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#16 About Sparring

Posted on 2014/11/07

Posted on 2014/11/04 in Japanese

When asked what sparring is, I suppose that there are a number of answers. I would like to let students know that Sparring and Competition are completely different. Not using power, not relying on speed but devoting yourself to using technique, this is one possible explanation. Keeping those in mind, “Sparring is an opportunity for you and your partner to improve your technique in a competition-like way, while being in a situation that you have some room to breathe” is one definition, I think.

Being that we are practicing martial arts, you can’t say that there are never any injuries, but a person that tends to avoid being injured will get stronger. If you are sparring like you are in a competition then it is only a matter of time before you get a serious injury and have to stop training as a result. Even so, the person that is always focused on avoiding injury may not have what it takes to become world class. However, at my dojos we don’t practice like that.

Always tap early and when you are locking it on, lock it on slowly. When you go slow there is the possibility of losing the lock. That’s not a bad thing though, right? It is practice after all. Just think to yourself that if it had been a competition you would have been able to finish. As a matter of form I hope you’d be aware that the guy who really tries to escape, even though you have the lock on, would probably feel pretty embarrassed. There are those techniques that have a tendency to finish you quite suddenly. I tend to use those types of techniques less often. This is a problem of your own sense of aesthetics. As long as it isn’t against the rules you can do as you like but I don’t have much interest in techniques, which have a high chance of injuring your opponent or just cause pain. That can’t be said of those who are currently competing. Because they just have to win. And I get that. So they should spar with others who are competing.

Sparring is not a win lose thing. That type of thinking is your ego talking. Of course I’m a black belt so the level of my technique should be higher that that of blue belt or purple belt students, but every now and then I am also tapped out. Trying frantically to escape isn’t very cool in my opinion. A quick tap and “I got done!” with a wry face is more my style. It is no exaggeration to say that your true character comes out in sparring. It is sad that a guy who is usually polite changes somewhat during sparring.

If you want to prove your actual ability then you need to go compete. When competing you don’t need to worry about your opponent’s body. That is up to the referee. In competition you keep the lock on after the opponent taps until the referee says to stop. If you let go before the referee says to, then your opponent may claim that he didn’t tap. To be honest that kind of thing sometimes happens. I was always the type to let go quickly. So some guys were able to escape. Because I had that kind of character, perhaps I wasn’t all that strong, but I can’t help but think that that is ok.

Even though I am writing about sparring here, there are stilly guys that go at sparring with way too much energy. It is not like we can just let guys like that just carry on. Trying to hurt your opponent, often being warned to spar within the rules, when this is the case I can’t allow them to continue practicing with us. I have to ask them to quit. This isn’t something I like to do but if someone is seriously injured then I don’t have any other options.


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