Tag Archives: sparring

What you should be listening to…

In my last post I mention that I am an avid listener to podcasts. Below I have listed a few that I think are worth your time.

 

Iain Abernethy

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/audio

One of the best, if not the best applied, traditional martial artists. Goes in depth in lots of different subjects concerning karate kata application. There is some crossover to TKD and all martial arts.

 

Live Life Aggressively

http://livelifeaggressively.libsyn.com/

I got in to this because I practice kettlebells. However, this particular podcast offers so much more than just workout tips. Excellent guests, very frank and relevant discussions. Well worth your time. A lot of the guests and even the non-guest shows you’ll listen to many times over

 

London Real

https://londonreal.tv/

A very wide range of guests, a great interviewer. Similar to the above, you’ll want to listen to some of the guests over and over

 

Jocko Podcast

http://jockopodcast2.com/

Former Navy SEAL and leadership expert Jocko Wilinks. A lot of the time Jocko will pick a book and read extracts on it while giving his own commentary. Excellent listening and great for teachers, managers, and any one in a leadership position to listen to

 

Tim Ferris  

http://tim.blog/podcast/

Lots of diverse guests and great information on a lot of different subjects, from working out and getting fitter to running your own company

 

And one more…..

Joe Rogan

http://podcasts.joerogan.net/

 I believe this is one of the original podcasts, certainly one of the first that was done well. in fact a good deal of the other podcast hosts regularly mention the Joe Rogan podcast.

 

So there you go, I hope you give some or all of these a try. There really is some great and even life changing information presented in these podcasts.

 

Happy listening

Foul Language

Like many living in Jakarta I spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. I tend to use this time listening to podcasts, I find it a good opportunity to get some good information. I will post a list of podcasts that I listen to after this article

Currently there is some really great information being delivered by podcasts. However, I have noticed a (what I find) disturbing trend in some of the podcasts I listen to. That is one of over use of profanity. Now before I continue I should say I am not overly sensitive to such language and I myself have been known to use the occasional colourful phrase in my day to day life.

The problem with what I hear on the podcast is that the use of foul language is promoted in an effort to give the podcast a realistic edge. Often you will hear the presenter saying that they promote swearing or encouraging guests to use foul language. This is often greeted with cheering and laughing much akin to school children using naughty adult words. There seems to be the idea that for something to be considered real, it has to be rough and unrefined.

Strangely I see the same trend in the martial arts. People trying to show their style as ‘real’ by also acting rough and unrefined.

These days I see martial arts instructors going out of their way to include profanity in their classes, even to the point of barely being able to give an instruction without swearing. Trying to promote some sort of tough guy image better suited to the movies than the dojang

Some would say the argument for the use of offensive language would be that cursing and the use of foul language is part of self-defense and we should be desensitizing our students to it. Whereas I agree with this, I feel it is often used as an excuse by those wanting to promote the aforementioned image. I don’t feel that this gives way to losing all control over what you’re saying in a class. We certainly should not be actively going out of our way to try to swear all the time.

The other issue with that argument is you are not making an effort to desensitize your students by merely swearing your head off all the time. This would be akin to threatening every new student with a knife when they came in the door. Anyone uncomfortable with swearing would merely leave having learnt nothing apart from your dojo isn’t the place for them. An instructor may have no problem with that and want to only teach those who can already handle swearing, that is their personal choice to have such a place, but please don’t dress it up as a teaching method

If we are going to use the argument that bad language is part of a confrontation then maybe we should treat it like any other part of training. That is to include it at the appropriate time. swearing and shouting  in situational drills either hands on or pad drills, and hard sparring is permitted in my class because that is a suitable place for foul language to be included, it may however be a little out of place during a warm up or a stretching sessions.

I do say this keeping in mind that the occasionally swear word is part of some people’s everyday language. If you and your students are comfortable with that then go for it. My point is forcing it and using bad language to give your style or teaching some sort of creditability is pointless and in fact childish

Again the idea that for something to be real it has to be unedited and unrefined is one that is both dangerous and inherently wrong and not something that we should try to pursue or emulate.

Competition Benefits

Competition

 

If you have read any of the other article in the blog you could easily get the impression that I am against competition. However, this could not be further from the truth. This time round I would like to too at some of the positive aspects of competition and where competition crosses the line to stop being useful

 

These days you could split TKD, or in fact any martial arts style, in to competitors or traditionalists. Both groups seem to have a pretty poor opinion about the other.

Traditionalists often have the opinion that sport martial artists are uncultured and can only use sporting techniques that are in some way inferior. Sometimes they hang on to the belief that their techniques are superior because they are too effective or dangerous to be allowed in a sporting arena

 

Sport martial artists have the opinion that the traditionalists practice ineffective techniques. They spend their time living in the past dealing with unrealistic attacks and silly unworkable defenses.

