Should All High-Ranking Black Belts Spar Regularly?

Should All High-Ranking Black Belts Spar Regularly?

Joined: March 4th, 2004, 6:13 pm

August 29th, 2007, 2:58 pm #1

If your answer is immediately yes, then why don't they?

One thing that I truly believe in is spontaneity training. No, not just drills. But via fighting someone who is trying to hit you back, and hard. One of the reasons, in my opinion, why a lot of MMA guys are tough, is because they fight....a lot.

If someone holds a high-ranking black belt, say 6th degree and higher, shouldn't they continue to strap on the gear and lead by example to improve their students (and themselves)?

One problem that I believe many Kenpo black belts have is that they, for all intensive purposes, worship the 154 techniques. They believe that all they need to do is practice them over and over, dazzle the crowd a bit with their speed and knowledge, and they are fighting machines.

I have a lot of respect for all high-ranking black belts who continue to humble themselves to the level of student, by continuing to fight with their students and peers for the betterment of their students and themselves.

For more thoughts on this, please see my new blog:


http://jamieseabrook.blogspot.com/2007/ ... -spar.html



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

August 29th, 2007, 3:24 pm #2

Jamie,

I hope all is well with you. I spar my students usually a couple times a month, while they spar each other once a week. The only thing is I don't spar them very hard. Safety is always first in my book, although you still have to train realistically.

Although I feel sparring is important, I don't feel you are lacking if you don't do it very much as a high ranking black belt. I have been told that Mr. Parker himself only sparred 2-3 of his students and those 2-3 people were the only one's to witness him spar. If this is accurate, it means he didn't spar too often. That certainly had no negative effect on his ability to defend himself. You know as well as I do how tough that man was.

It's obviously a matter of opinion. If you are going to fight MMA, you have to spar very hard and very often. If you are training primarily for street self-defense, I don't feel it is very important. I rarely spar hard and have had no problem defending myself all the times I have had to. Honestly I am not a big fan of sparring even though I feel it does teach many things.

Again this is my opinion. I have interviewed many martial arts celebrities, and top dogs like Chuck Norris, Bill Wallace, Joe Lewis, Don Wilson, Benny Urquidez and Bob Wall have different opinions. Some say sparring is number one. Some say it isn't that important for street. Some say it is everything for street. Don Wilson says he would fight on the street the same way he fights in the ring. Wallace said the same thing except that the wouldn't kick anyone in the head on the street. Urquidez says that the street is completely different than sparring and you don't spar on the street. I agree with Urquidez.

I love your blogs Jamie. I hope to see you in November at the CKF Summit.

God Bless!

Michael Miller, CKF
www.millersdojo.com
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Joined: June 1st, 2005, 5:34 am

August 29th, 2007, 4:33 pm #3

"If you are training primarily for street self-defense, I don't feel it is very important."

Wow, I like to read alot of your thoughts Mr. Miller, but I read this and shuddered. I think its this exact thought process that has made alot of people overconfident in their abilities and placed them in extreme danger if they run into a real problem on the streets.

I believe strongly in sparring, in many different scenarios, 1 vs. 1, 1 vs. 2, 1 vs. multiple, only stand up, only clinch, only ground, all ranges, vs. weapon, etc.

I think that some of the most important benefits of unstructured combat(freestyle sparring) vs. structured self defense techniques on the body, is the ability to deal with adrenaline, surprise, and the fight or flight reflex. The long term ability of recognizing how the opponent positions and primes his body to throw certain strikes so there is recognition in a real situation, and of course a feel of contact that may not be expected. There are obviously many more as you stated in your post, but I feel that sparring is an integral part of training.

That all being said, the original post was in regards to higher degree black belts.
Thats alot trickier, I stand by the statement that sparring will help anyone at any level be better at self defense, but that obviously depends on the physical health of the person training.
Lets face it, those that are higher degree Black Belts, legitimately anyways, are generally getting up there in years, some have taken better care of their bodies, and some have not been so fortunate. Obviously if sparring is going to put someone at great risk for personal injury then I see no reason to risk it, the rewards are outweighed by the risks.

