My thoughts on sparring

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My thoughts on sparring

Post  David A Ross on Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:32 am

I am a strong believer in the role of sparring in developing the martial artist. I guess it was sort of inevitable since my first "martial art" was Western boxing in the PAL as a kid. They stuck head gear and big gloves on us and let us go at it! The first Asian martial art I did was Taekwondo, always done full contact. Limited in what we allowed to do for sure, with many holes, but always full contact. I did AAU full contact taekwondo back in the day, before it was "USTU" and "Olympic".

To paraphrase the late Goju Master Peter Urban (also a very politically incorrect and strong opinionated man, like myself LOL!) - "point sparring is a form of mental retardation"

I had boxed and done full contact TKD before I ever saw "point sparring". So to me it was always a joke. It resulted in arguments in the parking lot between guys about who would have won "if it was real". Myself and many of my friends in the arts were disqualified at local martial arts tournaments for what would be light relaxed sparring in my school today.

What I like about most of the full contact formats we play in these days is the "honesty". No one after the match says "I would have KO'ed you if I could" because if you could have KO'ed me you WOULD HAVE and it would have won you the match!

In San Da or MMA, I can grab your leg and throw you to the ground if that's what I want to do. Or punch you in the face or knee you until you can't breath and fall down. To me, that's beautiful stuff.

I must confess, I am not even a fan of many of the existing full contact formats. When I started training students NACMAF had full contact events. But I found the fact I couldn't kick the inside of the thigh absurd. You also couldn't knee.

I wasn't give a choice of doing the Kuoshu federation Lei Tai events. They simply refused to give us info on how to participate or pre register and you couldn't show up at the door. My friend Cung Le flew in from California and they still wouldn't let him compete one year. I also confess, I don't like the face cage.

We were doing some local MMA fights when NACMAF became the USA WKF and they started doing the IWUF sanctioned Sanshou. I wasn't thrilled with the chest guard, the lack of knees, the inability to throw continuous head shots, but we were actively involved in the organization and it was at least something.

Of course, I also used getting "on the inside" to start changes. I was the first person promoting "san da" with no chest guard, with knees, inviting non CMA people to compete. Trying to do "our own thing" we also learned really quickly how certain elements in the CMA world want to control everything and will do whatever they can to destroy anyone who is doing their own thing (but that's another story)

I wrote the amateur MMA rules that were adopted by New Jersey and spread to a lot of the other states. I am NOT an advocate of amateurs going all out with no protective gear. I think you should pad up, especially your shins when you first start, and no one should be getting elbowed in the face if they aren't getting paid.

I advised the committee that wrote the current NJ amateur Muay Thai rules. Again, I like freedom but always weighed against safety, most people in combat sports are amateurs. They are there to be better martial artists. Most have jobs to go to, certainly have family in the stands worrying about them.

In my school, all sparring is contact. Not "FULL CONTACT" but certainly contact. But they don't get there until they've done a ton of drills to prepare them. We also play different games and formats. Sometimes we only wrestle, sometimes we even do push hands (NOTE: Taiwan rules, NOT the US abomination!)

People "fail" when they only learn one set of rules or formats. Especially when their training is to WIN under those rules. We spar and compete to test our skills, to sharpen them, to test our theory.
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Re: My thoughts on sparring

Post  Mike Patterson on Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:24 pm

David A Ross wrote:I am a strong believer in the role of sparring in developing the martial artist....

What I like about most of the full contact formats we play in these days is the "honesty". No one after the match says "I would have KO'ed you if I could" because if you could have KO'ed me you WOULD HAVE and it would have won you the match!

In San Da or MMA, I can grab your leg and throw you to the ground if that's what I want to do. Or punch you in the face or knee you until you can't breath and fall down. To me, that's beautiful stuff.

I must confess, I am not even a fan of many of the existing full contact formats. When I started training students NACMAF had full contact events. But I found the fact I couldn't kick the inside of the thigh absurd. You also couldn't knee.

I wasn't give a choice of doing the Kuoshu federation Lei Tai events. They simply refused to give us info on how to participate or pre register and you couldn't show up at the door. My friend Cung Le flew in from California and they still wouldn't let him compete one year. I also confess, I don't like the face cage.

We were doing some local MMA fights when NACMAF became the USA WKF and they started doing the IWUF sanctioned Sanshou. I wasn't thrilled with the chest guard, the lack of knees, the inability to throw continuous head shots, but we were actively involved in the organization and it was at least something.

Of course, I also used getting "on the inside" to start changes. I was the first person promoting "san da" with no chest guard, with knees, inviting non CMA people to compete. Trying to do "our own thing" we also learned really quickly how certain elements in the CMA world want to control everything and will do whatever they can to destroy anyone who is doing their own thing (but that's another story)

I wrote the amateur MMA rules that were adopted by New Jersey and spread to a lot of the other states. I am NOT an advocate of amateurs going all out with no protective gear. I think you should pad up, especially your shins when you first start, and no one should be getting elbowed in the face if they aren't getting paid.

I advised the committee that wrote the current NJ amateur Muay Thai rules. Again, I like freedom but always weighed against safety, most people in combat sports are amateurs. They are there to be better martial artists. Most have jobs to go to, certainly have family in the stands worrying about them.

In my school, all sparring is contact. Not "FULL CONTACT" but certainly contact. But they don't get there until they've done a ton of drills to prepare them. We also play different games and formats. Sometimes we only wrestle, sometimes we even do push hands (NOTE: Taiwan rules, NOT the US abomination!)

