The Surprising Benefits of Sparring (Student Contributor)

This article was written by Isabella, one of our Intermediate rank students (As of late-2020). Her training has helped her grow into a confident and empowered woman. Consider if that is something for you.

When most people picture sparring, they picture a fight. Two opponents, locked in combat, each trying for a hit. The problem with that line of thinking is that sparring, rather than just being two sweaty people duking it out, is really just a hands-on drill for martial arts and a good practice for anyone.

More than anything, participants in sparring are practicing intent and control. They must have the intent to execute the moves correctly, but also the control to pull back and not harm their partner.

Done with the proper equipment (mandatory) and good form (also mandatory), sparring is a fantastic exercise to hone your skills, reflexes, and mind. For that reason, you have to understand what sparring is, and what it is not.

What Sparring Isn’t

Sparring is not a free-for-all fight. Students wouldn’t want to go to sparring if it meant they were constantly getting hurt, so there are rules, safety equipment, and regulations in place.

Before sparring, all participants must wear padded gear: gloves, helmets, boots, etc. The Sensei picks matchups according to size and ability; participants will never fight someone who they won’t be able to exercise control with.

They are supervised, and wait for their count before touching gloves and starting the match. During the round, participants are not trying to beat on each other —they are trying to score points with clean moves. To do this, ​control​ is essential.

What Sparring Is

As for what sparring is, at its core, it’s an exercise. Aside from the great cardio benefits, sparring trains the body and mind to react quickly and effectively in a combat situation.

Where basic classes teach you the techniques used in fighting, sparring classes teach how to apply them in any circumstance —you’ll be able to come to recognize a person’s body language in a fight, and respond with intent​.

In a real situation, you won’t know who an attacker will be or what they’ll do until you’re in it. How big they are, what way they’ll move, what weapon(s) they might have are all questions you won’t be able to answer, but sparring can prepare you to handle whatever is thrown at you.

© 2020 Isabella T