The Values of Sparring
Pat Munk, Judan
10th Degree Black Belt
What are the values of Sparring?
To me sparring is one of the necessary evils of karate. Sure most of what you see other schools doing is worthless at best with all their rules, like no hands to the head, no kicking below the belt, only light or no contact etc..
Sure most of us when we spar don’t use our self defense techniques to much of an extent and we look mostly like a kickboxing match. But you have to look at where our sparring style came from. Most of the older Tracy’s schools and students of the 70's were taught by Joe Lewis. The sparring theories Mr. Lewis developed with the late Bruce Lee and brought to us was so far ahead of it’s time that no one could defend against it. I always looked at our system of Kenpo as two distinct and separate systems designed into one awesome fighting system. On one hand we had the best self defense techniques and system anywhere, and on the other side we had one of the most devastating sparring systems ever developed One could be learned without the other and both blended well together.
I started in the Tracy’s System in Louisville, Ky. In the mid 70's. We were a fighting school. We would fight anyone who walked into the studio and wanted to fight. We fought hard. The contact was only limited in that we didn’t attack the throat, the joints, spine, or the eyes. Contact was allowed to the legs, groin, head and body. Most of the time the contact allowed was however hard you wanted to get hit back. The contact was always moderately hard to the head, hard enough to double you over to the body and groin.
I referred to our sparring matches as street fight with a few rules. The going was tough and hard and no one complained about getting hit too hard.
When I was a Blue Belt I was jumped and mugged by four guys. I was hit from a blind side as I walked through a doorway. I never saw the guy that hit me. I feel that due to the way we fought when we sparred allowed me to get up and defend myself against my attacker. Which I did, taking out the one that hit me. While doing that the second attacker struck at me with a pipe and hit me across my shoulder from behind, driving me to the ground again. Again I was able to disarm te attacker using our self defense techniques. The third attacker was stopped by a friend before he could get to me and the forth attacker was chased off by some friends that were nearby.
I feel that trying to spar or kickbox with someone that is trying to inflict injury r harm to you is stupid. I thing that our techniques are the only way to go. But the importance of sparring as I see it is to allow the student to learn how to move with an opponent. To know how it feels to hit someone, and what its like getting hit. If you don’t condition your body for the hits, it will shut down when hit, and you are in trouble. I believe that the only reason I was able to defend myself against my attackers was because I was used to getting hit hard, and my body didn’t shut down because it was hit hard. I was able to fight back on sheer survival instinct.
Another thing that sparring allows us to do is learn how to attack our attacker. Since most of our techniques are defensive in nature and are responses to attacks. Sparring allows us to attack our attackers.
Being an active instead of reactive fighter is the only way to effectively defend ourselves.
I believe that even though sparring is not the best thing to do. I feel that it is a very important part of ones training, and should be done with supervision and very few rules. When we spar we use more of the kickboxing style of Joe Lewis, but with very few rules, and as to how hard the contact is. Well we tell everyone, to only try to hit as hard as you wish to be hit. That keeps things down to a reasonable amount of contact.