I think Kenpo Karate is an art that requires a practitioner to enjoy hard or rough contact to be able to achieve Black Belt let alone a high level of Black Belt. I would Imagine that any legitimate high Level Black Belt has put in an insane amount of time sparring, or freestyle combat, whatever your take is on it. I think most have a good sense of how their Adrenaline works, how they react to contact, and how the body works. I think that much like Riding a Bike, if you have done an extensive amount of sparring over an extended period then you retain a majority of the benefits from it. I am sure there will be rust, and things like Timing will be a bit off from where it would be with more current training, but I think that sparring for a beginner to advanced level practitioner provides many many more benefits then to a seasoned Master.
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Joined: February 4th, 2004, 8:13 pm

August 29th, 2007, 5:31 pm #4

Sir,

I totally agree that sparring is an integral part of training, especially throughout your years as an under belt. My statement of it not being that important should be rephrased. I feel it is important, but I feel too many people swear by it and get overconfident if they spar well. I have sparred some people who I had trouble with, whom I would have dropped easily on the streets. Sparring helps with many things, but I have noticed that if they are great at sparring many get the big head.

Again it is just an opinion. I feel if you don't spar at all throughout your training you are being unrealistic. I also feel that once you reach high level of black, it isn't necessary. You can obviously defend yourself at that point unless you got your belts in the mail. Again, I am not a big fan of it, but it certainly has merit.

Yours,

Michael Miller, CKF
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Joined: March 4th, 2004, 6:13 pm

August 29th, 2007, 8:17 pm #5

Jamie,

I hope all is well with you. I spar my students usually a couple times a month, while they spar each other once a week. The only thing is I don't spar them very hard. Safety is always first in my book, although you still have to train realistically.

Although I feel sparring is important, I don't feel you are lacking if you don't do it very much as a high ranking black belt. I have been told that Mr. Parker himself only sparred 2-3 of his students and those 2-3 people were the only one's to witness him spar. If this is accurate, it means he didn't spar too often. That certainly had no negative effect on his ability to defend himself. You know as well as I do how tough that man was.

It's obviously a matter of opinion. If you are going to fight MMA, you have to spar very hard and very often. If you are training primarily for street self-defense, I don't feel it is very important. I rarely spar hard and have had no problem defending myself all the times I have had to. Honestly I am not a big fan of sparring even though I feel it does teach many things.

Again this is my opinion. I have interviewed many martial arts celebrities, and top dogs like Chuck Norris, Bill Wallace, Joe Lewis, Don Wilson, Benny Urquidez and Bob Wall have different opinions. Some say sparring is number one. Some say it isn't that important for street. Some say it is everything for street. Don Wilson says he would fight on the street the same way he fights in the ring. Wallace said the same thing except that the wouldn't kick anyone in the head on the street. Urquidez says that the street is completely different than sparring and you don't spar on the street. I agree with Urquidez.

I love your blogs Jamie. I hope to see you in November at the CKF Summit.

God Bless!

Michael Miller, CKF
www.millersdojo.com
Hi Michael,

Whaaaaz up brother?

I agree with your issues on school safety. I think it is important to try to be one step better than every student that you fight, and to hit corresponding to experience level.

While I agree with you that comparing street self defense to continuous sparring is like apples and oranges, at the end of the day, they are both fruit, and are both good for you. To neglect sparring on a regular basis limits one's ability in my opinion to truly learn how to respond to stress (especially if fighting a good fighter, LOL), develop proper timing, range, and so forth.

I sometimes think we get "cozy" with our forms, sets, and techniques, while missing that critical component that sparring adds to the equation.

It "kills me", for example, when I hear Kenpoists claim that their art is to dangerous for the UFC, and that if they could use all of their deadly Kenpo skills, they would win. I seriously, seriously, doubt that but I would definitely like their chances a lot more if they fought on a regular basis.

Say hi to the family for me, and I too, enjoy your posts buddy.


Jamie Seabrook
www.jamieseabrook.com
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Joined: March 4th, 2004, 6:13 pm

August 29th, 2007, 8:19 pm #6

"If you are training primarily for street self-defense, I don't feel it is very important."

Wow, I like to read alot of your thoughts Mr. Miller, but I read this and shuddered. I think its this exact thought process that has made alot of people overconfident in their abilities and placed them in extreme danger if they run into a real problem on the streets.

I believe strongly in sparring, in many different scenarios, 1 vs. 1, 1 vs. 2, 1 vs. multiple, only stand up, only clinch, only ground, all ranges, vs. weapon, etc.

