Sparring is an important aspect of training in nearly every martial art. It's one of the most enjoyable yet challenging experiences for any martial artist, irrespective of grade or ability.
There are no 'secrets to success' when it comes to sparring or competing. Everybody is different and so learns and improves differently, at varying degrees of speed.
Most martial arts require sparring for the more senior grades (belts/sashes), whilst others may encourage competition fighting, and therefore sparring should always form a big part of your training programme.
Although advice on this subject is ideally tailored to an individual's needs, the following tips will help anyone from new starting beginners to experienced competitors.
Keep it Simple -
Sticking to the basics helps to improve this skill set and it stops you from getting confused and making mistakes. When the best competitors in the world come up against each other, you will notice they are not over exuberant. Basic moves such as backfist, jab, reverse, sidekick, turning kick are used most of all, sometimes in different combinations.
As with our recent article on improving your kicking, a relaxed fighter is a more flexible and more efficient fighter. Try to stay calm, control your movements and conserve your energy. By doing this, your techniques will become more fluid, and you will have greater control of the 'fight'. This is not something which comes easily, relaxing in a combative situation can be quite difficult (particularly for beginners). If you can get used to relaxing, improvements will be obvious.
Set yourself Targets -
Start a sparring session with specific targets and objectives in mind. This might be landing a particular kick or punch combination. This leads to increased concentration and in turn, a higher level of skill. If you're unsure what objectives to set, speak to your instructor or sparring partner, ask them what they think you need to improve on, for example, keeping your hands up. This would then be your target throughout the session.
Use Different Rules -
Challenge yourself and test your skills. By deciding on and setting different rules for your sparring, you can focus on particular aspects of your martial art. This for example could be just kicking, or just punching. There may be something related to your training that you can incorporate, such as fighting in your unfavoured fighting stance or kicking with the lead leg only.
King of the Ring -
Give yourself a taste of the competitive environment, this normally increases the level of focus for you and your sparring partner/s. King of the ring can be a points or time based drill, for example 1 minute rounds or first to 3 points. In either scenario there should be a winner who remains up whilst a different sparring partner then takes their turn against them.
The most obvious of them all, practice, practice practice. If sparring takes you out of your comfort zone and you don't enjoy it, you are not doing enough practice. Do not go over a week without a significant sparring training session.
Hopefully these short tips may help you on your martial arts journey, if you've got any questions or want to let us know how you found them, get in touch on social media @maomagazine. We look forward to hearing from you!