what does sparring mean to you?

khand50

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hi, i posted this question on another section of the forum but it was art specific there, just wanted to get a more broad selection of responses so i am also posting it here.
sparring is a great tool for developing a sense of relationship between you and your opponent. we use sparring to develop attributes such as timing and the ability to judge distance. sparring has alot of great benefits. but is sparring the ultimate test of your ability to defend yourself?
when you spar, are you using contact? do you spar like its a game of tag? or do you use sparring as a tool for self defense training, with the destruction of the opponent as your ultimate goal?
fighting and self defense, for me, are two separate halves of a whole subject when it comes to martial arts. for me, fighting is the interplay between two individuals engaged in combat. it implies a certain give and take. but self defense, that is the response to an attack by another individual. if someone attacks me i want to take that person out, nullify the situation, as quickly as possible. i do not want to fight that person.
over the years i have seen sparring as a tool for developing certain skills that seemed in contradiction to the simple self defense applications i also learned. for example, in self defense application training, one might have an aggressor attempt to choke, or push, or swing on them. the defender would then practice the specific skills needed to end the attack. there is not interplay between the two.
in sparring, there is a back and forth interplay, and the combatants exchange roles as attacker/defender constantly. sparring to me seems to be prolonged. im not saying that sparring is wrong. it is a great way to develop many attributes which can be useful in self defense situations, especially if the situation isnt nullified immediately. a self defense situation can quickly turn into a fight. so it is good to practice in both ways.
an interesting method might be to use the initial sparring session as a way to develop realistic self defense skills, wearing the proper protective gear, and having one person attack while the other defends, attempting to neutralize the attacker.
im sure that there are instructors out there using methods such as these in their classes. i just wanted to hear from those of you interested in this idea and get your perspective on the subject. thank you in advance.
 

ralphmcpherson

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I dont use sparring as a representation of a "real fight" because the circumstances are just too controlled unlike a real life situation. I do ,though, learn a lot about distancing , improve my reflexes and get faster and more accurate at throwing kicks/punches while being attacked and sometimes off balance (unlike standing around kicking pads where there is time to adjust stance to suit the attack). It has also taught me which attacks really hurt an opponent and which attacks may translate well into a real life situation. The other huge gain I get from sparring is fitness. I jog regularly , play squash , swim etc but nothing compares to good sparring for fitness conditioning.
 

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sparring is a great tool for developing a sense of relationship between you and your opponent. we use sparring to develop attributes such as timing and the ability to judge distance. sparring has a lot of great benefits. but is sparring the ultimate test of your ability to defend yourself?

I would say it is one aspect of the whole picture. Kata and drills "using segments of the kata with a partner" should be incorporated also.

when you spar, are you using contact? do you spar like its a game of tag? or do you use sparring as a tool for self defense training, with the destruction of the opponent as your ultimate goal?
I don't believe in big heavy gloves which get in the way of proper technique. We incorporate an open glove to allow grabs, and contact is incorporated. From the time class starts until it ends, there is an air of seriousness. Our training is an extension of the mental attitude we should have in any self defense situation. Even in a controlled environment within the DoJo, destruction of the opponent is optimal.

fighting and self defense, for me, are two separate halves of a whole subject when it comes to martial arts. for me, fighting is the interplay between two individuals engaged in combat. it implies a certain give and take. but self defense, that is the response to an attack by another individual. if someone attacks me i want to take that person out, nullify the situation, as quickly as possible. i do not want to fight that person.
My feeling also.

over the years i have seen sparring as a tool for developing certain skills that seemed in contradiction to the simple self defense applications i also learned. for example, in self defense application training, one might have an aggressor attempt to choke, or push, or swing on them. the defender would then practice the specific skills needed to end the attack. there is not interplay between the two.
in sparring, there is a back and forth interplay, and the combatants exchange roles as attacker/defender constantly. sparring to me seems to be prolonged. I'm not saying that sparring is wrong. it is a great way to develop many attributes which can be useful in self defense situations, especially if the situation isn't nullified immediately. a self defense situation can quickly turn into a fight. so it is good to practice in both ways.