I think that some of the most important benefits of unstructured combat(freestyle sparring) vs. structured self defense techniques on the body, is the ability to deal with adrenaline, surprise, and the fight or flight reflex. The long term ability of recognizing how the opponent positions and primes his body to throw certain strikes so there is recognition in a real situation, and of course a feel of contact that may not be expected. There are obviously many more as you stated in your post, but I feel that sparring is an integral part of training.

That all being said, the original post was in regards to higher degree black belts.
Thats alot trickier, I stand by the statement that sparring will help anyone at any level be better at self defense, but that obviously depends on the physical health of the person training.
Lets face it, those that are higher degree Black Belts, legitimately anyways, are generally getting up there in years, some have taken better care of their bodies, and some have not been so fortunate. Obviously if sparring is going to put someone at great risk for personal injury then I see no reason to risk it, the rewards are outweighed by the risks.

I think Kenpo Karate is an art that requires a practitioner to enjoy hard or rough contact to be able to achieve Black Belt let alone a high level of Black Belt. I would Imagine that any legitimate high Level Black Belt has put in an insane amount of time sparring, or freestyle combat, whatever your take is on it. I think most have a good sense of how their Adrenaline works, how they react to contact, and how the body works. I think that much like Riding a Bike, if you have done an extensive amount of sparring over an extended period then you retain a majority of the benefits from it. I am sure there will be rust, and things like Timing will be a bit off from where it would be with more current training, but I think that sparring for a beginner to advanced level practitioner provides many many more benefits then to a seasoned Master.
I enjoyed its content.


Jamie Seabrook
www.jamieseabrook.com
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Joined: February 4th, 2004, 8:13 pm

August 29th, 2007, 8:54 pm #7

Hi Michael,

Whaaaaz up brother?

I agree with your issues on school safety. I think it is important to try to be one step better than every student that you fight, and to hit corresponding to experience level.

While I agree with you that comparing street self defense to continuous sparring is like apples and oranges, at the end of the day, they are both fruit, and are both good for you. To neglect sparring on a regular basis limits one's ability in my opinion to truly learn how to respond to stress (especially if fighting a good fighter, LOL), develop proper timing, range, and so forth.

I sometimes think we get "cozy" with our forms, sets, and techniques, while missing that critical component that sparring adds to the equation.

It "kills me", for example, when I hear Kenpoists claim that their art is to dangerous for the UFC, and that if they could use all of their deadly Kenpo skills, they would win. I seriously, seriously, doubt that but I would definitely like their chances a lot more if they fought on a regular basis.

Say hi to the family for me, and I too, enjoy your posts buddy.


Jamie Seabrook
www.jamieseabrook.com
Jamie,

Good to hear from you as usual and I totally agree with you. You cannot jump into any MMA fight without hard core sparring. MMA stuff (UFC) is an arena on it's own and is a full time thing. You can't train half heartedly if you want to compete. You can't compete without sparring hard on a regular basis. I agree that sparring adds a very good element to your training.

By the way, do you still plan on attending the Summit? If so, I would love for us to set aside some time together, if possible, to spar a little bit. I need beat around a little (LOL).

Michael
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Joined: December 5th, 2006, 3:38 pm

August 29th, 2007, 9:23 pm #8

Jamie,

I hope all is well with you. I spar my students usually a couple times a month, while they spar each other once a week. The only thing is I don't spar them very hard. Safety is always first in my book, although you still have to train realistically.

Although I feel sparring is important, I don't feel you are lacking if you don't do it very much as a high ranking black belt. I have been told that Mr. Parker himself only sparred 2-3 of his students and those 2-3 people were the only one's to witness him spar. If this is accurate, it means he didn't spar too often. That certainly had no negative effect on his ability to defend himself. You know as well as I do how tough that man was.

It's obviously a matter of opinion. If you are going to fight MMA, you have to spar very hard and very often. If you are training primarily for street self-defense, I don't feel it is very important. I rarely spar hard and have had no problem defending myself all the times I have had to. Honestly I am not a big fan of sparring even though I feel it does teach many things.

