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Some sparring strategies

Intro

Sparring is common to many styles of martial arts. Taekwondo sparring mostly uses kicks and punches; however, other martial arts may use other methods of sparring. Each method requires a different sparring strategy.

Methods of sparring

There are three main unarmed methods available to use to defend yourself from an attack. All three methods are effective if they are used as they were originally conceived. The methods are:
  • Striking. Striking is where force meets force. Punches and kicks are the predominate body weapons, others include knee, elbows, and the head. Some martial arts that primarily use striking are karate, boxing, and taekwondo.
  • Grappling. Grappling is where force engages force. Locks, pins, bars, chokes, and throws are included in grappling. Some martial arts that primarily use grappling are jujitsu, judo, and wrestling.
  • Avoidance. Avoidance is where force avoids force. Deflection and leverage techniques are primarily used. Some martial arts that primarily use avoidance are aikido, judo, and some forms of jujitsu.
The three methods are mutually exclusive. For example, it is difficult to grapple and strike at the same time, it is difficult to avoid force and grapple at the same time, and it is difficult to strike and avoid force at the same time.

Which method of sparring is best

A true martial artist is a person who studies one of these three methods exclusively. When a martial art is studied in this way, the subconscious quickly learns how to respond to almost every conceivable attack using the trained responses. However, when the arts are mixed, strange things happen.

It’s like riding a motorcycle with the gear shifter on the left footrest and the brake lever on the right footrest and then riding a motorcycle with the controls on the opposite sides. With concentration and a little practice, you will be able to ride either motorcycle under normal conditions. However, when you are casually riding done the road and, as you round a curve, you see a car sideways across both lanes of the road. Which foot do you use to press the brake? That split-second of time that it takes to remember which motorcycle you are on is a matter of your life or death.

When it comes to self-defense, if the subconscious has been taught to block with the left hand and strike with the right when dealing with a right-hand punch, the response will be instantaneous. However, if we also have been practicing avoiding the punch, our subconscious mind becomes confused and drops the decision about how to react back to the conscious mind. The difference is that the subconscious mind makes a decision in 1/25 of a second, whereas the conscious mind takes 3/4 of a second or more to decide.

For this reason, it is best to pick a martial art that best suits you and then specialize in it without mixing it with other arts. You train to effectively use the techniques used by your martial art against all types of attacks used by your art, and the techniques of other martial arts. Any martial artist who has truly internalized his or her art will react unconsciously and not make the mistake of being seduced into playing the opponent's game.

Strategies to use against each method of sparring

Although each defense method has advantages, each also has its disadvantages. When fighting a person of another art, always fight to break their fighting rules. Since they train to obey the rules of their art, they will be at a disadvantage.

When facing a striking fighter

The rules of striking arts require that the opponent will attack and bring the fight to you. They love to strike, so refuse to engage, make them come after you! A strategically retreating opponent is difficult, if not impossible, to hit without an extraordinary effort on the striker's part. Watch for this extraordinary effort and attack when the attacker is committed to the strike.

In striking arts, covering an opponent’s hands or holding any part of the opponent's body is not permitted, so cover their hands. Generally, striking martial artists do not grapple. Any good striking fighter will tell you that it is virtually impossible to keep an opponent from clinching.
Stay out of kicking range; make the opponent come to you. Lightning-fast punches and kicks are possible from a stationary base but the attacking speed drops drastically when the fighter is required to move while trying to kick and punch at a moving target, so move and make the opponent move to accommodate you.

The best times to attack a striker are:
  • Immediately after an attack has been initiated.
  • When the attacking limb is fully extended and has just begun to retract.
Strike with the palm or edge of the hand. Many striking art practitioners are not allowed to strike with the palm or edge of the hand in competitions, so they do no train to defend against it. It can throw them off their game.

A punch or kick has short effective penetration distance, so learn instinctively to judge the distance you must move to avoid a punch or kick.

Learn to attack while moving. The use of kicks against a defender who will not initiate the first attack is difficult. The kicker cannot kick and walk at the same time, thus he or she is required to stop each time that he or she kicks. Thus, a continually moving target will frustrate most attempts to kick. If you are moving when the attacker punches or kicks, you will find many safe opportunities to attack.
Strikers like to strike from a firm base. Push or use sweeps to keep strikers off balance so they cannot set up for a strike.

When facing a grappling fighter

Taekwondo is a stand-up fighting art that specializes in kicking, so sparring takes place at a kicking range with very little close-in action. So, what can a taekwondo fighter do when faced with a ground-fighting opponent, such a fighter trained in Brazilian jujitsu.

When Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) first began in 1993, Brazilian jujitsu practitioners dominated. In the UFC, two combatants are inside a padded, caged ring, and their attacks are limited by very few rules: no biting, eye-gouging or groin strikes. To win, one combatant must force the other to submit, render him or her unconscious, convince the referee to stop the contest, or last to end and win by a decision. Stand up fighters did not know how to fight ground fighters. Nowadays, Brazilian jujitsu practitioners no longer dominate. One reason is that opponents have become familiar with their greatest strength: the guard. Standup fighters now train to use grappling and to defend against grappling. Vice versa, ground fighters now train to use long-rage techniques and to defend against them.

