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Develop a sparring strategy


To be effective at sparring, a competitor needs proper technical skills, flexibility, strength, endurance, and experience at fighting all types and sizes of opponents. All of this coin developing a sparring strategy.

Develop a strategy

To develop a proper sparring strategy, consider both the mental and physical aspects of sparring and have both plans for both defensive and offensive strategies.

Mental aspects

  • Study potential opponents fight to assess their fighting styles, favorite techniques, level of physical conditioning, susceptibility to feints, reactions to certain movements, etc. Take notes to use for future competitions. 
  • Decide what actions or inactions your need to use to overcome the opponent's actions or inactions.
  • Study potential officials to assess their judging style, their favorite location in the ring, what techniques they seem to favor, etc. Take notes for future competitions.
  • Know the rules for the current competition. Know the techniques and variations allowed by the rules. Create unique offensive combinations that may score points while avoiding penalties or being scored upon.
  • Determine what information is important. If needed, gather more information on the important information.
  • Have alternate actions or inactions to use if primary ones fail.

Physical aspects

  • Know your current physical status and plan accordingly.
  • Conserve energy by using it judiciously.
  • Execute your chosen actions or inactions at the proper time

Defensive plan

The purpose of your defensive plan is to prevent the opponent from scoring points while setting him or her up for a score. Things to consider include:
  • From your study of possible opponents, you should have an idea of what defenses might work against them. 
  • Students of the same instructor will have certain characteristics in common. 
  • Have a defensive plan but don’t be locked into it; it will change as a fight develops.

Offensive plan

The purpose of your offensive plan is to score on an opponent while preventing him or her from scoring on you. To be successful, offensive skills must be executed with good timing and range assessment. Things to consider include:

Direct Attacks

An attack made with an initial movement toward the opponent.
  • Stationary. Attack from a stationary position.
  • Reach. Attack from a stationary position but having to lean or reach forward.
  • Move. Move the body to execute the attack. 

Indirect Attacks

A deceptive attack made by using an initial movement away from the direction of the actual attack.
  • Feint. Feign to draw the opponent's guard and then attack the opening.
  • Cutoff. Cutoff the opponent's attack with your own movement and counterattack.
  • Footwork. Use footwork to confuse the opponent and then attack


A reflexive attack in response to an attack.
  • Direct. Block attack and counterattack without changing position.
  • Indirect. Avoiding attack with movement and then counterattack.

Strategy failure

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry No matter how carefully a strategy is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in To a Mouse, by Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Ways your strategy may fail are:
  • Superior opponent. No matter how good you are, there is always someone better.
  • Judges. The judges favored the opponent or the opponent’s techniques. The judges didn’t catch the opponent’s violations. The judges caught your violations. 
  • Poor planning. You didn’t do your homework and didn’t plan for contingencies.
  • Insufficient data. You did not have all the information on your opponents that you needed.
  • Immobility. You weren’t able to move your body as planned due to sickness or injury, by a failure to move correctly, or by superior tactics of the opponent, such as ring positioning and use of the boundary lines.
  • Disconnection. Disconnection occurs when one or more of your hands/feet are unavailable due to poor tactics or superior tactics of the opponent. You must be especially careful when you move your body that you do not disconnect your own weapons.
  • Poor weapon choice. Do not use an attack simply because it's your favorite. Use the best attack for each circumstance.
  • Closure failure. Use of incorrect tactics in a closure. The choice of tactics used in a closure should result in your scoring first. If the opponent, scores first your closure tactics are failing.
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