Sparring In Martial Arts

In my forty three years of live I have had the honor of playing different sports and engage in different activities. I noticed that when I was playing baseball my training was focus on the game  of baseball, so without a doubt that after the running and the exercise I was going to hit and catch the ball; there was no way around that. When I became a one hundred meter’s runner in High School, again, after the regular running and exercise, my training was focus around developing speed for running.

Even as I spend time in the wonderful world of music as a singer, I needed to practice those songs over and over during rehearsal to make sure that they were perfect when the time to perform came. As a pastor I also needed to spend time in prayer and in the study of God’s Word in order to be able to be ready for the Sunday Sermon. These are normal activities in preparation for all of these functions and, again, there is no way around them.

It amazes me how much Martial Arts have been watered down to the point that in many school there is little or no real sparing taking place. How can we even come close to be effective Martial Artist without constant sparring?  In our program, our students are not allowed to make contact during sparring sessions as White Belts. Even as they are learning the fundamentals of Boxing, Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Effective Self-Defense and some ground fighting, they are not allow to make contact in stand up fighting yet. They, however, start making contact in their sparring, boxing style, as Yellow Belts. As Orange belts they continue the Boxing Style Sparring and then as Green belts they are introduced to Kickboxing Style Sparring. Sparring has a way of testing student’s heart in a very special way; it is here that they discover the importance of keeping their hands up. It is here that they discover that things don’t exactly work like in the movies and it is here that many quit.

Beloved, without sparring we are lying to our students and denying them the opportunity to discover themselves as Martial Artist; what works for them and simply what does not. Especially in dealing with children, it amazes me how some are so quick to cry to their mamas when the sparring session did not go their way. It equally amazes me to see how over-protected parents are at times and how they support quitting and the cry baby syndrome in the lives of their children. It is ok to toughen-up! They will need that toughness later on in life. My questions for these parents and students are: What did they expect? Did they expect for me to teach their children how to do a few flying fancy kicks, break a few boards and learn a few Katas and give them the next belt level? Martial Arts are not only a physical sport; it is an art designed to teach students how to fight in different levels. Therefore, sparring is not only necessary, it is indeed vital for your success as a Martial Artist. Without sparring there are no martial arts!

The beauty of sparring is that is taking place in a friendly environment where the objective is not for my students to beat each other, but to learn from each other as part of the family. Sparring is never full contact. So it is safer than a street fight. However, sparring is a powerful and vital tool in the development of the martial artist. To all of our new Yellow Belts I say today…Be encourage; it gets better!

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