Sparring is an essential part of most combat sports, it is most often used in training to help the fighter learn new techniques and to enhance their skills.
You can do all workouts relating to your combat sport be it jumping rope, HIIT, or boxing drills but if you don’t spar, you often won’t see an improvement.
It’s important to note that sparring isn’t fighting, they have completely different objectives so you shouldn’t be afraid of sparring. In this article we will be discussing what sparring is, why it is important and the benefits of it.
So, What Actually Is Sparring?
Sparring is a way to practice your technique and skills on another person in a controlled and safe setting, the goal is to try to improve you and your partner’s skills by practicing attacking and defensive moves.
You should be working and flowing with each other, sparring isn’t fighting and heavy blows must not be landed.
Sparring is great for stamina and resistance training as it mimics a real life situation but without the chance for injury to occur like it might in the competition ring.
It takes a lot of self control to spar and it can be quite difficult to learn to not ramp up your punches in the heat of the moment, this doesn’t mean you can’t work hard it just means you have to work hard whilst keeping yourself in check.
What Does Sparring Involve?
Sparring allows you to test out your skills and techniques that you’ve learned on a sparring partner.
This is a good way to test out your reflexes and your ability to anticipate what your opponent will do next, which is a key thing in a lot of combat sports.
It will usually be a mixture of offensive and defensive moves that you will use in a sparring situation and practicing a routine based on these moves.
It all depends on what combat sport you’re learning, if you’re boxing you’ll only be using your hands and will be practicing how to block an attack and counter it.
If you’re learning a martial art you may be punching, kicking and grappling, which can be quite overwhelming to ensure you keep control to not injure yourself and your sparring partner.
Don’t worry too much, you’ll be supervised by your trainer who will immediately stop the sparring session if something is going wrong, or they will give pointers and tips to help you both out whilst you’re sparring.
There’s usually three types of sparring, technical sparring, conditional sparring and all out sparring.
Technical sparring is normally used when the fighter wants to perfect a move or a drill and due to this it’s not a great way to develop the fighter’s ability to think in a combat situation.
Technical sparring doesn’t really allow skills to be developed as it’s used to perfect a certain drill in response to a particular situation, but it is great for fighters who are struggling to get to grips with certain movements or routines.
The trainer will usually set a condition on what can and can’t be done before the actual session begins.
Conditional sparring allows the fighter freedom, they can use what they’ve learnt in the technical sparring session and apply that to the conditional sparring session in whichever way they’d like to develop their skills in a way that suits their fighting style.
All Out Sparring
All out sparring is sparring with no conditions or limitations. It’s essentially a simulation of a real fight, there’s not really much reason to do this unless you’re gearing up for a competition or trying to develop to get to that stage.
It’s effective for fighters to know what a real fight would feel like and how they would deal with the effects of combat stress.
But the trainers must maintain some control of the session and provide helpful feedback and encouragement if the session isn’t going as planned for either of the fighters, as this can severely affect their confidence of getting into the ring for a real fight if they’re not doing as well as they thought they would.
The Benefits Of Sparring
Sparring has a number of benefits for anyone training in a combat sport.
It Increases Your Confidence
Sparring allows you to perform what you’ve learnt on another person which will give you confidence if you’re ever faced with a real life fighting situation.
If you’ve practiced your skills on another person, chances are if you’re faced with a combat situation you’ll feel a lot less nervous as you’ve already practiced your technique on another person.
It’s Beneficial For Health And Fitness
Sparring is a great form of cardio as you will be performing all the skills and techniques you’ve learnt on another person along with the added stress and adrenaline you’ll get from having to anticipate their next move.
Your reaction times, reflexes and stamina will also improve if you’re regularly sparring.
You’ll be testing out different scenarios and different techniques against a different person each time (hopefully) in which you’ll have to learn their moves, and how to anticipate their next move.
This will keep you on your toes and ensure you’re constantly alert, improving your fitness levels.
It Makes You Better At Contact Sport
Sparring allows you to test out any of your skills and techniques on your opponent without the risk of injury or the pressure of a real competition.
Since you’re being supervised, your trainer will be able to give you feedback and encouragement of what you’re doing well and what you can work on more, to make you the best you can possibly be.
You’ll learn to move with freedom and be spontaneous whilst also remaining controlled which is a key skill to have in the ring and the moves you’ve learnt will kick in which will allow you to react better to the various different situations and different opponents that you may encounter.