Performing under pressure
IntroWhen sparring, students learn to deal with the unrelenting attacks of an opponent by using effective defensive and offensive techniques to fit the opponent's size, skill level, and fighting style. By placing themselves in a position where there is the risk of injury, students learn to face adversity and the pressure of having to deal with the continuous physical and mental force exerted on them.
Tips on handling pressure
- Face your fears. While free-sparring is a game, there is still a possibility for injury. For some this causes anxiety. Free-sparring helps calm your anxieties and develops your confidence as you face your fears under controlled conditions.
- Beware of actors. This type of opponent falls to the floor in apparent agony at the slightest contact to draw the sympathy of officials and to cause you to ease up. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. If it is used too much, everyone evolved will catch on and the person will suffer for it. Sometimes, just as the boy who cried wolf, when a real injury occurs, no one will believe it.
- Quickly adapt to the opponent's actions. Because free-sparring is not prearranged, the opponent may use any type of permitted attack. Students must learn to quickly deal with an endless variety of attacks and adapt to their opponents' style and timing. Through free-sparring, students learn to respond quickly and calmly to unknown situations that may occur in real-life self-defense situations.
- Protect themselves when injured. If you are involved in a self-defense situation, you will get hit and, if you free-spar, you will get hit. In either case, the result of the hit may be something as minor as a bruise, bump, or black eye, or it may be something more serious. To continue to defend and attack, you must learn to fight through the pain. Although one must continue to defend himself or herself in a self-defense situation no matter how serious the injury, this does not mean one must continue sparring with a serious injury. Injuries, and the pain associated with them, may cause the human body to instinctively shut down. Students not prepared for the mental and physical shock of an injury will be unprepared to defend themselves when injured. Free-sparring teaches students not to be distracted by physical contact and minor pain.
- Withstand blows and respond calmly. When students first start free-sparring and they get hit, the first reaction is usually anger and the urge to retaliate. Students gradually learn to overcome this flash of anger, absorb the blow with dignity, and counterattack calmly and correctly without emotion.
- Think clearly under duress. The first time you face someone who wants to hurt you, even in a competitive match, the tendency is to suddenly forget your training and resort to hopelessly fending off an ever-increasing rain of blows. To overcome this instinctive reaction, one must learn to face the attack, not panic, and react as required.
- Build mental and physical endurance. Regular free-sparring builds mental, physical, and emotional endurance. Mental endurance permits one to concentrate fully on the opponent's actions, to read his or her intentions, and act accordingly. Physical endurance permits one to fight a larger or more experienced fighter and to outlast tough opponents. Emotional endurance permits one to stay calm, cool, and collected throughout a tough fight.
- Build power and accuracy. To learn to apply your techniques realistically, you must use them against a live opponent. Free-sparring permits you to execute a limited number of skills against the active resistance of an opponent.
- Learn to move quickly. Only the pressure of a realistic confrontation can create the speed needed to attack and defend effectively. Free-sparring permits students to develop speed and timing when using evasion, defense, attacks, footwork, and counterattacks.
- Hone fighting instincts. Ever watch dogs play! Ever watch dogs fight! The only difference between the two is attitude. Animals hone their fighting instincts by playing in the same way that they would fight. Sparring has the same effect on humans.
- Spot vulnerabilities and exploit them. Free-sparring allows you to learn to spot weaknesses in opponents' defenses, read their next move, detect bad habits, and to interpret telegraphed movements. These are intangible skills that may only be learned from experience.
- No-contact versus contact. In both no-contact and contract sparring, there are limitations on the techniques that may be used and the targets that are available. This helps minimize injuries and allows students to spar more often. In no-contact sparring, strikes make no contact or light contact with the opponent. It provides martial artists with a relatively safe learning experience. Students may spar daily with no problems. In contact-sparring, strikes make contact with the opponent, thus increasing the risk of injury. This puts more mental and physical pressure on the competitors because of the greater likelihood of injuries. Injuries can limit the amount of sparring fighters may perform.