Ensuring you and your training partner have a mutual understanding of the rules and variables of your sparring training will provide a much greater training session and won't end in an angry fight.
We all know how important sparring is to sharpening up your fighting skills (If you don't read the importance of sparring). That is why I recommend training in a sparring type manor as much as possible. In this article I am going to outline some of the most important variables of sparring - often those that allot of people fail to think about before hitting each other.
Before any sparring session, you should have a quick word with your sparring partner about how you want to play as there are a few "variables" to think about. People can often get upset when sparring because their partner goes at it really hard whilst they are keeping it light and controlled - this can cause practice to escalate into a real fight.
How long do you want to spar for?
This sounds like a no brainer but at my gym it is almost never discussed. It usually goes on until the loser backs out - which isn't the greatest way to end a fight if your the cower!
How hard do you want to spar?
We use percentages to limit how hard we want to go at it -
40% - Keeping it light - allowing us to practice slipping, bobbing and weaving as well as combinations. This is great for working speed, defensive skills, rhythm and timing.
80% - Going heavy - allowing us to practice heavy shots as well as defend against power shots also. This tends to always make each sparrer a lot more cautious and make far less mistakes - which makes sense.
100% - All out war - We rarely go at 100% but when we do, we get padded up with as much protective gear as possible. This is full on training for real life fights or fights in the ring. Both sparring partners understand that it is a sport and both know that going 1 vs 1 at 100% could mean one of us getting hurt.
Limited / Isolation sparring
Limited or isolation sparring is another variable to change to keep sparring fresh.
Body shots only - The name speaks for itself. Each sparrer is only allowed to use body shots. This forces us to learn to strike at the body and also teaches us how to fight when we are inside the fighting measure against a cage, the ropes or even a bar. Used in boxing gyms all around the world.
Attacker vs defender - One guy attacks whilst the other guy stays as close as possible without getting hit. This teachers the defender to stay within hitting range and not run off and use a number of evading techniques such as slipping, bobbing & weaving, angling off etc etc. The attack will learn to throw combinations, un-telegraphed punches, footwork and distance.
3 attack vs 3 defense - This isn't so much sparring as a free-flowing drill. One of you starts with a 3 strike combination whilst the other defends. The defender then throws a 3 strike combination and the attacker is now on the defense. This goes around in circles.
Legs vs hands - One person is only allowed to use legs and the other hands. This is teachers a good sense of distance between hand strikes and leg strikes amongst many other things.
Takedown vs stand-up - One person is attempting to take their opponent down whilst throwing strikes. The other must evade all take down attempts using sprawls or footwork whilst still striking back.
Interception sparring - One person is the attack and attempts to box or kick the other. The other has to try and intercept their opponent when they move in for a strike or on the strike itself.
With all training - sparring should be food - even when your working your ass off. The key to sparring is to stay safe, have like-minded training partners, spar with mutual understandings and of most importantly leave your ego at the door!
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