Saturday, 11 March 2017

In defense of semi-contact sparring.

Ever watched the glorious sport of Rugby?

Well- I'm sure American readers will have an idea of what it is by now. It is Football without those sissy helmets and shoulder-pads! :D

Something tells me that that remark has bought me a couple of people waiting for me with pumping fists in the comment section after this post... :D

Seriously, though- football fans also know that sports like Football and Rugby are really brutal and the kind of injuries sustained by players often exceed those sustained by MMA fighters. Yes- there are worse things than being punched in the face... Trust me.

I don't know much about American Football, but did you know that Rugby has a full-contact and a virtually no-contact (or very light contact) version?

No- it is not Sarcastaball... :D (Damn! I'm not going to finish this post if I continue laughing at myself like this...)

It is called Touch- Rugby. Now- jokes aside- my point is this:

In normal Rugby- teams consider being tackled and knocked over as part of the game and even have strategies like "crash ball running" where a player is sacrificed to create openings in the other team's defense. In Rugby we also have "rucks" and "mauls" that are in essence regulated ways of wrestling for control over the ball.

Now- in Touch Rugby a ball carrier's strength and weight is completely irrelevant. The "tackler" in this case only has to touch him, like in a game of Tag, to make him stop and pass the ball to a teammate. Easy, right? Well- have you considered how fast a guy has to run to avoid getting tagged or worse- surrounded and cut off from his teammates?

Suddenly Touch-Rugby becomes a lot harder and we find a lot of Rugby players preferring the normal game so that they can keep running until they really get immobilised.

Wenhsiuquan contains a lot of close quarter techniques. It was made for grappling and close fighting as much as it is equipped for long-range fighting like Taekwondo and Sports karate.

Sparring at an advanced level is full contact. It is not a sport and no competition sparring exists for it.

I am quite happy with my short game as I have evolved from someone who backpedaled a lot into someone who defends with minimal movement while staying close enough to counterattack. Sanda and Muay Thai people would find that I can actually hold my own against them, because of the way I train.

Well- I did not feel as competent against my opponents in the karate competitions that I have attended thus far...

The thing is- nobody wants to stand still and mix it up in these bouts. They MOVE! Opponents who I had to block- evade, immobilise and hit with multiple attacks got replaced with opponents that I had to catch before they are no longer within reach and opponents who could close a gap with blinding speeda and re-open such a gap with equal speed.  

One of the things I also found is that my kicks are actually much shorter than they could be. I got taught to improve my reach.

... and I have to work on my speed...

Bruce Lee himself said that he did not like no-contact sparring as it was important to develop the feeling of exploding through a target. I understand why he said that and respect that view, but here are some bad habits cultivated by full-contact sparring:

1. Reliance on strength: Strength is but one pillar on which martial arts are built. Beating a sparring partner that is weaker than you will not help your development as a fighter/ martial artist at all.

2. Becoming slow: Ever felt like King Kong trying to catch some annoying aeroplanes that are zooming around his head? Well- being in the habit of staying in place as you go toe to toe will have you feeling like that when you meet someone who can literally run rings around you. Having to avoid even a single punch or kick touching you forces you to MOVE! You become much faster that way.
Also- having to hit an opponent who does not stand still is a lot harder and forces you to make your attacks faster with a lot less unnecessary movement.

If your dojo does light sparring or even no-contact sparring students will find that even a smaller sparring partner can present a challenge. And yes- dojos are supposed to be full of challenges!

Lastly I want to say that I know that timing beats speed. I just want to say that you do NOT want to be the slowest one on the floor either...

Train well, everyone! Have a great week!

1 comment:

  1. Sparring in the 50's and 60's involved no contact. Points would be taken away if contact was made. Focus of power without control makes no sense. Also leads to lack of sparring partners.