Let's talk sparring

Let's talk sparring

Joined: February 4th, 2004, 8:13 pm

January 19th, 2010, 3:54 pm #1

As we all know sparring aka freestyle is an integral part of our art. Although many approach it differently, it is still an important process throughout our growth.

I have researched many aspects of the martial arts for years and have come across many interesting viewpoints with validity on both sides of the argument when it comes to sparring.

One interesting argument that several people have stated is that if you don't spar, you can't fight; or, if you don't spar, you will have limited success in street self-defense.

There is a vast difference between fighting and street self-defense. Let me give you my definition of each. Fighting is when you train hard to get into the ring or octagon as a sport. Fighting to me is full-contact--not to disregard point fighting. Street self-defense is a different story. It simply means to stop someone from harming you; escape, not conquer. It should take only a handful of seconds at the most. Lastly you have combat, which is a whole different realm.

You don't have to be a good fighter to be good at self-defense. Just because you are good at street self-defense, or even consider yourself a "street fighter"
that doesn't mean you can fight well in the ring, however. In fact, most people who have been deemed tough street fighters have gotten their butts handed to them against real fighterS in the ring.

My viewpoint is this: It is common sense that if you are going to be a fighter (in the ring), you need to spar all the time. You need to spar as many different people as possible in three categories: 1) those who are better than you, 2) those who are equal to you, and 3) those who aren't as good as you. As Mr. White says, "writers write and fighters fight."

I disagree however that if you don't spar, you can't be successful in street self-defense or actual combat. First of all, we know the whole rule thing--no rules on the street or in combat; well, one rule: survive. I have not found one spec of empirical evidence to support people's argument that if you don't spar you won't be successful on the street.

Look at it this way: do you feel Mr. Parker could fight on the street? I think it is obvious. I have been told, however, that Mr. Parker didn't spar. In fact, from what I gathered he sparred maybe one or two students ever. He also didn't compete in tournaments. I'm not claiming Mr. Parker never did any sparring as a student or any of that. I know he was an amateur boxer and I am sure he did plenty of sparring going through the ranks. I don't know, however, I wasn't there.

Also, I can't think of a single senior who spars. Again, doesn't mean they never did, but I look at it like any sport--just because you sparred many years doesn't mean you are going to stay that good. You get rusty in certain areas if you don't keep up on it. For instance, not to brag, but I was a really good baseball player growing up. I played ten years. I gave it up and then about fifteen years later my family had a little pick up baseball game and I couldn't even hit the damn ball--slow pitch. I went from crushing the ball to swinging and missing more times than I can count. The same goes with anything, in my view. If you don't keep up on it, you lose it--at least some of it.

I would wager that any good black belt in our system will have no problem defending himself whether he spars or not.

I do believe that sparring helps you for street self-defense, but I don't believe that if you don't do it, you will not be able to defend yourself. I feel, however, that you need to do it as your going through the ranks or you shouldn't ever get a black belt.

I would love anybody's thoughts about this. I personally have sparred many times, many ways. I am at a point in my life where I would rather focus on my teaching than sparring like I used to. I am getting older and I train hard in other areas. As for competing, I was an amateur boxer and a wrestler. I never competed in karate tournaments.

Any thoughts?


with respect,

Michael Miller, CKF



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Joined: June 17th, 2006, 1:33 am

January 19th, 2010, 4:28 pm #2

Nothing about sparring is going to hurt any aspect of your art and it's likely the best place for most to develop their sense of timing. As far as seniors sparring, Steve Vai ( a most excellent guitar player) was asked whether or not he practiced his scales anymore. His answer was no. After a while those things become part of you and exploring other facets of the arts better serves you and your students. Same thing in most other physical endeavors. Climbers should climb, swimmers should swim, etc. If you're gonna fight in the ring though you better keep sparring. Conditioning is king and someone trying to bang your brainpan is a great motivator. The pros are just in insane shape. The kind of shape that most never see.

