Full-contact 52 Blocks sparring is often rougher, both physically and mentally, than touch sparring or point fighting. If full-contact sparring is part of your curriculum, some time will be spent on developing the proper attitude toward contact. You want to respect your opponent’s techniques enough to develop good defensive habits, but you don’t want to be tentative about using offense. Your instructor should point out that when you engage in a sparring match, you will get hit. Sometimes it is necessary to take a strike in order to get one in. You need to develop the kind of attitude where taking a strike doesn’t affect you negatively. It can be a fine line to walk, however. You want to avoid injury while still feeling the impact of techniques. You should know beforehand that it is full contact sparring you are learning, but you don’t need to knock your partner senseless. Start with contact drills or supervised medium contact sparring, until you have built a relationship with your peers where you can spar without being malicious. Don’t allow egos to get in the way of learning. If you clearly outmatch your partner, be courteous and back down on the power a little.
When you have gained some experience with your peers, attend your first full-contact 52 Blocks competition. Be aware that most students tend to fight more aggressively when under pressure to fight in front of an audience. This pressure to perform often results in fatigue and sloppiness, resulting in less power and less target accuracy. Initially when fighting full contact, I preferred to have my instructor present, particularly since I did most of my sparring with men bigger and heavier than I. But I later found that inviting others to spar when my instructor was not present allowed us to have a more productive sparring session. We could work on strategy under full-contact rules without worrying about having to impress anybody.
Your instructor tells you to get your sparring gear, but you don’t want to spar; you just want to watch. What should your instructor do?
1. Say, Okay! And allow you to sit out and watch.
2. Tell you that you must spar for your next test.
3. Ask if you are feeling okay.
4. Ignore it.
If you don’t want to spar, should your instructor force you to spar? Should participation in competition be a requirement for promotion to a higher rank? If sparring is part of the curriculum, should you be allowed to practice forms while the other students spar and still expect to pass the test? What should your instructor do if he schedules sparring every Thursday, and you consistently miss Thursdays?
My opinion is that if sparring is part of the curriculum, then you should be required to spar, even if you don’t want to. Otherwise you will go through training never feeling really complete. As a result, you may drop out all together, or you may continue training for several years while avoiding classes where sparring is taught. Later, when you find yourself in a situation where you are challenged or attacked outright, you will question the validity of the 21 years of training you spent under your instructor’s watch.
Part of the study of 52 Blocks is about confronting your fears. If your instructor wants to be remembered for her professionalism, she should teach to the same standards as a university professor. In college you can’t be selective about the exercises. But it is also the instructor’s job to help the timid student by introducing him to sparring in a gentler way.
— INSTRUCTOR TIP —
Avoid using a sink-or-swim type of approach to 52 Blocks sparring. Don’t throw your students head over heels into the ring. Avoid war stories. You might think them funny, but you’ll never know whom you will scare away from sparring. Many students don’t reveal their feel- ings openly in class. They might smile and seem to enjoy the lesson even though they really can’t wait to get in their car and never come back. — STUDENT TIP —
There comes a time when you must test yourself through the tool of sparring. The exception is the student who is merely interested in the art or the exercise, and not in the self-defense application. If you are studying for the purpose of self-defense, avoid sitting out when sparring is taught.