Only in the movies will one technique end a conflict. It is generally a combination of well placed hits, that will do the trick. For this reason, sparring and drills go hand in hand to create the whole.

an interesting method might be to use the initial sparring session as a way to develop realistic self defense skills, wearing the proper protective gear, and having one person attack while the other defends, attempting to neutralize the attacker.
Agreed.

I'm sure that there are instructors out there using methods such as these in their classes. i just wanted to hear from those of you interested in this idea and get your perspective on the subject. thank you in advance.
When we spar there is always an element of control that stops us from using many of our best techniques such as, low kicks and eye strikes. Sparring is a tool used for the continuous feeling of an ongoing conflict that allows flow, and when coupled with drills puts the whole package together. You can never duplicate a life and death situation, law enforcement can't do it, military can't do it. We can only prepare the best we can, and in the end our training, if done properly, will prevail.
 

jks9199

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Sparring is a method of practicing the techniques against an opponent and under a particular form of pressure. It's not the only way to practice, nor is it the best way to practice some things.

But you also have to understand that there are different types of sparring, which let you work on different things. For example, slow sparring allows you to really concentrate on recognizing and shaping the proper response to an attack -- but you lose an element of spontaneity and can become overconfident. Assigned role sparring (with a designated attacker & defender) lets you develop one area of skill -- but omits the other. Sparring with defined techniques (like one, two, three, or more-steps and even two-person kata) is a way to really practice those techniques and principles; as you advance you can modify the pre-assigned techniques and incorporate more randomness and aliveness into the drills.
 

l_uk3y

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Sparring to me is like a practice test. With my primary goals being to train against a live opponent (Sure its not 100% accurate with street fight but I'm not planning on picking fights for the sake of accuracy).

Beginning off as just a general Kickboxing type contest (Our Hapkido class has a diverse mixture of styles from previous teachings). My main goal is to improve my ability to make useful reactions against any attack my opponent can conjure up whilst moving to my preferred range whether it be gaining contact to start controlling my opponents movements and striking from my Wing Chun training or trying to find an armlock or takedown (always much harder when the person knows what your doing and resists). If the fight goes to ground we usually continue for a short time until there is either a quick tap or a stalemate once again for the sake of "It happens".

Another thing I've found myself doing lately is trying to spar other peoples strengths with the goal that I will improve my weaknesses. i.e We have a member of our class with Muay Thai experience (and about 20kg on me) whom absolutely owns me in the grapple with knees. But nonetheless, I still happily shoot in for it knowing that in the future if I get caught there I wont feel as helpless and will have already discovered a list of Do's and Dont's.

My other goal of sparring is to find errors in my own technique. I find when critiquing myself I pick up small things. Such as when i jab my rear hand moves away from my center towards my ear, leaving myself open to counter punches at my nose. Sparring has made me aware of this so I can work on it in future sessions.

Luke
 

corwin137

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Oversimplifying: progressive resistance with uncooperative "opponents", in a non-sport context, with and without tools, in uncontrolled environments.
 

Lee Mainprize

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There is a big difference in sparring to reality a couple. A couple of big ones...

Being live and in the moment in a real situation is a completely different pressure...many cannot turn this on when required.

Many fighters in the gym are counter punchers they are not good when it comes to close quarter fighting which is where most fights are going to be won.

The clinch is the forgotten range in martial arts these days.

Sparring to me is about testing myself and getting that distance and timing working.

Lee
 

sfs982000

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Sparring to me is just one small piece of the overall development as a martial artist. It's been said on here and I would have to agree that it helps in developing your coordination and reflexes, but I wouldn't put a whole lot of trust in it as an effective self defense application because of the rules set in place for most sparring matches. In a real world situation an attacker isn't going to back off after the first strike.
 

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Here's a nice quote from a recent blog by Rory Miller on sparring:

"But in sparring, no one ever just lets stuff come in and if I did really get aggressive, he'd just get aggressive back."