Anyway I got chastised for saying this before but since you said it first, I'll agree. Self defense and fighting are two different animals.

Let's see how this pans out this time....LOL!

CT

but that's just my opinion I could be wrong.
Dennis Miller
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Joined: February 4th, 2004, 8:13 pm

January 19th, 2010, 4:41 pm #3

Craig, thanks for your input.

"As far as seniors sparring, Steve Vai ( a most excellent guitar player) was asked whether or not he practiced his scales anymore. His answer was no. After a while those things become part of you and exploring other facets of the arts better serves you and your students."

I have to agree.

"If you're gonna fight in the ring though you better keep sparring."

Absolutely.

"Conditioning is king and someone trying to bang your brainpan is a great motivator. The pros are just in insane shape. The kind of shape that most never see."

I agree. I believe success in the ring is excellent conditioning, technical skill, attitude (your will to fight) and great timing and distance control.

"Anyway I got chastised for saying this before but since you said it first, I'll agree. Self defense and fighting are two different animals."

Really? You got chastised for saying that? Well, we'll see the aftermath, LOL.


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Joined: November 24th, 2004, 9:07 pm

January 19th, 2010, 5:14 pm #4

As we all know sparring aka freestyle is an integral part of our art. Although many approach it differently, it is still an important process throughout our growth.

I have researched many aspects of the martial arts for years and have come across many interesting viewpoints with validity on both sides of the argument when it comes to sparring.

One interesting argument that several people have stated is that if you don't spar, you can't fight; or, if you don't spar, you will have limited success in street self-defense.

There is a vast difference between fighting and street self-defense. Let me give you my definition of each. Fighting is when you train hard to get into the ring or octagon as a sport. Fighting to me is full-contact--not to disregard point fighting. Street self-defense is a different story. It simply means to stop someone from harming you; escape, not conquer. It should take only a handful of seconds at the most. Lastly you have combat, which is a whole different realm.

You don't have to be a good fighter to be good at self-defense. Just because you are good at street self-defense, or even consider yourself a "street fighter"
that doesn't mean you can fight well in the ring, however. In fact, most people who have been deemed tough street fighters have gotten their butts handed to them against real fighterS in the ring.

My viewpoint is this: It is common sense that if you are going to be a fighter (in the ring), you need to spar all the time. You need to spar as many different people as possible in three categories: 1) those who are better than you, 2) those who are equal to you, and 3) those who aren't as good as you. As Mr. White says, "writers write and fighters fight."

I disagree however that if you don't spar, you can't be successful in street self-defense or actual combat. First of all, we know the whole rule thing--no rules on the street or in combat; well, one rule: survive. I have not found one spec of empirical evidence to support people's argument that if you don't spar you won't be successful on the street.

Look at it this way: do you feel Mr. Parker could fight on the street? I think it is obvious. I have been told, however, that Mr. Parker didn't spar. In fact, from what I gathered he sparred maybe one or two students ever. He also didn't compete in tournaments. I'm not claiming Mr. Parker never did any sparring as a student or any of that. I know he was an amateur boxer and I am sure he did plenty of sparring going through the ranks. I don't know, however, I wasn't there.

Also, I can't think of a single senior who spars. Again, doesn't mean they never did, but I look at it like any sport--just because you sparred many years doesn't mean you are going to stay that good. You get rusty in certain areas if you don't keep up on it. For instance, not to brag, but I was a really good baseball player growing up. I played ten years. I gave it up and then about fifteen years later my family had a little pick up baseball game and I couldn't even hit the damn ball--slow pitch. I went from crushing the ball to swinging and missing more times than I can count. The same goes with anything, in my view. If you don't keep up on it, you lose it--at least some of it.

I would wager that any good black belt in our system will have no problem defending himself whether he spars or not.

I do believe that sparring helps you for street self-defense, but I don't believe that if you don't do it, you will not be able to defend yourself. I feel, however, that you need to do it as your going through the ranks or you shouldn't ever get a black belt.

