For any martial artist, sparring has to be one of the key elements of your training – it’s essentially what it all boils down to. With regular sparring you will learn to deal with different opponent sizes, strengths. Skill levels, Illness levels, strategies and tactics. If possible you should try to conduct your sparring training within a limited area. This will help you to acclimatise to the feeling of moving around the competition area with your opponent. You will also be able to practice controlling the centre of the fighting area and cutting off your opponent, trapping them in a corner. You can also practice your defensive manoeuvres to avoid getting trapped yourself!

Sparring Categories

Even for full-contact lighters, sparring can be split into three levels. Semi-contact lighters will use the first two levels: 1. Light Technical’ Sparring 2. Full Speed Sparring 3. Heavy Full-Contact Sparring

Light ‘Technical’ Sparring Light sparring should be very technical, focusing on effective use of footwork, distance, speed and timing. It is also an Opportunity to try out some different techniques or tactics on your opponent, without fear of having your head taken off! This kind of sparring can be very valuable and should not be dismissed as inappropriate by fighters.

Technical sparring allows fighters to develop their repertoire. Adding to their list of techniques and tactics that will emerge when under pressure. If you continually spar full speed (under pressure) these new skills will never emerge. It is possible to practice technical sparring without any protective equipment (as long as both partners have sufficient ability to control their techniques), and can help to remind both partners of the contact level.

Full Speed Sparring

Whenever sparring beyond the light technical level, you should always wear appropriate protective equipment. This must always consist of a minimum of a pair of semi contact mitts, kick boots, a gum-shield and a groin guard. Full speed sparring will place high demands on your fitness and timing. And will naturally place both sparring partners under more pressure. This pressure will affect the techniques employed by both fighters. Fine motor skills will desert you. And gross motor skills will tend to prevail. Only techniques that you have trained enough to be ‘second nature’ will be successful. While those requiring conscious effort will feel cumbersome in comparison.

The exact contact level for this kind of sparring is difficult to substantiate, but it is generally agreed that techniques should make contact with the targets but not excessively – you shouldn’t be seeing any bloody noses etc. Both partners should be in agreement of the contact level acceptable.

Heavy ‘Full-Contact’ Sparring When full-contact sparring you must use relevant safety equipment, which is a minimum of a pair of 10 oz gloves, a gum-shield and a groin guard. Depending on your fighting status (and your attitude to injuries), lull-contact fighters should also consider shin pads, kick boots and head guards.

When heavy-contact sparring it is important that both partners are consenting! Before you both touch gloves to begin sparring, the exact level of contact should be agreed between you both. When sparring with members from your own club. It is usual to not spar ‘continuous’ unless you specifically decide to. This means that if one of the fighters is caught by a ‘good shot. I.e. one that lands on-target with power, then a subtle break is given and acknowledgment of a scoring blow indicated by both lighters. Rather than moving in lo finish them off with follow-up knock out blows! If continuous sparring is the order of the day. Then relative safety equipment must be worn.

Full contact sparring allows you to test not only your technical ability under pressure, but also both your fitness and your body conditioning.

Your body must be accustomed to taking the punishment of a light. And thai relates to the cardio vascular and anaero-bic demands, as well as the localised impact of strikes on various targets on the body.

It is important that you are desensitised to the sensations that your nervous system will generate when various parts of your anatomy are hit.

By receiving blows on your body you can reduce the likelihood of a ‘shock’ response resulting from a painful strike that you haven’t experienced before. This doesn’t mean you should go out and start kicking trees with your shins or head-butting brick walls, but that controlled exposure to safe levels of contact will enhance your body’s ability to function effectively when under physical attack!

Remember, heavy contact sparring isn’t about trying to injure your sparring partner (or yourself!) it’s a learning tool for you both. Getting injured only means that you must rest completely (or at least reduce your activity) which will obviously slow your progress.

Sparring Sub-categories

Each ‘level’ of contact regardless of intensity will also generally fall into one of three sub-categories: 1. Structured Sparring 2. Themed Sparring 3. Free Sparring

Structured Sparring is performed using previously specified techniques. For example, person A attacks with a rear leg round kick while person B defends and counters as they see lit. This sparring category is useful in forcing fighters to work on an area that they may be weak in, or in developing a natural response to an opponents’ favourite combinations before a light.

Themed Sparring may specify that a particular lighting range is focused on. Or a fighting style is utilised (aggressive. Counter, elusive or tricky). Fighters are given far more freedom to use WAWual techniques for them, but within a pre-spec-ified theme. Themes should be picked that will develop fighters beyond their current level and encourage a well-rounded mix of abilities.

Free Sparring allows the fighters to do what ever they wish, and most closely resembles competitive fighting. Contact levels can vary from touch’ sparring which should be as technical as possible (focusing on distance, footwork and speed), to full contact sparring which should prepare lighters lo give and receive full power techniques.

Timing Structure

It is important for an athlete of any kind to train in the manner in which they will perform in competition. Semi contact and full contact fighters need lo work extremely hard for a complete round. And then recover within a defined rest period – and then work hard again!

If your are using the Martial Concept CD. Then the interval periods in-between rounds are proportional to the length of the working round, I.e. 1 minute working round = 15 seconds rest 2 minute working round = 30 seconds rest 3 minute working round = 60 seconds rest

Lighter contact / lower energy Sparring will not require a rest between rounds, and this interval can be used to interject some higher energy drills – press ups, sit ups. Standing squats, tuck jumps etc.

During full speed and heavy contact Sparring the CD round timings will be used as a ‘working round’ followed by a short rest period’. Your level of fitness (or the length of the rounds in your up-and-coming bout) will affect your choice of training round duration. Generally, you should aim to use the longest rounds possible and to work for more rounds than you’ll need in competition. Remember the maxim ‘Train hard, fight easy.’

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