a minor handicap.

    I suspect by someone saying "go in 100%", they really mean "pick up the intensity". Anything else is just plain wrong.

    Now, as to a little advice. Getting in, striking then getting out again is reasonable advice but not as applicable if there is a large height disadvantage. Personally, I would be working the outsides. Avoid going inside as much as possible. That will help negate the reach advantage of a taller opponent. Keep out of range and make him come to you, then use your feet to get off his line and give you the angle. Good luck. :asian:

    BTW. Welcome to MT!
     
  8. Paloma

    Paloma White Belt

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    I agree with most of everything that has been said so far. The majority on my time in martial arts has been spent sparring men who were much bigger than me, the worst being a prison CO who was about 6'4 and 250 lbs (I'm 5'5 and 130 lbs). I got out of that one with only a broken foot and a couple bruises. However, I can guarantee that he wasn't going full out.
    I say this not to scare, but encourage. I consistently sparred with my sensei and all of the supporting instructors, all of whom were men who outweighed me by at least 100 lbs, and most with at least 15 years of training behind them. I can tell you that I learned a lot. It was terrifying at first, and I did get some bumps and bruises, but I would not be prepared to actually defend myself from someone if I had not had that experience.
    My advice is to know your limitations, and then stretch yourself a little past them. If you're asked to spar with someone who you absolutely do not feel comfortable sparing, then respectfully speak to your instructor about it. However, don't simply back out of something because it appears difficult or scary, otherwise, you might miss out on a great learning experience.
     
  9. WC_lun

    WC_lun Senior Master

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    There are times that it is important to test what you know with hard contact, but you gotta be smart about it. It sounds like your instructor is not controlling the situation very well, letting other factors than your best interest controll things. You are not being a wuss. You're being smart.

    Your instructor is not teaching you street. He's teaching you how to be afraid of larger men. Here is street. Next time you are sparring like this, pick up a chair, staff, bench etc and throw it at your opponent, or better yet your instructor, then run in and hit them in "illegal" spots. When your instrtuctor asks what the hell you are doing, tell him that you were fighting street and there are no rules ina street fight. Preparing for self defense or "street" is not about constantly getting beat up on by bigger, stronger, more experienced men. It is a different way of thinking about fighting and a somewhat different way of training.

    I will say this again, sometimes you must test your skill on truly resisting training partners to make sure the training is taking hold. It is a poor instructor that makes you do this before you are ready.
     
  10. Cyriacus

    Cyriacus Senior Master

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    Additionally, what does not kill You makes You stronger does not apply to sparring.
     
  11. EddieCyrax

    EddieCyrax Blue Belt

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    Control is key. Sparring is a mutual agreement between partners where by each is responsible for maintaining the agreed upon power. If one is hitting too hard it is the job of the other to inform them of such. This differs for every two people sparring. Some like and can handle the harder contact, but the respect should be their to work with all rank/skill levels. Either way the upper rank should have enough control to choose the appropriate target distance to kick/strike with the same speed/force while limiting the contact.

    Respect is pivitol.

    The upper ranks spar with the lower ranks within my school. With this said, the upper ranks are prohibited from certain moves on lower ranks (distrubing balance, leg sweeps, strikes/kicks below belt including knees), and are encouraged to work with and develop the lower ranks.

    Not sure 100% sparring with lower ranks is a good idea even if mutually agreed to.
     
  12. EddieCyrax

    EddieCyrax Blue Belt

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    One last thing: An attacker on the street will generally come from an individual bigger than yourself. You will need to be able to adabt your Martial Art skills to all shape/size attacker.

    Sparring should be a part of your training. Not the most important perse, but it should play a role.
     
  13. Siamese

    Siamese White Belt

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    Somebody bigger can control the situation better. If you have a 200 lbs white belt grappling with a 120 lbs black belt he could be tempted to just throw her away when she is on top and cant think of anything that resembles martial arts.
     
  14. WC_lun

    WC_lun Senior Master

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    A 200lb white belt will control the situation better than a 120lb white belt. If the 120lb black belt cannot handle a white belt, then they are training at the wrong school. Go ask the big guy at a good BJJ school how well he fared against the lighter higher ranked students when he began. Weight and strength ARE an advantage, but skill is a much larger advantage. Otherwise just lift weights and bulk up and you'll be the best martial artist around.
     
  15. Touch Of Death

    Touch Of Death Sr. Grandmaster

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    Circle the big guy, and wait for the opening. They will give it to you, out of ego. :)
     
  16. imitation_vanilla

    imitation_vanilla Yellow Belt

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    This strikes me as dangerous too, and if several other people have been injured in class, this doesn't seem like a great place to learn. It doesn't seem worth it to be injured and lose valuable training time just to fit in with the Macho Men.
     

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