I would love anybody's thoughts about this. I personally have sparred many times, many ways. I am at a point in my life where I would rather focus on my teaching than sparring like I used to. I am getting older and I train hard in other areas. As for competing, I was an amateur boxer and a wrestler. I never competed in karate tournaments.

Any thoughts?


with respect,

Michael Miller, CKF


>Also, I can't think of a single senior who spars.<<br>

Really, Mike? You must be having memory lapses. I can think of a good many seniors who still spar. True, few, if any, mix it up the way they used to. Who can blame them? I mean, what senior wants to risk a joint injury that could take months to heal? I think what's unfortunate are the handful of seniors who never sparred - and far too many students who aren't seniors who don't spar and wear black belts.

Salute

PS You AI fans see a clip of the General last night on Leno!
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Joined: April 10th, 2005, 11:41 pm

January 19th, 2010, 5:30 pm #5

As we all know sparring aka freestyle is an integral part of our art. Although many approach it differently, it is still an important process throughout our growth.

I have researched many aspects of the martial arts for years and have come across many interesting viewpoints with validity on both sides of the argument when it comes to sparring.

One interesting argument that several people have stated is that if you don't spar, you can't fight; or, if you don't spar, you will have limited success in street self-defense.

There is a vast difference between fighting and street self-defense. Let me give you my definition of each. Fighting is when you train hard to get into the ring or octagon as a sport. Fighting to me is full-contact--not to disregard point fighting. Street self-defense is a different story. It simply means to stop someone from harming you; escape, not conquer. It should take only a handful of seconds at the most. Lastly you have combat, which is a whole different realm.

You don't have to be a good fighter to be good at self-defense. Just because you are good at street self-defense, or even consider yourself a "street fighter"
that doesn't mean you can fight well in the ring, however. In fact, most people who have been deemed tough street fighters have gotten their butts handed to them against real fighterS in the ring.

My viewpoint is this: It is common sense that if you are going to be a fighter (in the ring), you need to spar all the time. You need to spar as many different people as possible in three categories: 1) those who are better than you, 2) those who are equal to you, and 3) those who aren't as good as you. As Mr. White says, "writers write and fighters fight."

I disagree however that if you don't spar, you can't be successful in street self-defense or actual combat. First of all, we know the whole rule thing--no rules on the street or in combat; well, one rule: survive. I have not found one spec of empirical evidence to support people's argument that if you don't spar you won't be successful on the street.

Look at it this way: do you feel Mr. Parker could fight on the street? I think it is obvious. I have been told, however, that Mr. Parker didn't spar. In fact, from what I gathered he sparred maybe one or two students ever. He also didn't compete in tournaments. I'm not claiming Mr. Parker never did any sparring as a student or any of that. I know he was an amateur boxer and I am sure he did plenty of sparring going through the ranks. I don't know, however, I wasn't there.

Also, I can't think of a single senior who spars. Again, doesn't mean they never did, but I look at it like any sport--just because you sparred many years doesn't mean you are going to stay that good. You get rusty in certain areas if you don't keep up on it. For instance, not to brag, but I was a really good baseball player growing up. I played ten years. I gave it up and then about fifteen years later my family had a little pick up baseball game and I couldn't even hit the damn ball--slow pitch. I went from crushing the ball to swinging and missing more times than I can count. The same goes with anything, in my view. If you don't keep up on it, you lose it--at least some of it.

I would wager that any good black belt in our system will have no problem defending himself whether he spars or not.

I do believe that sparring helps you for street self-defense, but I don't believe that if you don't do it, you will not be able to defend yourself. I feel, however, that you need to do it as your going through the ranks or you shouldn't ever get a black belt.

I would love anybody's thoughts about this. I personally have sparred many times, many ways. I am at a point in my life where I would rather focus on my teaching than sparring like I used to. I am getting older and I train hard in other areas. As for competing, I was an amateur boxer and a wrestler. I never competed in karate tournaments.

