A lot of beginners have a fear of sparring to start with, I know when I first started I wasn’t sure about sparring. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be good enough to be able to spar, if knew enough techniques, if I could take a hit. I didn’t know how hard they would hit me or how hard I was supposed to hit them. I wasn’t quite sure of the rules in sparring I knew it wasn’t a fight but I wasn’t sure what the rules were and what techniques I was allowed to use or not. There were so many Questions and so many what ifs floating around in my head that made me worry about sparring. Sparring for the first time is like stepping into the unknown and can be very frustrating if you don’t fully understand how to spar. I think anyone can spar no matter what level of training you are at. If you spar with your trainer or a more experienced fighter they will help you and you won’t have to worry about knowing many techniques as they will work with what you know. I think sparring with a more experienced person to start is good because they have nothing to prove and they are experienced in pulling up their shots and won’t go too hard on you. Learning what is acceptable to throw in sparring is major thing so that people don’t get unnecessary injuries, I know as an experienced fighter I get quite angry when I get hurt by someone throwing some stupid dangerous technique in sparring, not only does it hurt me but it can also affect my fights having to fight injured or maybe even make me have to pull out of a fight. Be considerate of people who might be fighting soon, so that you don’t injure them before their fight. Getting hurt by someone in sparring because they do something stupid is serious for me. So I thought I would share some advice and my rules of sparring as a beginner and as an experienced fighter.
If you’re a beginner, before you start sparring I recommend doing some drills like the one I wrote about (here) practicing blocking punches and kicks with a partner. This will get you used to having things thrown at you and throwing things back.
Before I start sparring with someone most of the time I ask them if they have any sore spots or injuries, if I have any I let them know. This way you don’t injure them or yourself anymore because you didn’t know. If im sparring with someone I don’t know for the first time I normally ask them if they are a beginner or not, if they have had any fights. This way I sort of know what to expect when we start to spar. I always start off slow and feel out what they are going to do, the pace and the power. If it’s too hard its ok to tell them to lighten up, if it’s too soft tell them we can go harder if they want. If you spar the same people after a while you get to know each other’s pace and power so you automatically just go for it.
As a beginner don’t think you have something to prove, hitting people hard trying to KO your sparring partner only makes you look like a dick. Take it light work on your foot work and moving around, learn to throw good techniques and combos. Maybe just start off with sparring hands then as you get more confident add some kicks in. I always tried to throw 2-3 punches and finish with a kick then move. This helps to get both punches and kicks flowing together so you’re no so robotic and stiff. Here are some things I never throw in sparring as they can be dangerous and some of them are just plain rude.
Un padded Elbows- Any type of elbow is dangerous, the last thing you want is a cut from and unpadded elbow in sparring.
Knees- They can’t always be controlled and they are not padded so they can be dangerous in sparring. I have seen some one get a nasty cut only a few days out from a their fight because someone threw knee at the same time as he put his head down and it connected.
Teeps to the face- Not only is the bottom of your foot hard and has no padding, it’s dirty! Teeping someone in the face in sparring is dangerous, rude and unnecessary. Big No in my books it makes me super angry when someone does this. No one wants to be scratched on the face or poked in the eye by your dirty feet, especially in Thailand where people have dirty feet (due to always wearing sandles or thongs) and you can get infections very easily
Anything Spinning or with the heal of your foot- This includes spinning elbows, spinning back fists, spinning heal kicks, Axe Kicks etc. These are all dangerous in sparring. Elbows of course as explained above. Spinning back fists are not always accurate and can’t really be done correctly without generating too much power. If you come to close with a spinning back fist you could hit your sparring
partner in the face with your elbow & it would most likely be quite hard. Spinning heal kicks and Axe kicks are contacting with the heal of your foot which is totally un padded and a very hard part of your body, you could do some real damage to someone if you heal kick them in sparring. Axe kicks to me are like Teeps to the face they are totally rude and unnecessary in sparring. Throwing these things to me shows a total lack of respect for you sparring partner. I have been hit with all of these stupid things at some stage, some times causing injuries for months. Not good if you are fighting all the time!
Sweeps and Throws- Catching and sweeping someone can end badly especially if they land the wrong way on a hard surface. Ive seen people get broken arms and cracked heads from someone sweeping them aggressively in sparring. I think its fine to catch a kick and go for the sweep but not follow through with it, but sweeping someone flat on their back or on their head is just a dick move.
Once you have experience sparing it gets easier and you become more relaxed. You may see some of the more experienced fighters throwing some of these techniques like elbows or knees during their sparring, this is because they are experienced enough to pull them up and have total control over what they throw. You will notice it a lot with Thais, how they spar without any pads because sparring is about technique not power. (see Video here of My husband sparring with his thai trainer with only some pads on)
Another thing that you shouldn’t do is just totally bash someone (unless they are fight training and its part of their training camp) sparring is NOT a fight, It’s NOT a comp to see who is the best, there is no winner or loser! Sparring is about learning and trying your skills that you have been practising on the pads or bag. If you spar someone who isn’t at the same skill level as you don’t just smash them, neither one of you will learn anything from that. Try to practice some techniques you might not normally be able to pull off on someone with your own skill level in sparring. Again, bashing someone with less skill than you just makes you look like a dick. Feed off each other, help each other, if they keep dropping their left hand and you keep hitting them with head kicks let them know it’s because they keep dropping their left hand. Stay safe have fun, learn and don’t be a dick!
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