Practicing for 6 weeks - seeking sparring advice/help/guidance

Sarah Mc

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Good morning and happy November 1st! My name is Sarah and I'm new to this forum as well as new to martial arts. I wanted to introduce myself and to put some questions/concerns out there in hopes of receiving advice/help/guidance.

I'm a 33 year old female. I've wanted to participate in martial arts for many years now, but have just now decided to pursue it. A lot of people in my life have asked me if I'm doing this because I want to learn to defend myself, and while that's certainly a great benefit, that is not my primary motivation. What I was always interested in, and so far what I enjoy in reality, is the actual process - learning a greater mastery of my body, becoming stronger, etc. If it turns out I have any talent I'd even love to tap into the competitive side of my personality, but therein lies my problem, really...

I can deal with the fact that it takes time to build both strength and skill. Going in I wasn't exactly weak - I'm pretty strong when it comes to my legs and am building arm strength. If I have a physical weakness it's that I have a few pounds left to lose (I've lost about half the weight I need to lose total - I have about 30 lbs to go). I know it will take time and practice to improve, both of which I haven't had much of, but there is one thing I'm seeing no improvement in and it's starting to really frustrate me: sparring.

It's been 6 weeks total. I take an MMA class on Friday nights and Sunday mornings and a karate class following the MMA class on Sundays. It's the standing up sparring bouts during MMA classes that I'm starting to dread. I'm not afraid of pain at all - I'm afraid of how frustratingly impossible it always seems. I don't know how to describe it - I end up just freezing because every time I try to punch or kick I can feel how clumsy and unskilled my attempts are, coupled with the fact that the other person does not seem to be having the same problem, and eventually I just freeze not knowing what to do. It seems like what I try is just plain wrong and that would be okay if I was improving, but it feels like I'm stuck in that mode class after class (only with sparring - everything else I'm able to work on is getting better). I don't know how to get it to click.

I do well on the ground, and I think it's because when I'm wrestling there is no option to freeze, and so instincts of some kind can take over until what I have learned can kick in.

I am here hoping that what I'm experiencing is not unique, and that someone (or a few someone's) can lend advice as to how to break past this beginning phase of sparring. If nothing else it feels good to be doing something in talking about it. I really love everything else about the experience and it's very important to me not to let myself become discouraged. I want to continue growing my skills for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for your time!
 

CB Jones

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I tell you what I tell my son....

There are no titles, trophies, or medals to win at the dojo. While training forget about winning....forget about succeeding....just go for it.

The dojo or gymn should be about working on stuff. In training you should be failing and failing often...thats how you learn and improve.

Just get out there and go for it. If you fail....thats why its called training.
 

CB Jones

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And chances are you are making small improvements...you just dont realize it.

Just keep grinding and dont worry about it.
 

dvcochran

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Good morning and happy November 1st! My name is Sarah and I'm new to this forum as well as new to martial arts. I wanted to introduce myself and to put some questions/concerns out there in hopes of receiving advice/help/guidance.

I'm a 33 year old female. I've wanted to participate in martial arts for many years now, but have just now decided to pursue it. A lot of people in my life have asked me if I'm doing this because I want to learn to defend myself, and while that's certainly a great benefit, that is not my primary motivation. What I was always interested in, and so far what I enjoy in reality, is the actual process - learning a greater mastery of my body, becoming stronger, etc. If it turns out I have any talent I'd even love to tap into the competitive side of my personality, but therein lies my problem, really...

I can deal with the fact that it takes time to build both strength and skill. Going in I wasn't exactly weak - I'm pretty strong when it comes to my legs and am building arm strength. If I have a physical weakness it's that I have a few pounds left to lose (I've lost about half the weight I need to lose total - I have about 30 lbs to go). I know it will take time and practice to improve, both of which I haven't had much of, but there is one thing I'm seeing no improvement in and it's starting to really frustrate me: sparring.

It's been 6 weeks total. I take an MMA class on Friday nights and Sunday mornings and a karate class following the MMA class on Sundays. It's the standing up sparring bouts during MMA classes that I'm starting to dread. I'm not afraid of pain at all - I'm afraid of how frustratingly impossible it always seems. I don't know how to describe it - I end up just freezing because every time I try to punch or kick I can feel how clumsy and unskilled my attempts are, coupled with the fact that the other person does not seem to be having the same problem, and eventually I just freeze not knowing what to do. It seems like what I try is just plain wrong and that would be okay if I was improving, but it feels like I'm stuck in that mode class after class (only with sparring - everything else I'm able to work on is getting better). I don't know how to get it to click.

