How Hard is Too Hard While Sparing

karatechop12

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Hello, I'm new to sparring and need some advice. Several days ago I was partaking in a sparing match while wearing full protective gear (example: arm/leg guards, waist guard,etc.). The individual I was sparring against seemed excessively aggressive, and managed to leave two large (a little bigger than golf ball sized) bruises on my shin on knee - I just want to note that this was through about half an inch of padding.

So my question is, how hard is too hard? I know for myself I had always previously made a point of only lightly landing my punches and kicks as i felt that was all that was necessary... am I wrong? I'm honestly just shy of limping today, and really not feeling comfortable returning to my club at this point.

How hard do you hit?
 

Tony Dismukes

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It totally depends on the school and the individuals involved. Local standards can range anywhere from no contact at all up to aiming for a knockout. Personally I think either of those extremes is a bad idea - I'm a fan of pushing your comfort zone while staying safe and avoiding injury.

The important thing is that you know what the expectations are in your school and between you and your partner. Communication is a good thing. There's nothing wrong with telling your partner: "Hey I'm new at this, can we tone down the contact level a bit?"
 

Ironbear24

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If you are new to sparring never be afraid to ask your partner to tone it down a little. Ideally you want to spar hard for the sake of good training but it won't help you if you are doing nothing but getting whooped on.

All its going to do is make your recovery time longer. Ok also never a fan of all those pads, but everyone is different, normally we just do headgear with mouth piece and gloves, or nothing peroid.
 

Ironbear24

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Also keep in mind that this is going to be easier as you continue to do it. Your body will be conditioned better, your bones will come more solid as you train and you will feel less pain when you get hit.

I think what happened was you got put up against someone who is very experienced, experienced guys have a harder time sparring against new people because we are so used to sparring agaisnt the same couple people who are very experienced.

We often don't realize that we are striking with better technique and our bones are more conditioned than yours, because of this we depend on you to tell us "hey dude tone it down a little!" If you don't tell us then we won't know. We also do not wish to harm you too badly.
 

jks9199

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There's kind of a negotiation between partners about how hard to go. If someone is going to hard, you have to let them know... and if they're not going hard enough, that's on you to inform them, too. The culture of a particular club sets the general tone -- as does the gear you wear. If you show up for a sparring session with 16 oz boxing gloves, shin pads, a full groin protector and headgear -- that's kind of sending a signal that you want to rock 'n roll. Typical foam dipped gear says that you intend to try to keep it light but want to keep things safe. Bare knuckle? Well, that can mean anything from the partner's trust each others control and don't expect to make any contact up to full contact, nothing held back.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I agree with what everyone is saying.

To add a bit, let me say that there is a difference between sparring in the dojo and sparring in a tournament.

In a tournament, there are rules established that should define the level of contact, and the judges should enforce those rules. Typically, 'too hard' is a bit subjective, but black eyes, broken noses, and bleeding are usually bad things in most amateur martial arts tournaments that I'm aware of.

In the dojo, it's up to the rules of that dojo, the tradition of that particular art, the instructor, and you and your partner.

In our dojo, sparring is considered a 'teaching - learning' experience. That is, a safe place to practice putting techniques into action, and to give realistic and valid feedback to your partner who is trying to do the same thing. It is not unusual for us to stop and give a quick bow to indicate a valid technique was landed on us, or to offer advice to allow our partner to be more effective in their attack or defense - in other words, to help them fight us better.

As others have said, it is also up to you to tell your partner to bring the level down a notch or two. There has to be communication, and it's a two-way street. If my partner really lets me have it, when it's my turn, I may return the favor.

That said, bruises and such can be part of the martial arts training experience. Over time, once learns what is just a good technique that resulted in a bruise, a new student who lacked control, and malicious intent. All three demand different responses.
 

Ironbear24

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Bare knuckle sparring is the best! It means hey, we are both going to get jacked up and have awesome looking bruises!

Bruises = more attention from women.
 

Bill Mattocks

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Bare knuckle sparring is the best! It means hey, we are both going to get jacked up and have awesome looking bruises!

Bruises = more attention from women.

Not for me. I'm too old to be going in to work with a busted nose, and bruised and broken ribs take a really long time to heal. I get hurt regularly, and I can deal with it; part of the game. But at this stage in my life, I'm not interested in getting really messed up, and have nothing to prove to anyone.

And not to brag but honestly, in my dojo, if we went bare knuckle and full power, somebody would be going to the hospital if not dead. We do spar - very lightly - without pads from time to time, but we are very careful and we've all got enough control to avoid hurting each other seriously.
 

Ironbear24

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Not for me. I'm too old to be going in to work with a busted nose, and bruised and broken ribs take a really long time to heal. I get hurt regularly, and I can deal with it; part of the game. But at this stage in my life, I'm not interested in getting really messed up, and have nothing to prove to anyone.

And not to brag but honestly, in my dojo, if we went bare knuckle and full power, somebody would be going to the hospital if not dead. We do spar - very lightly - without pads from time to time, but we are very careful and we've all got enough control to avoid hurting each other seriously.

