New members, generally those who have been training for less than 3 months, are not allowed to spar. Reason being is that the individual athlete needs to learn basic techniques through drilling first in order to develop muscle memory so that they do not resort to “street” techniques which could cause them to hurt someone or to potentially get hurt. Sparring is never mandatory but it is my belief that intermediate and advanced students should add free sparring to their training. The emphasis is on free training in defense and counter techniques, so the techniques are not agreed upon ahead of time. This stimulates real fight conditions. Concentrate on the sparring session, but DON’T fight at full strength. The coach must watch the students and correct mistakes. The techniques that may be used can be determined beforehand. For example, if you need to practice protecting your head, you might only train in boxing. At Bushido students WILL wear protective gear when sparring to include:

• Head gear

• Mouth piece

• Groin cup (males)

• 16 oz gloves

• Shin and instep protection

Sparring is the heart and soul of practicing martial arts. It is the one thing that absolutely needs to be done in order for a fighter to improve. You can skip rope, drill for hours, or work the pads, but if you don’t spar, then you won’t get better, plain and simple. Sparring should be looked forward to by martial arts practitioners and not shunned. It’s the chance to really use what you have learned and the only solid way to mark your progress. Sometimes the idea of what is to be achieved during a sparring session is lost. More often than not, I see egos get in the way of actually trying to achieve a goal and get something out of the session. The purpose of sparring is to make both you and your training partner better. You should be trying to work and flow with one another, while at the same time developing better reaction time and enhancing your skills. Remember, sparring is not fighting, there is a large difference between the two.

During sparring you’re not trying to beat your partner into submission. The gym should not be your proving ground. That’s what the cage/ring is for. This can be a difficult thing to keep in mind in the heat of the moment. When you feel someone land a good shot on you, it’s natural to pick up the pace, hit harder, and get those points back. That being said, there is a time and place for hard sparring, but high-intensity sparring should not be the norm. That doesn’t mean you can’t work hard. It just means you have to use self-control. Sparring hard and beating one another to a pulp all the time is only going to get you injured and keep you out of the gym.

Technical Sparring

One thing I love about grappling is that in almost every session “technical sparring” takes place. No one gets hurt, but everyone learns. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners aren’t trying to smash and grind each other into the mat, and that’s what sparring is all about – learning. If you have ever had the privilege to watch people who were born and trained in Thailand spar, it’s almost as if they are playing. It’s exactly how it should be. But while they may have smiles on their faces, they are being serious and working on their techniques. If you are a fighter then technical sparring should be extra important to you.

Sparring with people you are unfamiliar with is the best thing you can do for your fight game. If you only spar with your teammates, then I guarantee your progress will quickly plateau. Getting better is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and being forced to do what you do.

Types of Sparring

Ground Sparring – Ground-sparring is limited to ground-fighting techniques.

In ground-sparring, fighters begin by facing each other on their knees. While sparring, both fighters display aggressiveness and superior technique. Situational sparring – In situational sparring, Students assume a set position to work on a specific technique and reset upon meeting certain objectives. This type of training is key to developing well-rounded fighters. Limited sparring – In limited sparring, Students can use only a limited number of techniques (e.g., sparring for dominant position, submissions with chokes only). Sparring with strikes – When ground-sparring with strikes, open hand strikes should be used to the head, and closed fist strikes should be used to the body. The appropriate level of force should be used to promote safety and provide sufficient motivation to learn proper defense.

Clinch-Sparring – Clinch-sparring occurs at a close range.

Clinch-sparring techniques consist of—

• Pummeling – Pummeling is sparring for dominant arm position only. In pummeling, Students begin in a neutral position and fight for dominant position (e.g., double underhooks or neck control).

• Clinch with knee strikes – While pummeling for dominant arm position, Students try to create openings in their training partner’s position to land controlled strikes with their knees. This allows Students to better understand the actions involved in creating, exploiting, and defending openings.

Sparring for takedowns – Sparring for takedowns involves sparring from the standing position.

This type of training will typically cause Students to take a lower, crouching stance, which makes them vulnerable to knee strikes. Instructors should follow this training with clinch-sparring to reinforce good posture. • Clinch with knee strikes to a takedown – The clinch with knee strikes to a takedown combines all techniques of the clinch range. When using this technique, Students begin with their arms in a neutral posture and pummel for dominant position, while effecting strikes and takedowns. This type of clinch sparring is the most effective, but requires it a high level of skill and cooperation from both training partners.

Standing Strikes Sparring – To be effective in standing strike sparring, fighters must be within striking range of the opponent to apply full-force strikes and kicks.  Standing strikes sparring techniques consist of –

• Jab Sparring – Jab sparring is used as an introduction to sparring with strikes and remains important as a means of developing both a good jab and the ability to defend the jab.

• Body Boxing – Usually used for beginners only, body boxing is boxing where only body punches are allowed. This type of sparring allows new fighters to become comfortable with sparring before punches to the head are allowed. Body boxing also forces fighters to become accustomed to exchanging blows with a partner at a close range.

• Boxing – Boxing is sparring where only punches to the head and torso are allowed.

Boxing is the foundation of striking skill development and should not be neglected.

• Kickboxing – Kickboxing is sparring where punches and kicks are allowed.

• Kickboxing with Takedowns – Kickboxing with takedowns can be done with boxing gloves, headgear, and no uniform top, or with no gloves and a uniform top (lack of gloves makes grasping it possible). In the latter, open hand strikes to the head and closed fist strikes to the body are allowed.

• Full Sparring – Full sparring combines all other methods of sparring. It is less useful than other forms of sparring because the more skillful or physically gifted fighter only trains in his best position and his partner in his worst.

• Sparring from a Position of Disadvantage – Sparring from a position of disadvantage is when one fighter is purposely placed in a bad position and must fight to escape that position and achieve a dominant position.

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