Sparring for Sport


Ty K. Doe

I'm an ITF-TKD guy. I know some MA don't agree that TKD is good for self-defense. Or that sport-style sparring is good enough for self-defense purposes. Although sparring is certainly no substitute for self-defense, it most certainly can enhance your abillity to defend yourself. You're able to put yourself in harms way and simulates realistic threat that gives you the opportunity and tools to control that threat and to be able to respond to it. Here are some other reasons:

1) Gives you the ability to perform under pressure. If you sparr without stopping, throughout the duration of the match you must create an affective offense based on your opponents fighting style. You also have to respond by defending yourself accurately.

2) Gives you the ability to adapt to your opponents actions. Like self-defense, sparring is not prearranged. You have to be prepared for many different kinds of movements from your opponent, adapting to your opponents timing. In a street fight, this provides skills for you to respond more calmly and quickly.

3) Gives you the ability to protect yourself when injured. There's always the chance of getting hurt during a match. In which case you must learn to deal with pain in order to go on.

4) Self-control and the ability to withstand your opponents blows without getting angry. Without becoming angry your able to think and react more clearly. Which leads to

5) The ability to think clearly under stress. When you face someone who wants to hurt you, may suddenly forget everything you've learned. By facing this fear you practice controlling the fear. How else do you train for that.

6) The need for physical and mental endurance. Sparring often builds physical and mental endurance, which is important when somebody your facing is intimidating with either his size or experience. Mental endurance is necessary in order to fully concentrate on your attacker's actions.

7) The ability to attack with power and accuracy. Heavy bag workouts have their place, but they don't hit back. Nor do they try to avoid your attacks.

8) The ability to move quickly. Training drills improve your form but being under realistic pressure of a confrontation, helps create the speed you need to defend yourself.

9) The ability to spot vulnerabilities and exploit them. When sparring you learn to spot your opponents weaknesses, openings in their defenses, and learn to read their next move. You become able to see telegraphed moves. These are uselful tools in the street when faced with an attacker.

10) Gives you the ability to apply your knowledge. Sparring allows you to exploit your skills, speed, timing, & strategy.

Sparring does allow you hone necessary skills needed for self-defense when confronted on the street.
I agree that it can be an effective training tool if used correctly. I just don't think that if your a good at "sport" sparring you'll be effective in the street. I know I was good a sparring when I was in TKD and Karate but it didn't always translate well into more "street" styled sparring.
If you spar hard sparring is good for learning how to take a hit and developing good reflexes for avoiding getting hit. But it definately does not translate well on the street.

Before you freak out remember that I am also an ITF guy and I run my own ITF school. (by the way, you part of ITF Canada or Vienna Ty K Doe?)

The reason sparring doesn't translate well for the street is because if you repeatedly train a certain way then you will react that way in a stressful situation. So if you always train to kick with a few limitted punches and some meathead is wrestling you to the ground in a frenzy of drunken testosterone and muscle (his muscle not mine--- point being he's huge and in a rage!) you are most definately not prepared by sparring ITF rules. If you see me at an upcoming tournament Ty K. Doe you'll think I'm just like every other TKD artist. I move and attack like any other TKD artist (maybe I'm a little more aggressive than average) but that's just sparring. I supplement my training by suiting up with a partner and we kick the tar out of eachother using anything and everything. (grappling, shooting in, kicking, boxing, kneeing, elbowing, headbutting) you find out really quick what works and TKD sparring does not. I might use an occasional kick from my TKD arsenal and sometimes that will finish the training session right there because my partners too badly hurt to go on... but usually he and or I close the gap to quickly to fire off a successful kick.

My advice to you, because I know it ticks you off to no end to think badly about TKD (and you shouldn't! TKD is a great stepping stone to your other martial arts training!) my advice is supplement your training! If you really want to be able to fight then fight! For real! Or as close to real as you can get without dishonouring yourself and going to jail. Get a tough as nails ( or wanna be tough as nails) partner and suit up in every form of protective gear you think youll need. Don't forget cup and mouth guard, they are the most important. Everything else is a bonus. Try to kick when he's shooting in on you..or try to punch when he's mounting you and pummeling you in the head. This is how you will learn and learn fast.

Anyway, I have never had any illusions about my TKD training, I have always sought out more and more information, more and more techniques. It's all good, I'm like a sponge that wants to soak everything up. That kind of attitude will help any martial artist progress and become capable on the street.

One last thing.... I would give the same advice to any karate, judo or kung fu artist. Theres no such thing as an all around martial art although there are many all around systems popping up that take from many individual arts.

Of course.. this is all just my opinion based on my experiences.

Damian Mavis
Honour TKD
(by the way, you part of ITF Canada or Vienna Ty K Doe?)

Actually, it's possible that most ITF people wouldn't consider me ITF. However, I do since we practice the original forms as taught by General Choi. I follow a system that was taught to GM Jhoon Rhee by General Choi, who then passed it on to Allan Steen, Pat Burlson, and Steve Stavroff. In terms of a family tree, my instructor is 5th down the line from GM Jhoon Rhee. Basically since I don't subscribe to WTF I classify (as well as most of my fellow classmates) myself as ITF. But, yes we do know we are not connected politically to any ITF organization.

I have more to respond to about your reply but I don't have time.

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