Saturday, April 30, 2011

Response to: Thoughts on Sparring

Samurai Girl's guide to The Martial Arts, Fitness and Nutrition: Thoughts on Sparring: "Tournament is coming. As such, I have been attending Fight Club and Tournament Club to practice my sparring and my kata. Mostly sparring sin..."

I tired posting something to clarify some of my thoughts on the subject of sparring from the article above and my post got lost.  Very frustrating.  So I am posting here and linking it over to the article.  Read it and then come back.  Also be sure to read the comments as they are important as well.

  A method for fixing the limitations in sparring:

First, what are the limitations

Point sparring in Karate, for example, is riddled with problems that are inconsistent with the goals of self defense.  The context is all wrong.  Example.  In the arena of self defense a civilian goal is to run away.  Get the heck out of Dodge.  Run!  As a civilian it is not our job to fight the bad guys or any craziness like that.  That is the job of law enforcement.  This gets into context which I would gladly link to another article outlining context but my colleague has not finished it yet.  I may write that one up soon too.

In point sparring, it is not our job to hit or hurt the guy bad enough to end the fight.  In fact, quite the opposite.  We are required by the rules to protect our opponent.  Thus all the sparring gear and the rules of locations that are legal and not legal to hit.  Protect your opponent and have fun.  Nothing wrong with that and there are some valuable lessons to be learned from this too.  However, it is huge to mistake this for real violence.

On the other hand, a good thing that can be gleaned from this kind of sparring.  You build reflexes, works on some of the preliminary stress and fear felt during conflict, and some conditioning of the body for conflict endurance.  This is just to name the first things off the top of my head.  I can list more good and bad for this style of sparring.  I can also tell you which other sparring styles are going to work better for building these skills but this style is an option anyway.  

A quick overview of other styles limitations and good skills built by their sparring rules: 

Muay Thai - bad: teaches to back up (not good in a fight where you could back over an obstacle) - good: teaches people to attack at multiple levels, power generation etc...

Jujutsu - bad: fight to the ground (not good because random passers by might give you a quick kick to the head, and yes I know people this has happened too) - good: teaches ground control which can be useful when trying to escape a fight that has managed to go to the ground.  Or perhaps for one that started there.

Judo - bad: no really can make a difference guys, I promise.  good:  excellent balance management and manipulation.

That is just to name a few...

Anyway, the best way not to fall into the trap of sparring with a particular rules set and making those things a habit is to spar with several rules sets.  Never allow yourself to get used to a specific set of limitations.  We need the experience sparring offers to get the experience we need to make what we do work in a conflict.  And even on the street there are rules.  (Thank you Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller for pointing that out.)  Even on the street it is out job to run away as civilians.  There are times where that may not be the best option but by and large it should be the first thing we strive to do. 

So if you are going to change up the rules from time to time, it is best to look at and be aware of the specific skills you want to build while sparring.  That way even though you have rules to follow you are focused more on the things that make you a better fighter.  Be aware of the limitations too but build those skills.

One great book for this is "Bunkai-Jutsu" by Iain Abernethy.  He has a list of different themes of sparring for students to try out.  Plus the book has a wealth of additional information that is very worth the read.

1 comment:

  1. So by mixing it up and changing the rule sets we can help prevent bad habits from setting it? I still feel kind of confused to be honest. -.-; My step-dad posted something on my facebook, which you saw, he said

    "If you are point sparing (playing tag) and thinking that is preparing you for a violent confrontation, I feel you may be on the wrong path. Pissed off drunk people do not tap you and back up. They hurt you, and keep coming. ..."

    I agree with and understand this. I think what I meant to say with my blog is that I am beginning to see that point sparring has its purposes and uses, (working on things like timing speed, like you said, etc) but I still think it is important to spar or train for situations like Don mentioned. I feel frustrated when people confuse the two and think point sparring IS like violence or IS preparing them to face that kind of thing (which, I guess to some small degree it is, as you mentioned it helps get you over the anxiety of having to fight someone. To be clear I'm not talking about going out and getting into a bar fight or something, I'm talking about if someone is really trying to hurt you and you cannot get away and have absolutely NO other options but to fight.)

    Gaaah! >.< What a complex topic! I clearly had NO idea the can of worms I was opening up when I made that post. Its all good discussion, I just don't feel any closer to an answer. I'll put Bunkai-Jutsu on my list of books to read and I'll pick up a copy when I'm done with Way of Kata. Thanks, as always, for your insight and guidance!