Again this is my opinion. I have interviewed many martial arts celebrities, and top dogs like Chuck Norris, Bill Wallace, Joe Lewis, Don Wilson, Benny Urquidez and Bob Wall have different opinions. Some say sparring is number one. Some say it isn't that important for street. Some say it is everything for street. Don Wilson says he would fight on the street the same way he fights in the ring. Wallace said the same thing except that the wouldn't kick anyone in the head on the street. Urquidez says that the street is completely different than sparring and you don't spar on the street. I agree with Urquidez.

I love your blogs Jamie. I hope to see you in November at the CKF Summit.

God Bless!

Michael Miller, CKF
www.millersdojo.com
I too went through the sparring/kickboxing phase from 1978 to 1992. At 47 years old, my speed and wind are still good but my ability to recover from injury is the pits. Sparring is still fun and that is the way I treat it. I've done the MMA thing and practice BJJ just because I enjoy the workout. While I still had a school, our sparring was incremental:
White - Grappling and boxing
Yellow - Begin kicking above the waist
Orange - Begin kicking below the waist
Purple - Add sweeps, take-downs, and throws
Blue - Add ground work (striking while on the ground)
Green - Add knees and elbows (padded)
Brown - Add biting, pinching, and hair pulling
incorporate weapons
Needless to say, the adults didn't tournament spar and the kids only did if they wanted to enter a local tournament. I taught that way from 92 up until Katrina and my students loved it, even the kids. Protection was worn and other than a few black eyes, bloody noses, and various other bumps and bruises, we had no serious injuries. On the other hand, my last three altercations have all been self defense situations where I was grabbed and/or responded first to an imminent attack. My self defense skills did just fine with no need for me to start bouncing around looking for targets. As an AKKI guy, I'm not a big fan of long drawn out techniques. I prefer a few simple patterns and precise mechanics so ingrained into my neuromusculature system, that all I do is act. Do I think seniors need to get in the ring and prove anything? No, their track record and their student's abilities should be enough. Is it still fun watching them get on the mat and mix it up? Hell yea!
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Joined: April 5th, 2005, 1:14 am

August 29th, 2007, 10:18 pm #9

If your answer is immediately yes, then why don't they?

One thing that I truly believe in is spontaneity training. No, not just drills. But via fighting someone who is trying to hit you back, and hard. One of the reasons, in my opinion, why a lot of MMA guys are tough, is because they fight....a lot.

If someone holds a high-ranking black belt, say 6th degree and higher, shouldn't they continue to strap on the gear and lead by example to improve their students (and themselves)?

One problem that I believe many Kenpo black belts have is that they, for all intensive purposes, worship the 154 techniques. They believe that all they need to do is practice them over and over, dazzle the crowd a bit with their speed and knowledge, and they are fighting machines.

I have a lot of respect for all high-ranking black belts who continue to humble themselves to the level of student, by continuing to fight with their students and peers for the betterment of their students and themselves.

For more thoughts on this, please see my new blog:


http://jamieseabrook.blogspot.com/2007/ ... -spar.html



Thoughts?
Jamie,
I could argue this question from either side - they both have merit. Let's talk about return on investment of time.

Sparring provides several benefits - timing, distance awareness, performance with the adrenaline dump, and the threat of taking a hit. All worthwhile.

Without sparring, you can still get most of those benefits and there are good drills for each. What is hard to duplicate is the adrenaline dump you get with sparring. Everything seems to go up a notch. That said, I've participated in some pretty realistic training that generated on the same or higher level of excitement and spontaneity.

The negatives of sparring - unless your sparring is pretty hard contact, there is the potential for overconfidence and training yourself to strike lightly or limit your targets when the real situation arises.

These are obviously only partial lists but highlight some of the issues on either side. Now, to your question.

Many of us have been in enough altercations that we know how we will react to a real situation - at least to the point that sparring won't improve on it much, if any. As you increase in rank, the idea of being able to "turn it on" with little notice should be well thought out. While sparring provides the spontaneity once the fight has begun, you usually have plenty of notice as to when it will begin. Street fights frequently go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds. Sparring doesn't do much to train you for that.

I can't tell you the answer for you but I can for me.
After I spar (which is infrequently) I do not have improved confidence, tougher attitude, or an awareness of having entered a higher state of consciousness that will allow me to prevail should the super ninjas jump me in the parking lot.