I do well on the ground, and I think it's because when I'm wrestling there is no option to freeze, and so instincts of some kind can take over until what I have learned can kick in.

I am here hoping that what I'm experiencing is not unique, and that someone (or a few someone's) can lend advice as to how to break past this beginning phase of sparring. If nothing else it feels good to be doing something in talking about it. I really love everything else about the experience and it's very important to me not to let myself become discouraged. I want to continue growing my skills for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for your time!

Welcome to the forum. Thanks for dropping in. Your dilemma is a common theme with someone new to any MA. Think of it this way, it is a marathon, not a sprint. How does you instructor correct you when working on the sparring drills where you feel you freeze up? It is crazy to watch how long it can take a person to figure out the simplest of things sometimes. Conversely, I am certain there are things you are processing at a faster pace than others. I wish I knew the answer; it would make me a lot of money. The best advise to "break past this beginning phase of sparring" is to keep sparring and challenging yourself. Before you start pick only one technique to work on. There is enough going on around you to worry about to make that process difficult. When appropriate work on the one technique. Ask, learn, figure out when it works and when it doesn't. If it didn't work when you think it should have, stop and ask why. DO NOT expect to understand all of what you are told the first/second/third times. Think about the repetitive drills you do and "seeing" when to apply them in your sparring. It is all about the repetition and committing things to mental and muscle memory. In short it is time and repetition.
I hope you continue to enjoy the journey. The frustration you are feeling is healthy and a sign of your commitment. Do not let it discourage you. Let us know how it goes.
 

Yokozuna514

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Good morning and happy November 1st! My name is Sarah and I'm new to this forum as well as new to martial arts. I wanted to introduce myself and to put some questions/concerns out there in hopes of receiving advice/help/guidance.

I'm a 33 year old female. I've wanted to participate in martial arts for many years now, but have just now decided to pursue it. A lot of people in my life have asked me if I'm doing this because I want to learn to defend myself, and while that's certainly a great benefit, that is not my primary motivation. What I was always interested in, and so far what I enjoy in reality, is the actual process - learning a greater mastery of my body, becoming stronger, etc. If it turns out I have any talent I'd even love to tap into the competitive side of my personality, but therein lies my problem, really...

I can deal with the fact that it takes time to build both strength and skill. Going in I wasn't exactly weak - I'm pretty strong when it comes to my legs and am building arm strength. If I have a physical weakness it's that I have a few pounds left to lose (I've lost about half the weight I need to lose total - I have about 30 lbs to go). I know it will take time and practice to improve, both of which I haven't had much of, but there is one thing I'm seeing no improvement in and it's starting to really frustrate me: sparring.

It's been 6 weeks total. I take an MMA class on Friday nights and Sunday mornings and a karate class following the MMA class on Sundays. It's the standing up sparring bouts during MMA classes that I'm starting to dread. I'm not afraid of pain at all - I'm afraid of how frustratingly impossible it always seems. I don't know how to describe it - I end up just freezing because every time I try to punch or kick I can feel how clumsy and unskilled my attempts are, coupled with the fact that the other person does not seem to be having the same problem, and eventually I just freeze not knowing what to do. It seems like what I try is just plain wrong and that would be okay if I was improving, but it feels like I'm stuck in that mode class after class (only with sparring - everything else I'm able to work on is getting better). I don't know how to get it to click.

I do well on the ground, and I think it's because when I'm wrestling there is no option to freeze, and so instincts of some kind can take over until what I have learned can kick in.

I am here hoping that what I'm experiencing is not unique, and that someone (or a few someone's) can lend advice as to how to break past this beginning phase of sparring. If nothing else it feels good to be doing something in talking about it. I really love everything else about the experience and it's very important to me not to let myself become discouraged. I want to continue growing my skills for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for your time!
Hey there and welcome to the forum. Firstly, you are not alone. I train in a Kyokushin dojo and have seen many people have the same feelings when it comes to sparring because typically most people aren't used to getting punched and kick hard on a regular basis. What I can tell you is that 6 weeks is NOT along time to get used to that feeling. Some people take to it quicker than others, that is a fact of life, but most people that stick with it can get over these feelings with a little perseverance.

