There are those that overlook the importance of sparring and actually dismiss it because ‘it is not representative of a real fight’. This is a very narrow view and completely ignores the multitude of benefits sparring can provide to a martial artist in training. The legendary Bruce Lee said that you must jump into the water if you want to learn how to swim, but no frame of mind will help you as long as you remain on dry land.
In sparring terms, this means that you need the practice of hitting a moving opponent and also avoiding blows if you want to be successful in a real bout. Sparring may take place in a controlled environment, but the training and skills learned during these sessions are very real. Unless you plan on being embarrassed, you will need to use all your attributes and sparring will quickly enable you to sharpen your skills. Shadowboxing is no substitute, so get on your headgear and start sparring more!
Benefits of Sparring Practice
One of the greatest benefits of sparring, is that it teaches the distance and timing of striking effectively and is far ahead of other forms of training in this regard. When you have a good understanding of timing, distance, and also improve the speed of your reflexes, you will be able to improvise your defense in a range of scenarios, as long as you remain aware. Sparring gives you a better sense of when to attack and retreat, so when it comes to a real fight, you will have practiced your techniques and will make instinctive combat decisions.
Why is There Resistance to Sparring?
Often those who are relatively inexperienced in martial arts don’t like sparring, because they are not confident in their abilities and believe they could get hurt. While this can happen, it is usually only a problem for individuals lacking a game plan. If you don’t have the experience or the knowledge to keep a solid defense, you can be hit with regularity.
Picking a Sparring Partner
The quality of your sparring partner is also essential and there are people who like to hit as hard as they can, even against overmatched opponents, and this doesn’t help either participant. Alternatively, you could be up against someone who is far below your skill level and it is far too easy to get through their defenses. Again, this doesn’t help you to improve, nor does it give your unfortunate partner much confidence!
The simple solution to these issues is to choose a sparring partner that is close to your skill level, and responsible martial arts schools will make this happen. The result is that you will have spirited sparring sessions, where you will learn a lot from each other’s mistakes. As each session will be relatively even, both partners will enjoy the experience.
What Sparring Offers
Though sparring isn’t the same as a real fight, it can provide invaluable experience. Months of proper sparring will improve your fitness, timing, coordination, skills, power, and conditioning. If that sounds like a good trade off, find a suitable partner and start sparring today!