Sparring with Students - Not my words. Just a perspective of a martial arts teacher

JowGaWolf

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A martial arts teacher posted this, but I don't know who said it because he was wearing sparring gear. So this is just food for thought

SPARRING WITH STUDENTS: Someone once asked me why I spar with my students and not let them and their classmates spar each other only. My response was that I dont spar my students, I train them the same way a boxing sparring partner helps a prize fighter prepare for a big match. We want students to have experience fighting various opponents and styles of fighting, but the truth is that one student could spar 10 other students and still not get the focus on what he or she particularly needs because classmates and other students focus too much on just winning. A boxing trainer will hire a sparring partner to help train his prize fighter overcome specific attributes of upcoming opponents. The sparring partner will spar with the prize fighter using various tactics hell face against opponents. How many times have you watched students spar and then asked them afterwards what they learned? Sometimes they dont know because they were in survival mode. In other cases they may be able to point out flaws or points where their sparring partner managed to beat them. The next question should be how many times did you get to face your flaw and how many times did you get to practice countering the particular attack, which exposes your flaw?
Students are less likely to get hurt sparring me because Im focusing on their development and not beating or hurting them for my own ego. Most importantly, I consciously focus on each individual students needs, by using some tactics from others to train them; even some tactics that I would not normally use myself. Without this concerted effort, a student could possbily just reinforce bad habits and have very few opportunities to work on their specific development no matter how many other people they spar.
There are plenty of opportunities to allow them to fight other students in class or during tournaments for some good old stress inoculation, but teachers must give students something to work with in order to have a productive sparring match.
Of course I dont enjoy getting beat up by my students lol but the question is how far are you willing to go in order help your students grow? Last night I came home and showed my wife a bruise I received from one the students I have been sparring. After laughing at my bruises, she said she didnt mind because If Im willing to accept these injuries to help students, its an example to her of sacrifice and commitment to getting it right.
 

Buka

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I've been fortunate enough to have had a lot of great instructors. All of them would gladly spar with me or anyone else. Except one. One of my first teachers. Who was a fraud and not a good person. I take no pleasure in saying that, it's just the truth. I made amends with him years later, though, even invited him down for a reunion with former students. I'm glad he came.

But because of that, I'm still slightly suspect of instructors who never spar with their students.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Of course I dont enjoy getting beat up by my students lol but the question is how far are you willing to go in order help your students grow?
The problem is if you let your student to beat you up in sparring/wrestling, they may get over-confidence.

Sparing/wrestling and skill development are different. In sparring/wrestling, you don't let your opponent to win.

I have wrestled with my old students for many years. Every time the score was still 5-0. I won't even give up 1 round to my student. I want my students to know that there may be a lucky punch in sparring, but there will never be a lucky take down in wrestling.

Some of my students don't like to wrestle with me. They told me that the more they had wrestled with me, the less self-confidence that they would have left. Every year before their tournament time, I tried not to wrestle with them. So they could have high confidence in their tournament performance.

My teacher changed his young brother into a left hand person. I have changed some of my students into left hand persons. IMO, it's not a good idea for a teacher to affect his students that much.
 
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JowGaWolf

JowGaWolf

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But because of that, I'm still slightly suspect of instructors who never spar with their students
If the teacher never trained for application then there maybe very little learning value in terms of sparring. When this happens the teacher may learn from the student. But this will only happen if the teacher doesn't have an ego. I think some teachers either forget or don't realize some students may have fighting experiences prior to joining the school.

I think this is difficult to accept in a traditional teaching format.
 
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JowGaWolf

JowGaWolf

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Some students may joint your school just try to learn your "door guarding skill" and not your general skill.
That's true but they can still come up short if the instructor knows multiple guards.
 
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Gerry Seymour

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The problem is if you let your student to beat you up in sparring/wrestling, they may get over-confidence.
I think this is easily mitigated. If I spar/grapple at teaching level, I'm definitely going to get beaten some. I start by never pressenting myself as invulnerable. I've had students with prior training who were my equal in sparring when they walked in the door.

But every now and then, if a student seems to be misunderstanding the situation, I just turn it up enough for them to understand. In most cases, all this takes is turning up the defense/evasion. In a very few cases, it takes a stronger offense. I've never needed to go beyond that.
 

Gerry Seymour

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If your teacher is 70 and you are 20, it will be unlikely that he will spar with you.
At 70, assuming I'm still able, I'll still spar. It'll just be a different thing. I probably won't get in for the grappling at that point, but some good technical sparring will probably still be fun.

But I'd expect young, energetic students to be able to beat me. And I'd expect that to be unsurprising to them. Schools where the students think they could never beat the old guy because he has 60 years of experience have a problem.
 

Buka

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At 70, assuming I'm still able, I'll still spar. It'll just be a different thing. I probably won't get in for the grappling at that point, but some good technical sparring will probably still be fun.

