Sparring to win vs sparring to understand

Thousand Kicks

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I was reading another post and it made me think of some advice I was given when I started training.

My teacher once told me that sometimes you are sparring with a "I'm trying to win" mentality and sometimes you are sparring with a "I'm trying to understand" mentality.

Sparring to win is essentially trying to score points or make contact as efficiently as possible without getting hit back. This is basically what we do when we enter tournaments. If I only need two types of kicks to beat my opponent, then I only need two kicks. He explained you need to develop this mentality to learn how to develop a good gameplan and stay focused on the gameplan. Some students just randomly throw out kicks hoping something will land. It takes a lot of mental focus to make it through a tournament or a serious confrontation. You have to develop that focus by practicing with the mindset that you are trying to win.

Sparring to understand is like exploring and trying to increase your understanding of sparring. It is not just randomly throwing techniques out to see what happens, but focusing on a specific technique, or movement, or concept. In my school we would do round robin type sparring (you do at least one round against evrybody in class). So, if I wanted to concentrate on my cut kick, I can use it against different opponents to see how people counter my cut kick. The hard part about doing this is not abandoning the technique you are working on. You will get countered, you will get frustrated, you will feel like just going back to what you are comfortable with...but don't. You are gaining experience for the furture.

A few things you can work on

1. Don't throw any spinning techniques
2. Try to jam your opponents attacks
3. Punch more
4. Movement in all directions, not just straight back

You will find that through experimenting you will discover ways to beat different types of fighters that might be more effective than what you are currently doing. When you find yourself in a situation where you want to win, you have this experience to draw upon to develop a good gameplan.

Just my two cents
 

Kung Fu Wang

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What do you want to develop through your sparring process?

- You punch back because your opponent punch you?
- You kick back because your opponent kicks you?
- You just want to hit your opponent more than he hits you?

Since you just can't knock your opponent down 15 rounds in a role, for a pure striking game sparring, the goal is very hard to define.
 

MaMaD

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useful information. but i didn't understand last sentence:(
 

Headhunter

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There's no such thing as winning a sparring match there's no judges and no one says a winner or a loser if you think you won or lost that's your ego nothing more. You should never think I won that sparring match you just think of what you did well and what you didnt winning and losing only matters to your ego. Everyone wins at sparring because everyone learns. That's the whole point.
 

marques

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@Kung Fu Wang I didn't understand why you say the goal is very hard to define.
I focus on one 'random' thing every training. Something I think I need to develop or according to training circumstances /partners. If one training is not enough I may think about it and come back with an hipoteses to try next day. What is difficult?
 

Buka

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Hundreds of hours, over years and years. Lots of ice. Sometimes you're trying to understand exactly why you love this so.

Hundreds more hours, sometimes sparring with world class artists. You're trying to understand exactly what the hell are you doing with him......and why you just love it.

Hundreds more hours, remembering when the guy you're sparring was just a wee pup. And how he just caught you. And trying to understand why you love this, oh, so very much.

Hundreds of more hours. The clock ticks, the *****, bowing to nobody, ever. Get your time in, all you can. And smile. :) Always smile.
 

drop bear

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Sparring is about learning.
If you are sparring with an attitude of winning then you are competing not sparring.

Competition is the point of sparring. So there needs to be an element of win.

For us if we are miles out from a fight then there is more exploration than competition. If we are closer to a fight it is lees about trying new things and more about refining what we know. And it is more about competition.

Especially in mma. Because you can spend five minutes under a guy getting pounded. So you dont want to get too crazy too early.
 

JowGaWolf

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What do you want to develop through your sparring process?

- You punch back because your opponent punch you?
- You kick back because your opponent kicks you?
- You just want to hit your opponent more than he hits you?

Since you just can't knock your opponent down 15 rounds in a role, for a pure striking game sparring, the goal is very hard to define.
Sparring makes it possible to work on techniques that you may not be good at without the risk of being destroyed as if you are in a real fight trying to learn how to apply techniques. There are techniques that I would never try in a real fight solely because at my level of understanding, those techniques would be high risk. Give me a few months of learning the technique through sparring and that technique no longer becomes a high risk technique that gets me beat up. The once difficult to use technique now becomes as easy to use as a basic technique.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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@Kung Fu Wang I didn't understand why you say the goal is very hard to define.
I focus on one 'random' thing every training. Something I think I need to develop or according to training circumstances /partners. If one training is not enough I may think about it and come back with an hipoteses to try next day. What is difficult?
Let's compare wrestling with sparring.

In wrestling, you may want to spend 6 months to up 2 years just to develop 1 single technique (such as "single leg", or "hip throw", or ...). When you can use "single leg" to take 7 different opponents down one after another, you know that you have developed a dependable technique. You then start to use this technique to set up your 2nd technique. You now start to train "combo".

Since in sparring, you just can't knock 7 opponents down one after another, how will you be able to know that you have developed a dependable technique?
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Competition is the point of sparring. So there needs to be an element of win.
Agree. If you don't keep a win-lose record, you will never know when you have developed a dependable technique so you can start to work on another technique or combo.

It's not ego. It's to be honest to yourself and know exactly where you are.
 

JowGaWolf

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Agree. If you don't keep a win-lose record, you will never know when you have developed a dependable technique so you can start to work on another technique or combo.

It's not ego. It's to be honest to yourself and know exactly where you are.
If I can punch you in the face with a technique that has a high success rate then I know I have a dependable technique that can be used on you and on others who give me the same opening. I don't need to win or lose to know if it's dependable. I just need to know I can hit you with it.

Jabs are dependable. Both fighters use them. Does losing determine if it's dependable? Or does the fact that it lands successfully determine that it's dependable.