Well yeah we never go full force. It's just not unheard of to get some bruises. I know if a sparred against you I would get wrecked.
 
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karatechop12

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Thank you for the advice.

As for the bruises equaling more attention thing... being female I personally would prefer to be able to wear dresses and skirts without that kind of added attention.

But ultimately, I still feel that that level of aggressiveness isn't warranted.
I feel that there will always be those who would like to take it to another level, but for me personally, I feel that If you have any skill you should also have a level of control that accompanies it. People shouldn't have to leave every class black and blue.

I will vocalize my concerns with this particular classmate next class.
 

WaterGal

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I think what happened was you got put up against someone who is very experienced, experienced guys have a harder time sparring against new people because we are so used to sparring agaisnt the same couple people who are very experienced.

We often don't realize that we are striking with better technique and our bones are more conditioned than yours, because of this we depend on you to tell us "hey dude tone it down a little!" If you don't tell us then we won't know. We also do not wish to harm you too badly.

In my personal experience, oftentimes the people who go too hard are the ones who've learned just enough to be able to hit hard, but not enough to have good control or strategy. They're just throwing out kicks and punches all over the place, and can't tell how hard they're hitting or how to match their power level to their partner.

But either way, yeah, the person who's uncomfortable should say something. I think if the school has a good community/culture, the person you're working with will respect your request and try to adjust their power level.
 

Bill Mattocks

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Well yeah we never go full force. It's just not unheard of to get some bruises. I know if a sparred against you I would get wrecked.

Oh, I dunno. I'm old and slow. Thanks for humoring an old man, though! ;)

Yeah, bruises are par for the course. But we try to keep it to a reasonable level.
 

Bill Mattocks

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Thank you for the advice.

As for the bruises equaling more attention thing... being female I personally would prefer to be able to wear dresses and skirts without that kind of added attention.

But ultimately, I still feel that that level of aggressiveness isn't warranted.
I feel that there will always be those who would like to take it to another level, but for me personally, I feel that If you have any skill you should also have a level of control that accompanies it. People shouldn't have to leave every class black and blue.

I will vocalize my concerns with this particular classmate next class.

I would say make sure your instructor is aware as well. I would make it clear that I wasn't complaining, but asking how hard should be OK.
 

Ironbear24

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You wont leave every class black and blue, people don't usually spar every single class. Even then though, there are going to be times where you will get hit and be bruised, you may even bleed sometimes.

It is martial arts and those things are unavoidable. Just like if I were to play rugby or football, I would be tackled because that is part of the sport.
 

WaterGal

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Thank you for the advice.

As for the bruises equaling more attention thing... being female I personally would prefer to be able to wear dresses and skirts without that kind of added attention.

Yeah, you may end up having people assume the worst about why you have bruises. I often have some light bruising on my wrists or arms from people trying to do pressure point techniques, joint locks, etc in Hapkido, and my fiance's gotten some dirty looks when we go out.
 

Danny T

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There are several levels of sparring. At least at my school.
Isolated - a light predetermined punch or kick. Here you know what is coming but not necessarily when. You also know you aren't going to get struck in a manner you can not handle. We pick up the speed of the strike and the amount of force based upon the persons ability.
Specific combinations - again light to moderated based upon the individual.
Specific punches or kicks but random combinations - light to moderated based upon the individual
Random strikes of any 3, 5, or 7, strike combinations - light to moderated to heavy based upon the individual abilities.
Technical sparring - never more than about 40% power. Any strikes, any combinations, any defenses. This allows the participant to work different techniques and combinations base on timing and range. You should get in a lot of rounds 12-15 3-5 minutes but no one should get beat up or hurt.
Moderate to heavy sparring. Never more than 75-80 percent power.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Out of curiosity, what rank/experience level is the sparring partner that you are having the issue with. If it is a lower level, they may need to learn how to tell if they are going too hard; simply telling them to lighten up may not do anything because they don't understand what you mean, or cause them to treat it no contact.

If it is a higher level/belt rank, they absolutely should know how hard is too hard. Address it with them immediately, like everyone is saying, and if they don't lighten up, discuss it with your sensei/instructor. It may feel like tattling, but 95% of the time the other student won't genuinely be upset with you, and for the other 5% of the time, he chose to continue going hard, not you.
 

Tez3

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Bare knuckle sparring is the best! It means hey, we are both going to get jacked up and have awesome looking bruises!

Bruises = more attention from women.[/QUOTE]


ROFLMAO, I really hope you are joking :D because that just isn't true!
 

Kenposcholar

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My school has a policy of no contact 0%, touch contact 10%, light contact 30%, medium contact 50%, and full contact 100%. When touch meets touch you get light. When light meets light you get medium. Therefore, I always give an example of what I want from my students and associate it with that contact level. Beginners are no contact and sometimes touch. Intermediate are touch and sometimes light. Advanced are light and sometimes medium. Never full contact at our dojo.
 

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