Any thoughts?


with respect,

Michael Miller, CKF


The biggest issue I have with sparring is most often how it's taught. The phrase, "Perfect practice makes perfect" comes to mind. Sparring is not just about tossing two people on the floor and saying hit each other.

Most belts before brown are not ready to spar in the conventional sense. It must be controlled at that level because the skill set has not been fully ingrained, otherwise they will begin to deviate into a mass of flailing arms and poor footwork in no short order. And of course, an hour of crapping sparring can destroy countless hours of form and set practice.

The approach we take is too build, over time, the level of freedom the student has to deviate (aka be spontaneous). In the early stages the attack and response is known...exactly. As they grow in ability the responses and attacks become more spontaneous until, finally, the student is free form sparring. By this time they can 1) Recognize every common attack 2) Block well 3) Move their head well 4) Move their feet well 5) and can see the available targets and choose spontaneously.

The trick is to not let them practice poor because poor practice makes a poor fighter.
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Joined: February 4th, 2004, 8:13 pm

January 19th, 2010, 5:55 pm #6

>Also, I can't think of a single senior who spars.<<br>

Really, Mike? You must be having memory lapses. I can think of a good many seniors who still spar. True, few, if any, mix it up the way they used to. Who can blame them? I mean, what senior wants to risk a joint injury that could take months to heal? I think what's unfortunate are the handful of seniors who never sparred - and far too many students who aren't seniors who don't spar and wear black belts.

Salute

PS You AI fans see a clip of the General last night on Leno!
"Really, Mike? You must be having memory lapses."

I am just stating my knowledge. I am sure there are several who spar. I was stating I couldn't think of one. I know Mr. White did lots of it, but if I remember correctly he doesn't anymore. Don't quote me on it though. I haven't asked him.

"I can think of a good many seniors who still spar."

Well, you also know more seniors than I do.

"True, few, if any, mix it up the way they used to. Who can blame them? I mean, what senior wants to risk a joint injury that could take months to heal?"

I totally agree.

"I think what's unfortunate are the handful of seniors who never sparred - and far too many students who aren't seniors who don't spar and wear black belts."

Again, I agree. I feel you should certainly spar all the way through the ranks, and even when you get a black belt. I just feel once you have done it for so many years, you could mellow it down or phase it out.

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Joined: May 30th, 2007, 11:44 pm

January 19th, 2010, 6:04 pm #7

As we all know sparring aka freestyle is an integral part of our art. Although many approach it differently, it is still an important process throughout our growth.

I have researched many aspects of the martial arts for years and have come across many interesting viewpoints with validity on both sides of the argument when it comes to sparring.

One interesting argument that several people have stated is that if you don't spar, you can't fight; or, if you don't spar, you will have limited success in street self-defense.

There is a vast difference between fighting and street self-defense. Let me give you my definition of each. Fighting is when you train hard to get into the ring or octagon as a sport. Fighting to me is full-contact--not to disregard point fighting. Street self-defense is a different story. It simply means to stop someone from harming you; escape, not conquer. It should take only a handful of seconds at the most. Lastly you have combat, which is a whole different realm.

You don't have to be a good fighter to be good at self-defense. Just because you are good at street self-defense, or even consider yourself a "street fighter"
that doesn't mean you can fight well in the ring, however. In fact, most people who have been deemed tough street fighters have gotten their butts handed to them against real fighterS in the ring.

My viewpoint is this: It is common sense that if you are going to be a fighter (in the ring), you need to spar all the time. You need to spar as many different people as possible in three categories: 1) those who are better than you, 2) those who are equal to you, and 3) those who aren't as good as you. As Mr. White says, "writers write and fighters fight."

I disagree however that if you don't spar, you can't be successful in street self-defense or actual combat. First of all, we know the whole rule thing--no rules on the street or in combat; well, one rule: survive. I have not found one spec of empirical evidence to support people's argument that if you don't spar you won't be successful on the street.