He put a finger on one of my deep problems with sparring and I want to think it out here. First and foremost, I've always loved sparring (of almost any type, not so much into pitty-pat) but it has been bothering me for awhile.


What has been bothering me is the sheer artificiality of it. On one level, MMA sparring is "as close as you can get to real" and "the only way to pressure test techniques." I see where those arguments are coming from but still...


If anyone squares off, if any threat gives me any indication that something is coming, I can walk away. Or talk it down. Or, if that's not going to work, access a force option that turns the whole situation into something that doesn't resemble a fight in any way.


The serious bad guys don't fight. They take you out. They stack everything in their favor: surprise, position, number and weapons (depending on the goal) and finish it. The last thing they want is a fight. Serious bad guys don't fight, they take you out.


And so do successful good guys.


In order for sparring as a fight simulation to even happen, you have to behave stupidly. You choose not to leave or talk or gather resources. Then you have to allow it to become a very particular and tactically silly kind of fight, where you stick to the same options and parameters the threat has chosen. It's a stupid way. One of the basic tactical rules that not only every tactical operator but even every serious sport competitor knows is: Don't play the other guy's game. Sparring specializes there.


And there are good reasons for it. If you want to test and measure and improve the same skills as the threat, it's one of the best, fastest ways to get better... but where does getting really, reallygood at the tactics of a bad strategy fit?


Bad guys take you out. From surprise. First hit. With a size and strength advantage or, if they can't manage that and really, really need what you've got, with weapons and numbers. They deliberately choose people who won't or can't fight. There's no value to complicated strategy or feinting.


This is an internal discussion. Not a conclusion. I love sparring, but I do it for what it is, know what it is and I'm very, very clear on what it is NOT. Those aren't the skills I'll need if an old acquaintance from the jail decides to even a score or enhance a rep. Those skills are different, qualitatively different.


And don't go tribal on me, either. Saying sparring is artificial is NOT saying that kata is better or realer or some variant. All the training methods are what they are and no more.


Live training is vital, but training stupid tactics live is not just ingraining stupid tactics. People mistake intensity for truth. The more contact and speed, the more real it feels, the more it feels like truth. Not only does it ingrain stupid, it ingrains it hard.


We need live, hard, contact training. But smart. Working from real distance, from positions of disadvantage, outmatched in size and strength. We need to find a safe but live way to practice taking a threat out instead of fighting. We do practice those skills and I know a lot of you do as well. But every so often a good martial artist or even a good fighter is given a problem of force, survival and decisiveness and instinctively tries to turn it into a contest.

It makes me wonder if the training method does more harm than good. Still pondering.

While I don't think I agree with him 100%, there's definitely some truth in there. Sparring definitely teaches some valuable skills, many of which can be applied to fighting, but it is not fighting (and is certainly not self-defense)... it's a contest of skill, speed and power (if full contact) between two consenting people with similar training.
 

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Good posts already :)

When we spar it is contact of course and but it is light contact for that is what sparring is about. Fighting to destruction as the OP mentioned is not sparring and but something else altogether.

Because sparring is not full power fighting it cannot reflect how our martial arts would perform itrw. I think sparring should have a place though in any martial art and but only if it is done properly ie. with genuine fighting spirit and purpose behind it rather than as an tickbox exercise for the grading.

I think to spar *properly* each participant should come away with a better sense of strike distance and how they can most effectively deploy their blocking or deflection. It should also give each participant a feel for the defensive randomness of the fight as combinations come from all directions without the neatness of the syllabus. It should further allow them to practise the hard-learned task of stringing together combinations instantly or as near to it. That is what I try to take from it anyway. Thank you.
 
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Bill Mattocks

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Just to throw something in...

I often read comments from those who disdain sparring, especially point-sparring. They have many good reasons to dislike it, some of them are quite true. I happen to like it, but to each their own.
By the same token, I read similar comments about kata. Oh, kata is bad, no point to it, they don't do it.
And punching and kicking air. All bad, none of it works 'on the street'.

