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Sparring For Understanding
May 02, 2013

Sparring For Understanding

Many people who train in martial arts have different ideas of what it means to spar, mainly because there are so many styles of martial arts with very different methods for learning and practicing their techniques. Some martial arts spend much of their time in solo drills and only occasionally 'spar' with a partner. Other martial arts, such as judo, always practice their techniques with a partner. No matter which method of training is used, most martial artists agree that 'sparring' usually means taking their training to a higher level within a more competitive format where each participant can test their skills against an opponent with the same intentions.

Though sparring is a competitive format, it is considered an intermediate step between general training and tournament competition. Some martial arts are designed around tournament competition, while others have no formal system of competition. However, sparring is something that all martial arts use to some extent. The main difference between sparring and tournament is that the emphasis of sparring is to learn, not necessarily to win. It is a very useful process, helping students become better with their techniques and what they have learned. By practicing 1-on-1 with a partner, students learn exactly how their arts work and become more apt at performing the techniques quickly and efficiently.

The most important thing about sparring is to have a clear set of rules that allow the students to practice their skills with a minimum risk of injury. This may mean disallowing specific risky techniques or simply reducing the intensity level to something less than "full contact." Beginners may be required to use full body gear, including headgear, to ensure safety during practice. However, depending on your skill level and martial art you are studying, you may end up using a minimum amount of protective gear, or none at all. Students that are very skilled won't normally need protective equipment, as they are good enough with sparring and their techniques that they can go a few rounds with other skilled students and exercise enough control so as not to hurt their opponent.

Beginners should start slowly, spar in very short rounds, and have much supervision and coaching. The instructors and teachers must be right there watching and guiding students, making sure that no one gets hurt. As a student's skill level increases, they should be given more leeway. Students will receive help and insight from their instructors to let them know how they are doing and if they need to change anything. This also gives instructors the chance to see just how well the student is progressing in training and what areas need more work.

Some of the benefits of sparring include improving reaction time and learning to think quickly and improvise. Those who participate in sparring begin to learn their own strengths and weaknesses, understanding which techniques work best for them, and on which techniques they need more work and practice. The most important benefit of sparring comes by gaining confidence in one's training and abilities.

All in all, sparring is an excellent way to practice the skills you have learned. You can use sparring to your advantage, learning what others do and how they react to your movements and techniques. The more you spar and practice your moves - the better you will get in your strategy, speed, and the execution of your skills. Sparring is an integral part of the training process, even if you have no intention of ever participating in tournaments.

Mark A. Jordan

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