Look at it this way: do you feel Mr. Parker could fight on the street? I think it is obvious. I have been told, however, that Mr. Parker didn't spar. In fact, from what I gathered he sparred maybe one or two students ever. He also didn't compete in tournaments. I'm not claiming Mr. Parker never did any sparring as a student or any of that. I know he was an amateur boxer and I am sure he did plenty of sparring going through the ranks. I don't know, however, I wasn't there.

Also, I can't think of a single senior who spars. Again, doesn't mean they never did, but I look at it like any sport--just because you sparred many years doesn't mean you are going to stay that good. You get rusty in certain areas if you don't keep up on it. For instance, not to brag, but I was a really good baseball player growing up. I played ten years. I gave it up and then about fifteen years later my family had a little pick up baseball game and I couldn't even hit the damn ball--slow pitch. I went from crushing the ball to swinging and missing more times than I can count. The same goes with anything, in my view. If you don't keep up on it, you lose it--at least some of it.

I would wager that any good black belt in our system will have no problem defending himself whether he spars or not.

I do believe that sparring helps you for street self-defense, but I don't believe that if you don't do it, you will not be able to defend yourself. I feel, however, that you need to do it as your going through the ranks or you shouldn't ever get a black belt.

I would love anybody's thoughts about this. I personally have sparred many times, many ways. I am at a point in my life where I would rather focus on my teaching than sparring like I used to. I am getting older and I train hard in other areas. As for competing, I was an amateur boxer and a wrestler. I never competed in karate tournaments.

Any thoughts?


with respect,

Michael Miller, CKF


I think if someone wants to spar; then more power to them.

But just realize that as soon as you put on the pads and step in the ring that you are not doing Kenpo; you are kickboxing.

And before anyone jumps on me for that statement I got that directly from Mr. Planus so bring it up with him.

Sparring as it is done now is pointles, IMO. You stop with the slightest bit of contact and all form flies out the window because your just trying to touch them to get a point.

David Strobel
Minnesota Kenpo Karate Studio
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Joined: June 1st, 2005, 5:34 am

January 19th, 2010, 6:11 pm #8

As we all know sparring aka freestyle is an integral part of our art. Although many approach it differently, it is still an important process throughout our growth.

I have researched many aspects of the martial arts for years and have come across many interesting viewpoints with validity on both sides of the argument when it comes to sparring.

One interesting argument that several people have stated is that if you don't spar, you can't fight; or, if you don't spar, you will have limited success in street self-defense.

There is a vast difference between fighting and street self-defense. Let me give you my definition of each. Fighting is when you train hard to get into the ring or octagon as a sport. Fighting to me is full-contact--not to disregard point fighting. Street self-defense is a different story. It simply means to stop someone from harming you; escape, not conquer. It should take only a handful of seconds at the most. Lastly you have combat, which is a whole different realm.

You don't have to be a good fighter to be good at self-defense. Just because you are good at street self-defense, or even consider yourself a "street fighter"
that doesn't mean you can fight well in the ring, however. In fact, most people who have been deemed tough street fighters have gotten their butts handed to them against real fighterS in the ring.

My viewpoint is this: It is common sense that if you are going to be a fighter (in the ring), you need to spar all the time. You need to spar as many different people as possible in three categories: 1) those who are better than you, 2) those who are equal to you, and 3) those who aren't as good as you. As Mr. White says, "writers write and fighters fight."

I disagree however that if you don't spar, you can't be successful in street self-defense or actual combat. First of all, we know the whole rule thing--no rules on the street or in combat; well, one rule: survive. I have not found one spec of empirical evidence to support people's argument that if you don't spar you won't be successful on the street.

Look at it this way: do you feel Mr. Parker could fight on the street? I think it is obvious. I have been told, however, that Mr. Parker didn't spar. In fact, from what I gathered he sparred maybe one or two students ever. He also didn't compete in tournaments. I'm not claiming Mr. Parker never did any sparring as a student or any of that. I know he was an amateur boxer and I am sure he did plenty of sparring going through the ranks. I don't know, however, I wasn't there.