 

To be honest both opinions have merit. Whereas sporting techniques really belong in whatever arena you compete in, people who only practice traditional forms can often suffer from never having their techniques being tested

 

I have spent time in both camps and seen the attitudes of each. I think that the words ‘sport’ and ‘competition’ are often confused. Whereas sport will lead you in one particular direction, lack of competition won’t lead you anywhere in a practical sense

 

For example, it you have been training for a while, what gauge do you have to know if your techniques are powerful as they could be? You may train one particular kick 50 times a day and think that it is a good strong kick. That is until you have a competition against some on who practices 100 times a day.

 

Such an experience would surely reset your scale as to what hard training really is. I am sure if you are reading this article you have been through such an experience. Likely afterwards you went back and examined everything you did and grew because of it.

 

Competition requires us to push our limits and often times we find we are capable of much more. In his book Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about people believing lifting a certain weight was impossible, until someone stepped up and did it. Afterward the same feat was accomplished by many others. Would this have happened without some form of competition?

 

Competition can bring out the best in people. It pushes people to their limits and to find strength or skill that they never thought they had. When you adrenaline is up and you are against someone either directly as in sparring or indirectly in breaking competitions you have a will that in normal training you may not experience.

Lastly, competition is real. Self-defense can be seen as a competition, a very serious one but a competition all the same. No one ‘lets’ you perform your techniques. You have to fight them through. If you are not use to some form of competition then you will be left wanting when someone suddenly doesn’t want to play your game.

 

In my classes we often have competition, sure we spar but we also turn drills in to completion. I ask the students, “can you apply your technique (a punch) better than your partner can apply their technique (the defense). Then we work at it, people get hit but it lets them improve and grow as they realize that what they though was a solid technique has a gaping hole it. They grow through competition and at the end their understanding of all the techniques get better.

However, it is important to make the diction between attacking the person and attacking the technique. I see this a lot and it usually ends up in an argument. One partner resists, the other partner complains or goes harder, before long people are complaining about their training partner. In my classes I insist that people attack the person in the prescribed way or ways. Within the attack they are allowed to be as aggressive and hard as they like, what they are not allowed to do is to intention change their attack to mess up the defense.

For example, if we were practicing the opening technique from Do San, the arms cover, move to a control by hair grab, then counter with a straight punch. The attacker can throw a hard, fast haymaker. They can move, they can shout and swear at the defender. All of those things are ok but what they can’t do is throw the haymaker and duck or move their head in anticipation of what they know is coming.

Of course the argument there is “it might happen” yeah, sure it might, but is it likely? Probably not. So we keep the training in the parameters of what will happen most of the time.

 

When people start attacking the technique as in the above example is when people get confused about what is effective. This is when I feel that we can cross over in to sport. That is when we start attacking the techniques of an opponent rather than the opponent themselves

As we train the standard techniques sometimes we think up counters against the techniques. This is possible because people know what is coming. In some cases the counter is very effective and that causes the original technique to be dropped from the curriculum. Not because it is ineffective in its self but because in a sporting context people learnt how to deal with it therefore something new had to be developed.

In sport this is very much the way things go so we can kid ourselves on to think that what we do is effective because we beat other trained people.it is in truth the result of people attacking techniques rather than people. Which is fine, but we must acknowledge the difference.

 

In short, competition helps us all grow but we must be careful the parameters of the competition that we set.

Sparring drills

To follow on from my last article on sparring, in this article I am going to describe some sparring drills that I practice with the guys I train with.

The drills that I use have been collected from seminars, past instructors and my own personal training.. It is likely that you have come across some similar ideas before. Since we are all trying to solve the same problem of fighting same solutions will be reached by people. The drills described below are ones that I have tried and work for me and the guys I train with.

Before describing the drill some basic points about my general approach to sparring practice

Whenever I start a sparring session my first concern is safety. As I mentioned in the previous article fighting by its very nature is a dangerous pursuit. In order to effectively practice it we must pay attention to students’ safety. Students must be well versed in the techniques that are going to be used, and the correct protective equipment must be used.

One more important thing is letting people know roughly what to expect during any drill. For example if one person thinks that we are practicing stand up, and then his partner does a takedown there is a higher chance of injury. So I make sure that all students are on the same page.

