Free sparring is “practice fighting” with the aim of improving the skills and fitness level of one or both participants while minimizing the risk of serious injury. If you are a beginner who wants to enhance his/her skills and get in better shape? Learn how to spar correctly and effectively by following these tips.
1. Sparring is not Fighting
Don’t try to brutalize your opponent. In a real self-defence situation, combatants don’t hold back because their primary goal is to survive. But when sparring in class, the main objective is to sharpen the skills of one or both students. It is a learning process for all who wish to participate. When someone with superior skills hurts his opponent, they stop sparring and nobody gains.
Even an inferior opponent can sometimes make you a better fighter because he/she may possess fighting traits that compliment your weaknesses.
2. Protect Yourself at All Times
The FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT thing is to “Protect yourself at all times.” This is an absolute must even when sparring, self-defence or anywhere where there is a risk of being hit. Do not take your eyes off your opponent and keep your hands up. Not following these instructions will only make you more likely to be hit and hurt. Even though sparring is not real competition, your opponent may not realize you’re not in a defensive posture and accidentally hits you with a hard punch to an unprotected part of your person.
Sparring for training or for fun without the supervision of a fully trained and insured adult instructor is very risky and should not be done.
4. Safety Equipment
Safety equipment is mandatory when sparring. This is for the protection of both the student and opponent. It should include
- Soft foam Un- weighted gloves (open or enclosed fingers and thumbs)
- Soft foam foot pad to give full protection to the toes, in-step, heel, and ankle.
- Soft foam Headgear: to protect top of head, cheeks and ears
- Groin Guard is compulsory for boys in tournaments. This groin guard should protect the bottom of the belly and groin area
- Mouthpiece is also highly recommended to protect the inside of the mouth and lips from getting cut by the teeth when a hard punch to the face is received.
If you do not have full safety equipment you may not be allowed to partake in sparring exercises.
Don’t try to do anything dramatic. You may “think” you’re in fighting shape but when you’re sparring against a moving, thinking target who’s fighting back, everything changes. For beginners, throwing flashy techniques and you’ll only be wasting energy and there’s a decent chance you’ll collapse from exhaustion after the first minute… if you make it that far.
Move around to make it difficult for your opponent to have a fixed target, analyse your opponent’s movement and use your brains.
6. Practice Breathing Techniques
Marathon runners implement breathing techniques and, if you spar, you should too. Don’t ever forget to breathe. Practice breathing while shadow-boxing and hitting the heavybag. Beginners don’t only tire too soon because they don’t know how to conserve energy in the ring, they often tire too fast because they hold their breath when they punch and defend against punches.
7. Keep It Simple
If you’re a beginner, stick to and perfect simple techniques like front punch and front kick. Improve your defensive skills as it is difficult to spar if you are getting beat up. Simple techniques can be used to score in tournaments and set your opponent up for bigger combinations and keep your opponent at a safe distance, deflect incoming punches, and frustrate him/her.
When you become exhausted in the ring and your opponent is still aggressive and energetic, keeping it simple will give you a chance to get your breath back. Practice throwing a quick, straight snapping hand or foot techniques. If used properly, simple techniques can buy you time in the ring and help you win.
8. Attack While Being Hit
Beginners often make the mistake of waiting for their opponent to finish attacking before attacking back. If your opponent starts hurling punches, keep your eyes wide open, your hands up and watch everything he/she is doing. Look for openings and fire back efficiently and effectively. Even if your opponent is better than you, he/she will probably back-off when they taste return fire.
After you punch, you must bring your jab back high, to your chin. Even pros are sometimes guilty of not practicing this so it should come as no surprise beginners often get lazy and fail to bring their hand back to their chin after striking. Watch how your opponent punch (or attack) and when you notice a vulnerability, launch a quick counter-strike.
If you don’t attack back while being hit, you’ll allow your opponent to control the action whenever he/she chooses. When under siege, keep your guard up and fire back. You’ll break his/her focus, gain your opponent’s respect and convince them there’s a risk for unloading on you. You’ll also find more openings because, at all levels, a fighter is more vulnerable to being hit when they are actively attacking.
9. Work the Body
Most beginners focus on head punches and kicks and forget to work the body. While stepping in, simultaneously blind your opponent with a jab and attack the body behind it. In a tournament or street, if you connect on a few attacking body shots, you’ll empty your opponent’s gas tank fast.
10. Getting Schooled
So you got schooled in your first few sparring sessions? Don’t worry, getting whopped is part of learning. Everyone, even the greats, gets beaten at some point in their career. Learn from your mistakes and focus on correcting them. Also try to train longer and harder than the guys/girls who you want to be better than.
Follow your Instructors instructions, and take taekwondo seriously.
Sparring is a lot like life – Everyone gets knocked down. What separates high achievers from everyone else is more to do with how they deal with hardship rather than how many times they get knocked down.