Sparring is unlike most types of exercises in the sense that it is much more dynamic and requires people to deal with the unknown of what an opponent can bring. If you were one of my students, I would tell you to focus on being comfortable with defence in the beginning. The ability to block and evade can do a lot for your overall confidence HOWEVER the best defence is generally offence ;). Making the other person worry about your techniques generally stops them from throwing their own. It is the comfort with being hit that I am suggesting you work on first. When you begin to realize that you are not going to get seriously injured after a hard shot, you be able to observe your opponent and see what openings they are giving you to exploit your own game.

Remember, the more you spar the more you will get accustomed to it. Try to keep your expectations realistic and above all else just go out and keep training. In 6 months you will look at your bruises as a badge of honour and will remember how funny it felt to be so uncomfortable with this aspect of your training.
 

marques

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Please, get frustrated only after 6 years, or 6 months at least. Just after 6 weeks is pointless. For now, be happy with little improvements.

Sparring can be one of the hardest exercises, especially when everyone else as trained longer or seems naturally gifted.
 
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Sarah Mc

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Welcome to the forum. Thanks for dropping in.
Thank you!

Your dilemma is a common theme with someone new to any MA. Think of it this way, it is a marathon, not a sprint. How does you instructor correct you when working on the sparring drills where you feel you freeze up?
He'll either suggest something specific for me to do (in which case I'll do it, which I love), but more often than not he'll shout out "Sarah, just go for it!". Which is the common theme I'm getting here. :)

Before you start pick only one technique to work on. There is enough going on around you to worry about to make that process difficult. When appropriate work on the one technique. Ask, learn, figure out when it works and when it doesn't. If it didn't work when you think it should have, stop and ask why. DO NOT expect to understand all of what you are told the first/second/third times. Think about the repetitive drills you do and "seeing" when to apply them in your sparring. It is all about the repetition and committing things to mental and muscle memory. In short it is time and repetition.
I really like specific suggestions, thank you! Sometimes I feel like the real problem is that I can't figure out what will work, so I'm frozen in a space of over-thinking it combined with lack of confidence.

I hope you continue to enjoy the journey. The frustration you are feeling is healthy and a sign of your commitment. Do not let it discourage you. Let us know how it goes.
Thank you so much! I absolutely intend to keep going.
 
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Sarah Mc

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Hey there and welcome to the forum.
Thank you!

Firstly, you are not alone. I train in a Kyokushin dojo and have seen many people have the same feelings when it comes to sparring because typically most people aren't used to getting punched and kick hard on a regular basis. What I can tell you is that 6 weeks is NOT along time to get used to that feeling. Some people take to it quicker than others, that is a fact of life, but most people that stick with it can get over these feelings with a little perseverance.
I'm really glad to hear that.

Sparring is unlike most types of exercises in the sense that it is much more dynamic and requires people to deal with the unknown of what an opponent can bring. If you were one of my students, I would tell you to focus on being comfortable with defence in the beginning. The ability to block and evade can do a lot for your overall confidence HOWEVER the best defence is generally offence ;). Making the other person worry about your techniques generally stops them from throwing their own. It is the comfort with being hit that I am suggesting you work on first. When you begin to realize that you are not going to get seriously injured after a hard shot, you be able to observe your opponent and see what openings they are giving you to exploit your own game.
I am 100% with you about the issue of dealing with the unknown. I'm not afraid of getting hurt, but I'm a bit afraid of hurting the other person (as unskilled as I am, that frightens me more because I don't have as much control over my movements as other people do).

Remember, the more you spar the more you will get accustomed to it. Try to keep your expectations realistic and above all else just go out and keep training. In 6 months you will look at your bruises as a badge of honour and will remember how funny it felt to be so uncomfortable with this aspect of your training.
It's so funny you say that - I get a kick out of seeing what bruises develop & whatnot, just because it means I'm really doing something. I'm gathering that I may be expecting too much of myself right now...what you mentioned before about being able to observe & see openings, etc - I've been letting myself get so overwhelmed, and so far in my head, I can't see much of anything.

Thank you for your time and suggestions!
 
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Sarah Mc

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Please, get frustrated only after 6 years, or 6 months at least. Just after 6 weeks is pointless. For now, be happy with little improvements.

Sparring can be one of the hardest exercises, especially when everyone else as trained longer or seems naturally gifted.
Thank you - I'm glad to hear it!
 

