Sparring in martial arts: “There is no truth without sparring.”
Shihan spoke these words to the Master’s Path Krav Maga classes this week when students sparred with full protective gear for the first time in awhile. For many students, sparring in martial arts is something they do only rarely, if at all. It’s uncomfortable; it’s scary. Especially at first. But sparring is something that is essential to your martial arts training if your goals for training include self defense or actual fighting. There is a place for sparring in all arts, from Muay Thai kickboxing to MMA mixed martial arts to BJJ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to Kali, and it’s the only way you can truly learn to apply techniques in a meaningful way.
Sparring in martial arts (or “rolling” for BJJ or no-gi MMA ground practice) teaches you many things. It teaches you what it feels like to get hit, and it teaches you what it feels like to hit someone. It teaches you about distance and angles and timing. It teaches you to control your power when working with partners of all sizes and skill levels. It teaches you to control your emotions, specifically fear and anger. It shows you what happens to your technique and combinations and thought processes under stress and pressure. It forces you to come up with strategies and change tactics in the middle of a dynamic situation. The concept that I’m circling here is that you cannot apply techniques successfully in a real-life situation without having sparred them. Technical knowledge that comes from things like drilling submissions and hitting pads is important, but if you cannot apply technique within a shifting, changing, unpredictable situation (a situation where you are not only hitting but are also getting hit) then your technical knowledge will be useless to you off of the mats and out of the school.
While it is equally important to train technique (sparring or rolling without technical knowledge is useless), your training should include at least occasional sparring. Whether it be training for self defense on the street or preparing for a ring or cage fight, sparring in martial arts training is essential. “There is no truth without sparring.” You cannot hide your weaknesses when you spar. You cannot lie to yourself about your technical prowess when you spar. This is not always an easy thing to face, but if the path to being a skilled and proficient fighter or martial artist were simple then everyone would do it. Embrace the challenge, spar, roll, and address the areas where you need to work harder. It will only make you better.
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1628 South Pacific Coast Highway,
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