The martial arts were created as a means of weaponless self-defense. That’s why almost every art has sparring at its core. By taking the basic martial arts techniques you learn in class and applying them in controlled fighting situations, you’ll learn how you react under pressure.
Unfortunately, many students are afraid to engage in uncontrolled sparring with another student. They don’t want to get hit, and they don’t want to do what it takes to learn how to counter and defend themselves. The following drills were designed to help reluctant students work their way up to free sparring and thus enhance their performance in combat and competition.
Martial Arts Training Drill No.1: Focus Sparring
Find a partner to hold and move the focus mitt as you strike it with two- and three-punch combinations. It’s important that he orient the mitt in the guard position and not show you the surface until he’s ready for you to strike it. Note that this drill also works with kicks, but your training techniques will need to be precise or you’ll miss the target.
To browse a selection of the most single important piece of gear you’ll need to perfect your sparring skills—the focus mitt—pick up the August 2011 issue of Black Belt magazine.
Martial Arts Training Drill No. 2: Shadow Sparring
This is a form of shadowboxing that’s performed in front of a mirror. Throw kicks, punches, elbows and knees and use proper footwork while you study your reflection. Try to maintain a flowing motion as you determine which parts of your repertoire need to be corrected. Caution: If you spar with another person in front of a mirror and attempt to watch yourself, you will get hit.
Martial Arts Training Drill No. 3: Heavy-Bag Sparring
Striking a heavy bag gives you an idea of the force and speed you’ll need when you face an actual opponent. Standing in front of the bag, freely throw kicks, punches, elbows and hand strikes. When the bag starts swinging back toward you after a strike, you know you’re making progress. For more fun, pretend the moving bag is an angry opponent trying to smack you and take evasive action.
Martial Arts Training Drill No. 4: Dummy Sparring
When you’re trying to develop trapping, parrying and centerline-defense skills, a wooden dummy from wing chun kung fu can be useful. It teaches you how to create free-flowing offensive and defensive combinations and how to use both hands at the same time.
Martial Arts Training Drill No. 5: Point Sparring
In the early days of point sparring, the action was limited to punching, kicking and sweeping. Now martial artists frequently add trapping, grappling and throwing. No matter which techniques you choose to include in your workouts, use mats and protective gear.
Martial Arts Training Drill No. 6: Circle Sparring
This drill encourages you to remain aware of your surroundings. Three to six people form a circle around you and attack one by one. You have no time to think about the attack; you simply react. If your skills are sufficiently advanced, you can have more than one person charge you at the same time.
What’s your favorite way to spar? Let us know what you think in the comments section.