Some limitations to grappling arts are:
  • Multiple attackers. Since ground fighting requires maximal body entanglement, it is virtually impossible to fight multiple attackers. When defending against multiple attackers, your only hope is powerful punches and kicks against lethal targets.
  • Edged weapons. When applying a grappling lock, it is extremely difficult to defend against knives and other edged weapons.
  • Onlooker intervention. People are champions of the underdog. Nobody likes to see a person mounted and pummeled with vicious blows or being held in pain in a lock, so an onlooker may decide to come to the aid of the person in pain. If you are locked up on the ground with your attacker and spectators decide to intervene, you are in big trouble.
  • Psychoactive drugs. If your adversary is high on psychoactive drugs, he will have freakish strength and often be immune to pain. Do you want to be on the ground with a large man on such powerful drugs?
  • Environment. When ground fighting, the environment, and the immediate surroundings can harm you (vehicle traffic, rocks, broken glass, a street curb, etc.).
  • Weapon retention. If you are a law enforcement officer or security guard, there is a very strong possibility that your attacker may pull your holstered sidearm and shoot you with it while you are ground fighting with him.
  • Biting and gouging. Many submission techniques can be negated by using biting, gouging, and other maiming techniques.
To defeat a ground fighter, you must be an effective striker and kicker and be able to do so while defending against various take-down attempts. Your standup grappling skills must include the ability to out box, out position, and out sprawl your opponent while you are both standing. To increase your stand-up skills, you should study wrestling or judo where the primary objective is to take your opponent down while avoiding being taken down.

In submission fighting, positioning is the placement of your body in relation to your opponent's body. Some of the most common positions are the mount, the guard, and the sprawl. In every position, one fighter will have an advantage over the opponent. For example, if you are mounted (straddling) on a supine opponent, you have more submission techniques available to you than does your opponent, so most ground fighting arts favor the mount position. However, Brazilian jujutsu practitioners tend to favor the guard position, which is the person under the mount. Becoming familiar with the various positions and how to escape and counter submission threats will increase your ability to compete against a ground fighter. However, being able to pummel and sprawl effectively will put you in a position to take advantage of a ground fighter who lacks standup grappling or punching skills.

One of the first techniques wrestlers learn is how to pummel and snake your arms around the inside of your opponent's arms to negate his or her intentions. Effective pummeling counters your opponent's attempt to lift, take down, or get behind you. It allows you to reposition yourself constantly so your opponent cannot connect his arms around your body and execute a trip, sweep, or throw.

Wrestlers spend a lot of time learning how to avoid being taken down and how to sprawl. Sprawling means throwing your feet backward and dropping your weight on your opponent's upper body. It is one of the most important standup grappling techniques to learn because it offers you the ability to defend against an assailant's effort to take you down. It is the first line of defense in stopping or at least slowing down the opponent's attempt to penetrate and clinch. The second line of defense is to free your legs. And, if the opponent succeeds with a penetration attempt, the third line of defense is to begin the counterattack.

Therefore, to defeat a ground fighter, you must be an effective puncher and kicker, know some effective submission techniques, be an effective standup grappler with good pummeling and sprawling skills, and know some effective ground grappling techniques.

When facing an avoidance fighter

Avoidance fighters usually will not attack and will defend an attack by avoiding it with little or no contact.
  • Avoidance fighters use fakes to see how the person reacts. Fighting them is like leading when shooting a flying duck with a shotgun, you don’t shoot at the duck, you shoot in front of the duck, where it will be when the shot pellets reach the duck. By studying the way an opponent moves when attacked, you know where to aim your primary attack so it reaches the target where the fighter will be, not where the fighter is.
  • Avoidance fighters use locks, off-balancing, and throws, which usually required grabbing the opponent. To fight them, do not over commit in an attack and quickly retract attacking arms and legs to prevent grabbing. Do not let them get in grabbing range and do not let them clinch.
  • Avoidance fighters will smoothly move around a lot to keep you off balance. To fight them, do not play their game. Just as a smart bull in the fighting ring attacks the matador in a straight line a few times and then suddenly hooks the matador as he avoids a seemly straight in attack, you should do the unexpected.
  • Avoidance fighters use arm locks, finger pulls, palm strikes, soft blocks, large sweeping motions, pressure point attacks, and other different techniques. To fight them, be ready for them, have counters ready, and do not get frustrated. 
  • Avoidance fighters pride themselves in their finesse. They try to minimize their movements, always moving just the amount needed. To fight them, use this to your advantage. Use short snapping punches they easily avoid, and then suddenly push a punch to extend it a longer distance to nail them.
  • Avoidance fighters learn to attack while moving, so to catch an avoidance fighter, you must move a lot. They learn to develop speed, power, and accuracy while in an unstable position, so to fight them you must be able to defend and attack from any position.
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