Of course that the higher level of the student the more scope you can put into a drill. You may start isolating drill for beginner students, i.e. only stand up or only ground but for more advanced students who can breakfall you may want to leave the drill open to both

The final point is that as much as possible sparring drills should have a goal, whether it is escaping, or scoring points etc. students should be sparring with a purpose in mind

Elevator

For this drill you need a few people holding kick shields forming a small elevator sized area. Two people step in and on the command start fighting. There is no room for footwork or feints so often it is a very quick blast. On the command two people holding the kick shield step away (i.e. the doors open) and one person tries to escape. You can either nominate the person or leave it to whoever is in the better position to get out. The rounds tend to be very short none lasting more that 40 seconds.

Ambush

In this drill, the students are in groups. One person stands with their eyes closed and the other are free to start the fight. Usually this is with attacking the person with punches or kicks. The initial attack should be controlled as the person has their eyes closed, but should also be continuous, to not give the ‘victim’ time to think, more on this can be found here . One thing I hate seeing during this drill is students throwing one punch then stepping back ready to spar.

After the attack has commenced person who was attacked  has to then defend themselves and make their way to a ‘safe zone’ in the training hall’

To bring up the challenge I sometimes have the person with their eyes closed turn in circles while waiting to be attacked.

Pick a skill

After going over a series of attacks based on kicks, punches and grappling the students pair off to spar. Before sparring begins, a cup of small bits of paper is passed round. Each student takes a piece of paper, on it is written either K,P, or G to indicate if the student should use kicking, punching or grappling for that round. Whatever they pick that is the only range/attacking method they can use. They can of course defend the attacks but not attack with anything other than what they picked. When the round finishes the students change partner and then pick a new skill.

Get up

One student lies on the floor the other student/s have 3 seconds to get in position in order to hold the student down. The object for the student on the floor is to get up and get to the safe zone. I allow striking in this drill, and also focus on dirty fighting, so students can look for opportunities to bite, eye gouge etc

The ring

The students stand in a circle and two students start fighting in the centre. The rules of the sparring can be anything you like but as the two people spar if they get close to anyone in the circle that person can join in. They can choose to attack either or both people. This continues till everyone is fighting. When everyone is in, I let the fight continue for a set amount of time them reset with a new group in the centre.

These are just a few of the drills that I use in my training. I occasionally mix one or two ideas together for extra challenge and there is always the option of multiple opponents or weapons to be included. If you are already doing something similar or try these drills after reading this article, I would love to hear your feedback.

Happy Training

Sparring

Many martial arts are measured by their sparring, and possibly quite rightly as it is the end goal of many systems. Whether it is no holds barred, full contact, semi contact, light contact or maybe the art someone studies has no sparring; they all attract a different kind of person. In this article I will be examining TKD sparring and looking at the pros and cons of the rules and sparring system.
Certainly the way that we spar is a safe and enjoyable way to experience something approaching a fight. The damaging heavy blows and strikes to vital areas have been taken away in an effort to make an inherently dangerous pursuit, that would be fighting, as safe as possible. But in doing so have we also accidently softened the art?

The gap between practical self defence and sparring is getting wider and wider with sparring taking on the dominant role in how we engage with people, and self defence being added with a handful of techniques that we do with a compliant partner. Therefore when we are in a violent confrontation there is only one of these that will come to the fore front. Your brain will immediately try to match the situation you are in with the closest thing you have experienced. In short you will probably go into sparring mode up, on your toes, looking for an opening, dodging and weaving, etc.

If the situation you are in is not serious and/or you are very good at sparring in that manner then maybe you’ll be ok. TKD forums are full of people recounting stories of when they took someone down by kicking them in the head or dropped someone with a spinning back kick. I believe their stories but I also believe that maybe they weren’t against the most serious of opponents.

No matter true or not, the issue still exists that for more serious situations or older slower people standard sparring is not an effective solution for self defence. Training a young 20 something who is working on their competition career is a world away from training a middle aged person who spends most of their working day sitting in front of a computer.

Competitions, however, are not going away anytime soon and the current rules of sparring fit the competitions that we have perfectly. We don’t prepare on one or two big fights a year but possibly anything between 5-10 fights in a single afternoon. For this reason I think we should keep the current sparring rules, but we should stop trying to find ways of fitting sport fighting in to real life situations. We should accept that they are different and instead create club level sparring systems that allow students to better prepare themselves for self defence.

In my opinion there should be a whole host of ‘sparring’ formats practiced at club level. These should cover a wide range of skills and abilities. Ground fighting, multiple opponents, ambush attacks, and weapons should all be included in our sparring training. Through this we can better emulate what real fights might be like and better equip our students to deal with real life situations.

In doing this, I feel we would be better serving all are students. Not just the ones who want to compete but all levels and ages groups. In my next article I am going to introduce some of the sparring formats I practice with my students.
Thank you for reading