Monday, July 7, 2014
Are you too timid to spar?
Should the instructor make the timid Timmys fight, should we let them sit-out? Maybe pair them up with a very senior belt whose has great control to coach them along. Extra padding, limit the number of attack moves, increase the distance between the fighters. What to do, what to do?
There are as many correct answers as there are individuals on the planet, and I would not recommend any single "this always works" solution.
First, some perspective. Most of us will never be in a fight. Period. We may get grabbed, or pushed, or verbally assaulted throughout our lives a couple of times, but a knock-down, drag-out fist-fight is very rare for otherwise decent humanoids.
So, I’m not all that concerned when a child or adult asks to skip sparring.
Still, sparring provides a certain amount of practice and proficiency in timing, balance, breathing, and distance control. You loose a lot if you never spar, even if you'll never need it in a fist-fight.
Generally, I want my students to spar, and I'll make all kinds of accommodations to get them to do so.
If this is you, i.e. you don't want to spar, my advice is do it anyways for all of the reasons listed above. It's a very short period of time (most sparring fights only last a few minutes), and you can spend the whole time enhancing your defensive skills.
If this is your child, encourage them to spar (reasons above), and more importantly, we do not want to establish in a child's mind that walking away from a bully is always the right answer. Now, lot's of caveats here - I'm assuming that the instructor can/does pair your child up with a partner of about the same age, rank, and size.
It is important for a child to learn that even if they can't beat the "other guy" they can protect themselves if attacked. Again, if they don't want to spar, tell them to defend themselves with strong blocks and distance control.
If you are the instructor, keep things in perspective. You are not training Navy Seals intended to break into a hardened enemy bunker and take out the poison gas launch facility. (If any Navy Seals read this blog, my great apology!!). No, most martial arts instructors spend the majority of their training time with civilians who want a little more personal security, improved confidence, better health, and the achievement of personal goals.
Sparring is a great tool, but it is only one of the tools at our disposal.