Yokozuna514

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It's so funny you say that - I get a kick out of seeing what bruises develop & whatnot, just because it means I'm really doing something. I'm gathering that I may be expecting too much of myself right now...what you mentioned before about being able to observe & see openings, etc - I've been letting myself get so overwhelmed, and so far in my head, I can't see much of anything.
At the dojo we have this expression called 'mushin' which roughly translates to 'no mind'. It basically means to move without 'thinking' or to be 'in the moment'. When you can fight with 'mushin' you are free to act and react without the impediments of thinking of what to do.

Yes, it seems like you are expecting a little too much from yourself if you do not have a fighting background. Give yourself a chance to enjoy the process and allow it the time it needs for you to be comfortable with the contact. If you stick with it, it will come.
 
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Sarah Mc

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At the dojo we have this expression called 'mushin' which roughly translates to 'no mind'. It basically means to move without 'thinking' or to be 'in the moment'. When you can fight with 'mushin' you are free to act and react without the impediments of thinking of what to do.

Yes, it seems like you are expecting a little too much from yourself if you do not have a fighting background. Give yourself a chance to enjoy the process and allow it the time it needs for you to be comfortable with the contact. If you stick with it, it will come.

Thank you very much. :happy:
 

Buka

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Welcome to MartialTalk, Sarah. Nice to have you.

You've been training six weeks. Might take a bit longer. :)

Just have fun. Think of it as playing a hard game of tag. Just don't get tagged too much.
 

drop bear

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CB Jones

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I really like specific suggestions, thank you! Sometimes I feel like the real problem is that I can't figure out what will work, so I'm frozen in a space of over-thinking it combined with lack of confidence.

Right now...Don't try and figure out what will work. Just run through the techniques and combos that you know....and find out what works. Through trial and error over time you will learn what will work against different styles and fighters.

I am 100% with you about the issue of dealing with the unknown. I'm not afraid of getting hurt, but I'm a bit afraid of hurting the other person (as unskilled as I am, that frightens me more because I don't have as much control over my movements as other people do).

Everyone struggles with that in the beginning....your training partners should remember how they struggled and understand.

Its kinda like paying it forward.....at times you will accidently land hard or hit in the face, your training partner should understand.....and one day when the new person hits you you will understand as well.
 
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Sarah Mc

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Right now...Don't try and figure out what will work. Just run through the techniques and combos that you know....and find out what works. Through trial and error over time you will learn what will work against different styles and fighters.
I can do that - thank you! I think you nailed it - trying so hard to figure out what will work is exactly the problem. :rolleyes: It sounds like I need to stop Trying to Sparr and concentrate on continuing to practice the things I'm working on during the sparring bouts.


Everyone struggles with that in the beginning....your training partners should remember how they struggled and understand.

Its kinda like paying it forward.....at times you will accidently land hard or hit in the face, your training partner should understand.....and one day when the new person hits you you will understand as well.
I appreciate that. Thank you!
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Was going to respond with exactly this!
One thing to add-dont be upset if you find yourself improving, but dont feel like youre getting better. All the people you train with are getting better too, so youre not suddenly going to catch up with them. Wait a few more weeks, and see how you compare to someone who just walked in-that will be when you realize just how kuch youve improved.
 

oftheherd1

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Welcome to Martial Talk @Sarah Mc. As everyone says, the best advice is just to hang with it. Especially when you hit plateaus.
 

JR 137

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At the dojo we have this expression called 'mushin' which roughly translates to 'no mind'. It basically means to move without 'thinking' or to be 'in the moment'. When you can fight with 'mushin' you are free to act and react without the impediments of thinking of what to do.

Yes, it seems like you are expecting a little too much from yourself if you do not have a fighting background. Give yourself a chance to enjoy the process and allow it the time it needs for you to be comfortable with the contact. If you stick with it, it will come.
I was going to say the same thing, damn it!
 

JowGaWolf

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I'm afraid of how frustratingly impossible it always seems.
This never goes away. You'll fail a bunch of times and then you'll get good at what you were trying to do. Then when you try something new, you'll go through the same process but you'll be less frustrated because you have accepted the learning process.

If everything is easy then it's because you aren't learning anything new. If you aren't learning anything new then you aren't growing within the system. Many of us have been taking martial arts for a long time yet we still engage in learning more about basic things like Rising blocks and how to apply it, or footwork. There is always going to be something new you can learn about what you already know how to do, and when you try to spar with it, you'll get that same frustration.

The key is that you keep trying to use the techniques that you train. Then one day after you have failed again, a moment of clarity will hit you and you'll figure out exactly how to use that technique that was frustrating you for so long.
 
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