Sparring is a MAJOR part of learning to protect yourself. Doing pad work over and over again can make you look good and help your form, but in the end you’ll need to spar to be able to transcend into the next level of training. So when you begin sparring, I always recommend following these rules:
1. Try to if possible always have someone supervise you and your sparring partner (preferably a certified trainer): A trainer will be able to see what’s going on, if you’re dropping your defense, stopping you or your partner if one or both of you go too hard and keep things in check. Many times beginners and even advanced fighters lose their cool in sparring and end up hurting each other. Someone must be there to constantly supervise you and make sure that kind of stuff doesn’t happen.
2. GO LIGHT: I can’t stress this enough. When I say go light, I mean so light that swinging feathers will hurt more, that’s how light it should be. Do NOT go hard in sparring unless you and your partner BOTH possess years of experience. Most beginners will do either 1 of 2 things when they begin sparring:
A. They’ll go super hard thinking it’s a fight or trying to prove something. Many times they’ll go hard without even realizing it. Communicate with your sparring partner if they are doing this. Let them know it’s too hard and to lighten up. Safety first. Sparring is meant to learn, not hurt one another.
3. GO SLOW: This is also as important as going light. Too often sparring partners swing too fast to even think and end up brawling. This is a HUGE mistake and it destroys your training especially if you are a beginner because it ruins your form. Go slow, focus on the training you do on pads and experiment! Get training here.
4. Communicate with your sparring partner: I mentioned this before, but I’d like to emphasize it separately. You and your sparring partner are working together to both better each other. You’re not competing against one another, you’re helping one another improve. That’s what you need to understand.
If you see your partner dropping his hands on certain punches you throw, let them know. If they are going too hard, let them know. If you want to try something, let them know so they help you perform it.
5. Always perform every move you choose to do SLOWLY and carefully to ensure the safety of both you and your partner: There will be times you’ll want to try something fancy like a takedown of some sort of trapping maneuver. If this is a move you’ve never done, warn your partner or let them work with you to help you perform it. Do it slowly and carefully.
6. Always wear at least a mouth guard and wear 14 oz gloves. If you’re going super light, a mouth guard should suffice. If you’re going to be taking sparring to the next level, I would recommend at least head gear. In any situation (unless strictly grappling) always wear boxing gloves. 14 oz are ideal. Get 14 oz boxing gloves here.
7. Don’t get hotheaded. I’ve made this mistake and so have many others. You’ll often times find yourself in a situation where you’re getting hit and in many cases may even be put to “shame” by your opponent. Don’t let your ego get to you and start fighting hard. Keep yourself in check. If it’s going to hard, let your opponent know.
Understand that goal of sparring:
In the end sparring is a growing experience. If you plan on learning to fight, you absolutely need to learn to spar. For most beginners, sparring is a scary thing to go through. I myself was frightened to do it for an entire year in my school.
But it’s something you have to overcome. How? You get in there and DO IT. As you get better and better with sparring, you can increase the intensity of it.
I’ve been in matches where the other opponent will come at me HARD and I’ll have no choice but to defend myself. That’s when your mind shuts off and your reflexes kick in.
That’s what you eventually want to get to because if you ever get into a real fight, this stuff will protect you, but before you get to that point, you need to start from the basics and keep it light, slow and safe.
Never bully your opponent if you’re better than them. If you see one type of punch/combo landing on them, slow it down, repeat the same punch/combo and let them work on defending it and vise versa.
Keep it clean, safe and fun!
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