People "fail" when they only learn one set of rules or formats. Especially when their training is to WIN under those rules. We spar and compete to test our skills, to sharpen them, to test our theory.

Yeah.. echo much of this. The "honesty" of a knockout is hard to dispute. Back when I was competing in Taiwan, if I did NOT KO my opponent, I plain and simple did not get the decision. We saw some of this same behaviour even still in the World event in 1996. "Decision" victory was not an option for the US team when it came to fighting the home team. But this is the way it has always been.

I, like you David, do not much care for the cage in Kuoshu. We didn't have it in my day. And the use of it tends to encourage a "less measured" sort of combat in some fighters without the threat of an easily broken nose. But, with that said, I could have never gotten elbows and knees back into the structure for amateur fighters in the 90's without the cage.

I do remember looking at what Sanshou was doing back then for our teams. But like you, I hated the use of a chest protector. Also, if I recall (and this may go to one of your blog posts) didn't the Sanshou federation have a "no hit the head twice in a row" rule back then? Or perhaps I am remembering wrong.

In our school, sparring is never done non contact. Even our free sparring is contact with control. Our feeling is you need to make sure that you are within postive impact range right from the beginning. No contact simply encourages too much bad habit IMHO.

But I absolutely agree, for amateur events it's a fine balancing act between promoting realism and safety. And some sort of at least minimalistic gear seems a wise decision in today's age for amateurs.

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Re: My thoughts on sparring

Post  David A Ross on Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:45 pm

Mike Patterson wrote:

I, like you David, do not much care for the cage in Kuoshu. We didn't have it in my day. And the use of it tends to encourage a "less measured" sort of combat in some fighters without the threat of an easily broken nose. But, with that said, I could have never gotten elbows and knees back into the structure for amateur fighters in the 90's without the cage.


I don't worry about knees to the face. By this, I mean that a person properly trained in structure does not get knee'ed in the face often. The knee hits the body, and your body must be conditioned if you want to call yourself a fighter.

Elbows? Well, I wouldn't never want an amatuer eating a bare elbow to the face. I am not really sure most amateurs need to be fighting with elbows to the head. But for what I would call "A CLASS" I think the International Federation Muay Thai Amateur (IFMA) has it right, ie elbow pads and OPEN face boxing head gear

I have an on again, off again relationship with headgear. I lived through the summer when three US players died in full contact TKD competitions. One was a friend of my brother. But I've also seen it used as a crutch instead of defense

Mike Patterson wrote:
I do remember looking at what Sanshou was doing back then for our teams. But like you, I hated the use of a chest protector. Also, if I recall (and this may go to one of your blog posts) didn't the Sanshou federation have a "no hit the head twice in a row" rule back then? Or perhaps I am remembering wrong.

YOu are remembering correctly! Ironically, I eventually got it removed from United States domestic competition and the IWUF then followed US (I mean us dumb foreigners) in dropping it from the world tournaments

I eneded up doing Sanshou mostly due to politics. But then we started out own San Da league with better rules. Of course, the "powers that be" tried to crush it. Crabs in a barrel



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Re: My thoughts on sparring

Post  David A Ross on Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:52 pm

Today is different than the "old days"

I remember going to events, not sure what the rules were, not even AS we were fighting. Someone asked me once, "if you had just jumped on the guy and ground and pounded him, what would they have done?" and I had to tell the truth - "I have no idea?"

I did some events without a cup or mouth piece. I've broken my nose three times. The last time it was an elbow right in the face. I wish my traditional teachers had been a little more persistant in "hands up" with me Very Happy

I remember us driving home from an event in Philadelphia, they put scotch tape on a cut, and I was picking the dried blood out of my nose, sorry TMI! LOL

I just can't see doing that sort of stuff with my own students. I guess I'm just a softie

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Re: My thoughts on sparring

Post  Mike Patterson on Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:53 pm

David A Ross wrote:I don't worry about knees to the face. By this, I mean that a person properly trained in structure does not get knee'ed in the face often. The knee hits the body, and your body must be conditioned if you want to call yourself a fighter.
Agree. I don't train my fighters to knee the head. We favor kneeing the leg, inner or outer thigh, to destroy structure and create follow up opportunities.

David A Ross wrote:Elbows? Well, I wouldn't never want an amatuer eating a bare elbow to the face. I am not really sure most amateurs need to be fighting with elbows to the head. But for what I would call "A CLASS" I think the International Federation Muay Thai Amateur (IFMA) has it right, ie elbow pads and OPEN face boxing head gear
Kuoshu has the rule of "I Yang, Bu I Yang" (same not same) so, if your opponent wears an elbow pad, you can also. But if you do not, he cannot, etc. Because of the cage, we had to do a great deal of conditioning to effectively use elbows to the head as inevitably you sometimes do hit the cage.

David A Ross wrote: I have an on again, off again relationship with headgear. I lived through the summer when three US players died in full contact TKD competitions. One was a friend of my brother. But I've also seen it used as a crutch instead of defense
Yeah. I hear you there. Again... safety vs. realism for amateurs. It's a tough line to walk at times.


David A Ross wrote:I eneded up doing Sanshou mostly due to politics. But then we started out own San Da league with better rules. Of course, the "powers that be" tried to crush it. Crabs in a barrel
This last part made me smile. I was fairly certain that you would relate well to that story. Smile

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