When I get done with some serious drills, using not just the basic techniques but adding spontaneous complications and solid contact, I'm ready for the ninjas.

That's me. Someone else - different. Tough to prescribe for some other black belt. I think that whatever conclusion you come up with for you, is probably right. If you can't figure this one out for yourself by now, you should probably send the belt back to Century and take up knitting. But I might be wrong.

Take it out on the heavy bag,

Chuck Peterson
Peterson_charlie@hotmail.com
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Joined: May 7th, 2004, 11:02 am

August 30th, 2007, 11:42 am #10

If your answer is immediately yes, then why don't they?

One thing that I truly believe in is spontaneity training. No, not just drills. But via fighting someone who is trying to hit you back, and hard. One of the reasons, in my opinion, why a lot of MMA guys are tough, is because they fight....a lot.

If someone holds a high-ranking black belt, say 6th degree and higher, shouldn't they continue to strap on the gear and lead by example to improve their students (and themselves)?

One problem that I believe many Kenpo black belts have is that they, for all intensive purposes, worship the 154 techniques. They believe that all they need to do is practice them over and over, dazzle the crowd a bit with their speed and knowledge, and they are fighting machines.

I have a lot of respect for all high-ranking black belts who continue to humble themselves to the level of student, by continuing to fight with their students and peers for the betterment of their students and themselves.

For more thoughts on this, please see my new blog:


http://jamieseabrook.blogspot.com/2007/ ... -spar.html



Thoughts?
Hi Jamie,

Very nice, thought-provoking, article yet again.

Without implying that I consider myself a high ranking black belt, I'll start of with some of my own experiences.

Personally I experience that my students love to spar with me, and they love to see me fight others, either in training or in tournaments, and it doesn't matter at all whether I win or not. Even if it were just to post an example I spar with them (especially with the kids) every week. Apart from that I join my advanced class buddies as much as I can (which is a lot less then I'd want to) in sparring as close to real life as acceptable to us. We gear up using MMA-gloves, shinpads and groin and mouth guards and just fight let's say "moderate contact". We don't try to rip each others heads off, but you definately feel if your blocks do their job or not (and it's not a pleasant feeling ). Whenever this takes us to the ground, we'll continue there using whatever we need to either keep on pounding on targets, or go for a submission. Some of the guys I train with crosstrain in BJJ, and they teach the others their drills and do's and don'ts on the ground.

So yes, for me sparring is a very important part of training and I hope I can keep on doing it on a regular basis for many years to come. I choose to "lead by example" as long as I can, so I train hard in every aspect of Kenpo.

However, that does not neccessarily mean that there's no other way to lead than by example.

A comparison has been made before between leaders in Kenpo or martial arts in general and other sports or even in life itself. In many others sports the greatest trainers or coaches have never been very good at the sport they work in. Why would it be that in Kenpo (let's forget about the other ma's for now) we expect our leaders/trainers/coaches to be better then ourselves, or at least to have been better then ourselves? I guess it's because in most types of organisations there are several different scales on which you can grow. You can be a great scientist, or a great leader, or a great negotiator or whatever. We Kenpoists have only got the amount of red on a black belt. If anyone achieves a high degree, we suddenly expect that person to be a great practitioner, a great motion-scientist, a great leader of a group of people, and be a great teacher all at the same time, which is a ridiculously high expectation. I feel that in order to promote someone to a high rank, the promotor should question himself why it is that this person deserves that rank. The answer to that question can be that the person at hand is a great teacher, or a great inovator, or a great fighter, but he or she does not neccesarily have to be great at all those points.

Further more, IMO (again) your rank does only point to a level of proficiency you had when you tested for that rank, nothing more and nothing less. Personally I'd feel ashamed if I would no longer be able to show that level, but the choise is up to the individual. This all ofcourse changes if there are objective reasons for not being as able as you once were, like age or injuries, but that goes without saying (and now I said it anyway).

So, do IMO all high ranked black belts have to spar regularly: No they don't. But, if the only reason for that high rank is that you are a great fighter, and you still want to be promoted further up the ladder, you'd better keep on training.

Phew, I hope this all still makes sense, it's become somewhat longer then I was planning, but I didn't have time for a short answer.

Regards,

Marcel


***************************************
Marcel de Jong, 4th Black from the Netherlands

http://www.katsudokenpo.nl
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