Also, I can't think of a single senior who spars. Again, doesn't mean they never did, but I look at it like any sport--just because you sparred many years doesn't mean you are going to stay that good. You get rusty in certain areas if you don't keep up on it. For instance, not to brag, but I was a really good baseball player growing up. I played ten years. I gave it up and then about fifteen years later my family had a little pick up baseball game and I couldn't even hit the damn ball--slow pitch. I went from crushing the ball to swinging and missing more times than I can count. The same goes with anything, in my view. If you don't keep up on it, you lose it--at least some of it.

I would wager that any good black belt in our system will have no problem defending himself whether he spars or not.

I do believe that sparring helps you for street self-defense, but I don't believe that if you don't do it, you will not be able to defend yourself. I feel, however, that you need to do it as your going through the ranks or you shouldn't ever get a black belt.

I would love anybody's thoughts about this. I personally have sparred many times, many ways. I am at a point in my life where I would rather focus on my teaching than sparring like I used to. I am getting older and I train hard in other areas. As for competing, I was an amateur boxer and a wrestler. I never competed in karate tournaments.

Any thoughts?


with respect,

Michael Miller, CKF


call it what you want.
I am not going to play the semantics game..
if you are not fighting in all the different ranges, and varying levels of intensity then you are missing a huge part of whats going to give you success in a real encounter..

Kenpo should not be comfortable... if its comfortable you are doing something wrong.
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Joined: June 1st, 2005, 5:34 am

January 19th, 2010, 6:15 pm #9

I think if someone wants to spar; then more power to them.

But just realize that as soon as you put on the pads and step in the ring that you are not doing Kenpo; you are kickboxing.

And before anyone jumps on me for that statement I got that directly from Mr. Planus so bring it up with him.

Sparring as it is done now is pointles, IMO. You stop with the slightest bit of contact and all form flies out the window because your just trying to touch them to get a point.

David Strobel
Minnesota Kenpo Karate Studio
to many assumptions..
if you gear up and spar using kickboxing rules, then you are kickboxing..
if you gear up and spar and the entire time try to get control of your opponent and once you got it make him do what you want, then thats not kickboxing, and it is extremely realistic and beneficial.

sparring as it is done now is not pointless.... pointless sparring as many do it is pointless, but not everyone does that. Point sparring in my opinion is good primarily at the beginning levels, and after that only as an additional supplement to realistic sparring.

I also have to say that if you believe in a statement back it up, don't wimp out and say that someone else said it.... if its valid it will stand up no matter who is saying it.
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Joined: June 1st, 2005, 5:34 am

January 19th, 2010, 6:17 pm #10

The biggest issue I have with sparring is most often how it's taught. The phrase, "Perfect practice makes perfect" comes to mind. Sparring is not just about tossing two people on the floor and saying hit each other.

Most belts before brown are not ready to spar in the conventional sense. It must be controlled at that level because the skill set has not been fully ingrained, otherwise they will begin to deviate into a mass of flailing arms and poor footwork in no short order. And of course, an hour of crapping sparring can destroy countless hours of form and set practice.

The approach we take is too build, over time, the level of freedom the student has to deviate (aka be spontaneous). In the early stages the attack and response is known...exactly. As they grow in ability the responses and attacks become more spontaneous until, finally, the student is free form sparring. By this time they can 1) Recognize every common attack 2) Block well 3) Move their head well 4) Move their feet well 5) and can see the available targets and choose spontaneously.

The trick is to not let them practice poor because poor practice makes a poor fighter.
with almost everything you said..
I think that some hard free sparring is good at the lower levels as long as its monitored and an experienced instructor can go over mistakes, and changes needed as they are sparring and immediately afterwards.. I actually think its a huge advantage to let them go and be able to find tendancies, habits, and reactions and change them as quickly as possible.
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