Sparring is the closest we can get to a real fighting situation and here is why it's so important.
Sparring is a daily activity at some martial art schools. At other schools sparring is a very rare activity. Some people love sparring and some people don't. The bottom line is sparring is probably the most important training exercise there is.
If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you.
Sparring is as real as it gets. It's that simple. Sparring requires you to use every one of your attributes - forcing you to sharpen your skills and practice things like the controlling distance, timing, speed, agility and focus as well as cardiovascular and muscle endurance to name just a few.
Sparring is the nearest thing to a real fight, without actually fighting.
Sparring will help you develop a greater understand and application of the following skills:
People don't like sparring because they aren't confident with their abilities and are worried about getting hurt. This is usually because they don't have a game plan. They don't have the knowledge and experience to keep a solid defense game whilst "holding their own" and attacking their sparring partner.
Another reason why people don't like sparring is because of their sparring partner. I have sparred some guys that hit as hard as they can, which doesn't help either partner learn anything. On the flip side I have sparred with guys that don't have a clue what they are doing - so I can pop off any shot I like and get through their defense.
Sparring is a training tool and if we are not learning anything then it's a wasted exercise. If your partner is hitting too hard, you will never feel comfortable training different techniques as you will be worried about getting knocked out. If your opponent stands their clueless, then well, you might as well be hitting a punch bag.
Just like any other sport, a good partner can make all the difference. Find someone that you get along well with. Someone that is at the same level as you are and someone that has the same mind set as you. Talk about your sparring sessions and try to help each other become better. After all sparring is a training tool for improvement, not for your ego.
Be sure to set rules and mix up your sparring training - check out my sparring variables article.
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