Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sparring is not Fighting

Sparring Sparring can be defined as free-form fighting with enough rules or agreements to make injuries unlikely. Sparring is not fighting. Sparring is normally distinct from fights in competition. The goal of sparring is normally for the education of the participants, while a competitive fight seeks to determine a winner.

As we all know, although there are rules in combative sports, many fights are ended by one combatant purposely injuring another combatant. And, in street-fighting, the rules of the asphalt jungle come into play. The fight might be ended by death.

So then, why spar? What are some of the advantages?

Sparring allows you to practice your movement, blocking, slipping, bobbing and weaving, ducking and other defenses against a moving opponent trying to punch or kick you. This is in stark contrast to shadow boxing, hitting the heavy bag or defending against prearranged punches and kicks thrown at you. In addition, there is the stress of being hit by an unpredictable opponent as well as understanding that you will be hit. Remember this saying: “Fighters get hit. Good fighters get hit less.”

When I’m sparring, I concentrate on a few things that I want to improve. It may be counterpunching, seeing the holes in my partner’s defenses or practicing a particular kick. I do not think of my partner as an opponent. We’re educating each other; not competing.

Is sparring necessary? Maybe not. According to a KMWW Force Training Division instructor, “Students I've trained who have gone on to defend themselves in real life (mostly law enforcement and/or military) usually had no sparring experience when they defended themselves successfully.” Once again, sparring is not fighting.

The downside to sparring—I believe—particularly for a smaller or weaker individual, is the development of a false sense of fighting ability versus a larger partner. Since the larger and stronger partner has been instructed to temper his punches and kicks, the smaller and weaker partner mistakenly believes that he can overwhelm his larger and stronger partner with his fighting prowess.

In this universe, greater mass overwhelms lesser mass. I think we all know this Sir Isaac Newton law of motion: Force = (Mass x Acceleration). For example, in a head-on collision, a Humvee H3 will do more damage to a Smart Car than the Smart Car will do to a Humvee H3. Do not attempt to go against the laws of physics; you’ll lose. There is a reason combative sports have weight classes!

The bottom line is… keep sparring in its proper perspective.

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