So I always wonder - what exactly is it that these people do?
 

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hi, i posted this question on another section of the forum but it was art specific there, just wanted to get a more broad selection of responses so i am also posting it here.
sparring is a great tool for developing a sense of relationship between you and your opponent. we use sparring to develop attributes such as timing and the ability to judge distance. sparring has alot of great benefits. but is sparring the ultimate test of your ability to defend yourself?
when you spar, are you using contact? do you spar like its a game of tag? or do you use sparring as a tool for self defense training, with the destruction of the opponent as your ultimate goal?
fighting and self defense, for me, are two separate halves of a whole subject when it comes to martial arts. for me, fighting is the interplay between two individuals engaged in combat. it implies a certain give and take. but self defense, that is the response to an attack by another individual. if someone attacks me i want to take that person out, nullify the situation, as quickly as possible. i do not want to fight that person.
over the years i have seen sparring as a tool for developing certain skills that seemed in contradiction to the simple self defense applications i also learned. for example, in self defense application training, one might have an aggressor attempt to choke, or push, or swing on them. the defender would then practice the specific skills needed to end the attack. there is not interplay between the two.
in sparring, there is a back and forth interplay, and the combatants exchange roles as attacker/defender constantly. sparring to me seems to be prolonged. im not saying that sparring is wrong. it is a great way to develop many attributes which can be useful in self defense situations, especially if the situation isnt nullified immediately. a self defense situation can quickly turn into a fight. so it is good to practice in both ways.
an interesting method might be to use the initial sparring session as a way to develop realistic self defense skills, wearing the proper protective gear, and having one person attack while the other defends, attempting to neutralize the attacker.
im sure that there are instructors out there using methods such as these in their classes. i just wanted to hear from those of you interested in this idea and get your perspective on the subject. thank you in advance.
Sparring is a way to work an idea against a resisting opponent, Period.
Sean
 

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Just to throw something in...

I often read comments from those who disdain sparring, especially point-sparring. They have many good reasons to dislike it, some of them are quite true. I happen to like it, but to each their own.
By the same token, I read similar comments about kata. Oh, kata is bad, no point to it, they don't do it.
And punching and kicking air. All bad, none of it works 'on the street'.

So I always wonder - what exactly is it that these people do?

Read and lurk on forums? ;)

I also like sparring; I just question how applicable and transferable the skills involved would be in a real altercation, especially if the altercation is more serious than what Rory terms a "monkey dance". Most of those types of silliness I have no difficulty walking away from.

I think it's very easy for some martial artists to have their ego inflated by their awesomeness at sparring, which can make them think they're equally ready for other situations that look drastically different in reality.

Enjoy sparring for it's own sake, but don't start believing that a little skill at this somewhat elaborate and sometimes rough game of tag ;) makes you invulnerable or an uber-badass.
 

Bill Mattocks

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Read and lurk on forums? ;)

I also like sparring; I just question how applicable and transferable the skills involved would be in a real altercation, especially if the altercation is more serious than what Rory terms a "monkey dance". Most of those types of silliness I have no difficulty walking away from.

I think it's very easy for some martial artists to have their ego inflated by their awesomeness at sparring, which can make them think they're equally ready for other situations that look drastically different in reality.

Enjoy sparring for it's own sake, but don't start believing that a little skill at this somewhat elaborate and sometimes rough game of tag ;) makes you invulnerable or an uber-badass.

Oh absolutely. By the same token, for those who eschew sparring, kata, and basic exercises, I'm wondering what makes them ready 'for the street' themselves.

One thing I love about sparring that DOES apply to 'the street' is this - the punches and kicks start coming slower and slower (it appears). You have time to think and react where you did not before. And when someone comes at you without any control at all, just swinging blindly, it's almost a laugh to knock that junk down. There's your street fighting - throwing roundhouse punches at my head. Ooh, that's hard to block.
 

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