When you get to a certain level, you'll be able to tell if you can land a technique even if you don't throw it. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has been able to pull power off a punch and still have a successful hit.
 

marques

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Let's compare wrestling with sparring.

In wrestling, you may want to spend 6 months to up 2 years just to develop 1 single technique (such as "single leg", or "hip throw", or ...). When you can use "single leg" to take 7 different opponents down one after another, you know that you have developed a dependable technique. You then start to use this technique to set up your 2nd technique. You now start to train "combo".

Since in sparring, you just can't knock 7 opponents down one after another, how will you be able to know that you have developed a dependable technique?
I think I am close to understand. And since we should not knockout people for nothing, I agree with you. But striking is much more than KO. After me :), power is the last thing to be trained. And maximum power is to be trained in a bag or something alike.
I was teached how to make pain with little speed and little muscles contraction. I derivate that with speed and muscle would be worst on the receiver side...
Grappling have not that kind of training limitations. Have other?
 

Earl Weiss

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I tell students they must try new techniques and strategies they learn in class when sparring. They should expect an initial 90% failure rate. As they gain proficiency in the technique or strategy the failure rate will decrease. At some point the success rate will determine if the technique suits them for competition.
 

Rough Rider

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I find it odd that Takwondo calls it "sparring" during competition. In boxing, "sparring" is practice; competition it's "fighting". So when Headhunter says that there's no judges, winners, or losers in sparring, I know what he means, but really, there are. Taekwondo tournaments have sparring matches with referees and judges.
 

marques

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Competition is the point of sparring. So there needs to be an element of win.

For us if we are miles out from a fight then there is more exploration than competition. If we are closer to a fight it is lees about trying new things...

I don't compete, so I should be stucked in the exploration phase. And my sparring is pointless. :)
I understand you as a competitor, or as a competitor's coach, but you seem forgetting the non sports side...
Anyway we agree agree that competitors need more competitive sparring, other people not so much... (never closer to a fight, ideally)
 
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Thousand Kicks

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Some interesting comments.

@Headhunter. The comment that everybody wins at sparring because everybody learns while sparring is simply not true. While it is true that doing something over and over will gain you some level of proficiency; you will hit a point where your training has to be more focused to get better. If you continue making mistakes while sparring with no attempt to correct the mistakes, you're not learning anything.

@Danny T. Yes, sparring with the attitude of winning is competing. But, I beleive this attitude has to be developed. If you never compete in training how do you compete in tournaments? How do you know when to turn it on?

@JowGaWolf . Winning or losing a match doesn't determine if a speciic technique is effective. It will tell you if your strategy was effective. In your post you say a jab is an effective tool. This is true. What you should ask is when is a jab an effective tool. When is a jab not an effective tool. Against opponent A, the jab may work great. Against opponent B, the jab may not work at all. So, the strategy to use or not use the jab is what's important, not the effectiveness of the jab itself.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Sparring is about learning.
If you are sparring with an attitude of winning then you are competing not sparring.
Agreed. There are two ways I'd consider using the terminology for clarity:

1) As Danny says, sparring is the learning segment, and competition is the practicum. In this case, during some classes you may spar, and in other classes you may compete.l
2) An alternate usage is that sparring is the competitive practicum, and we can also "practice for sparring", which is the learning segment. Thus, in some classes you may spar, and in other classes you may practice for sparring.

I'm okay with either usage, and have been guilty of using both interchangeably (my students just LOVE that level of clarity).
 

Gerry Seymour

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I don't compete, so I should be stucked in the exploration phase. And my sparring is pointless. :)
I understand you as a competitor, or as a competitor's coach, but you seem forgetting the non sports side...
Anyway we agree agree that competitors need more competitive sparring, other people not so much... (never closer to a fight, ideally)
I would argue that there's an element of competition in sparring, even for those of us who don't compete. If you and I are sparring, I'm trying to hit you as well and often as possible, while trying to defeat your attempts to hit me. That's a competition between us, whether we keep score or not - each successful strike is a score for the striker and each stymied attack is a score for the defender.
 

JowGaWolf

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I think I am close to understand. And since we should not knockout people for nothing, I agree with you. But striking is much more than KO. After me :), power is the last thing to be trained. And maximum power is to be trained in a bag or something alike.
I was teached how to make pain with little speed and little muscles contraction. I derivate that with speed and muscle would be worst on the receiver side...
Grappling have not that kind of training limitations. Have other?
We train with the mindset that a hard block that makes a person less likely to throw another pun
Some interesting comments.

@Headhunter. The comment that everybody wins at sparring because everybody learns while sparring is simply not true. While it is true that doing something over and over will gain you some level of proficiency; you will hit a point where your training has to be more focused to get better. If you continue making mistakes while sparring with no attempt to correct the mistakes, you're not learning anything.

@Danny T. Yes, sparring with the attitude of winning is competing. But, I beleive this attitude has to be developed. If you never compete in training how do you compete in tournaments? How do you know when to turn it on?

@JowGaWolf . Winning or losing a match doesn't determine if a speciic technique is effective. It will tell you if your strategy was effective. In your post you say a jab is an effective tool. This is true. What you should ask is when is a jab an effective tool. When is a jab not an effective tool. Against opponent A, the jab may work great. Against opponent B, the jab may not work at all. So, the strategy to use or not use the jab is what's important, not the effectiveness of the jab itself.
I agree and is the reason why I don't view winning as a sign of how effective or how dependable a technique is. If both fighters use a jab yet one still loses, then how can the win be proof of how dependable the jab is when there is also a fighter who lost using the jab.
You are correct.
As you state winning and losing is about strategy. Winning can also be defined. What makes a win a win? The person who gets hit the least? The person who strikes fist? The person who throws more punches? The person who gets knocked out?

Winning also implies upon an agreed upon goal in which both fighters try to reach
through the use of strategy.
 

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