But I'd expect young, energetic students to be able to beat me. And I'd expect that to be unsurprising to them. Schools where the students think they could never beat the old guy because he has 60 years of experience have a problem.
I find the grappling easier. The sparring's easy because you know what they're going to throw before they do. And sometimes, even if you never met them before.
 

Gerry Seymour

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I find the grappling easier. The sparring's easy because you know what they're going to throw before they do. And sometimes, even if you never met them before.
I'd probably still be doing the ground grappling. Our standing grappling has too many high falls to be worth it past a point. I'm not near that point yet, but I suspect that point is somewhere after 60.
 

Buka

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I'd probably still be doing the ground grappling. Our standing grappling has too many high falls to be worth it past a point. I'm not near that point yet, but I suspect that point is somewhere after 60.
Oh, I agree completely. I don't want any part of standing grappling anymore. Not unless I'm a much better grappler than who I'm rolling with. And even then....
 

Unkogami

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I used to really "spar" with some of my students back in the day. Unique circumstances.
 

Xue Sheng

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I knew one guy, who was a teacher who would not spar or do Chi sau with his students. He said it brought his skills down. He was highly skilled, I had done things with him. But I felt very bad for his students and did not agree with his thinking at all.

Had a xingyiquan shifu who spared with us. I was sparing with him once and taking it easy. He then said."If I don't get hit, it's not sparing". So I hit him...twice. He proceeded to dominate the match, but it was all in good fun and I did learn a lot....some of which was never to hit him, even if he did ask for it :D
 

Tony Dismukes

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If your teacher is 70 and you are 20, it will be unlikely that he will spar with you.
One of the more inspirational events in my martial arts career came around 15 years ago when our local Judo club hosted a seminar taught by a group of senior Judo instructors from Japan who were touring the U.S. teaching the Nage no Kata. There were about a dozen instructors, all high level black belts, ranging in age from 65 to 80 years old. After the instructional portion of the seminar was over, the teachers all lined up to do randori (free grappling) with all the students. I was paired up with a 70 year old gentleman who very politely allowed me to try every trick I knew to throw him. Once it became clear that I couldnt unbalance him even a little bit, he effortlessly dumped me with a foot sweep and went on to the next student.

I decided that this was exactly what I wanted to be doing when I reached 70, sharing knowledge and sparring with the youngsters.

Im only 57 now, so Im focused on keeping myself healthy and uninjured in the hopes of still being able to spar when I reach 70. I typically spar about 10-20 rounds per week in my current training, but my priorities are always:
  1. Keep myself safe.
  2. Keep my partner safe.
  3. Learn something.
  4. Have fun.
  5. Winning the round is a very distant 5th place priority. Its a nice ego boost when I can dominate a younger, more athletic sparring partner, but I would be foolish to think that I could expect to do that every time. Even if I could, it would be bad for my growth as a martial artist. If none of my sparring partners were capable of kicking my butt, then I would be heading for complacency and stagnation.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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I was paired up with a 70 year old gentleman who very politely allowed me to try every trick I knew to throw him. Once it became clear that I couldnt unbalance him even a little bit, he effortlessly dumped me with a foot sweep and went on to the next student.
This is why I have said, "There is no lucky throw". If you have good throwing skill, when you play 100% defense, it's very difficult for your opponent to throw you.

In jacket wrestling, you can just use 1 simple strategy (such as "shaking") to destroy your opponent's attack during the initial stage. The moment that you feel your opponent tries to do something to you, you shake him. Of course I'm talking about you have already obtained a clinch.
 
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Gerry Seymour

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One of the more inspirational events in my martial arts career came around 15 years ago when our local Judo club hosted a seminar taught by a group of senior Judo instructors from Japan who were touring the U.S. teaching the Nage no Kata. There were about a dozen instructors, all high level black belts, ranging in age from 65 to 80 years old. After the instructional portion of the seminar was over, the teachers all lined up to do randori (free grappling) with all the students. I was paired up with a 70 year old gentleman who very politely allowed me to try every trick I knew to throw him. Once it became clear that I couldnt unbalance him even a little bit, he effortlessly dumped me with a foot sweep and went on to the next student.

I decided that this was exactly what I wanted to be doing when I reached 70, sharing knowledge and sparring with the youngsters.

Im only 57 now, so Im focused on keeping myself healthy and uninjured in the hopes of still being able to spar when I reach 70. I typically spar about 10-20 rounds per week in my current training, but my priorities are always:
  1. Keep myself safe.
  2. Keep my partner safe.
  3. Learn something.
  4. Have fun.
  5. Winning the round is a very distant 5th place priority. Its a nice ego boost when I can dominate a younger, more athletic sparring partner, but I would be foolish to think that I could expect to do that every time. Even if I could, it would be bad for my growth as a martial artist. If none of my sparring partners were capable of kicking my butt, then I would be heading for complacency and stagnation.
Love the priority list, Tony.
 
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