Sparring group advice?

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Sparring group advice?

Post  AthenaW on Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:20 am

I've started a local sparring group... emphasizing that it's more about technique and learning then pummeling each other. Not that pummeling doesn't have it's place, however I'm still pretty new, and a bit of a lightweight still. The main reason I have mentioned the low-key/learning/light aspects is what I have heard from other folks who have started sparring groups and it just didn't go well. Things such as folks showing up trying to prove something...

I'm just the one with organizational skills is why I've started it, but I do have a few other much more experienced folks helping out. I think it will be an interesting mix. It is currently open to different styles of martial arts, we will see how this goes. Most of us practice Bagua so far though Wink.

I also would like it to be an atmosphere where other women might feel comfortable showing up. I think I did scare off the ones without any sparring experience whatsoever though, judging by their reactions. By light sparring I do still mean throws and such.

So if anyone has any advice, aside from "don't bother", especially from previous experience it would be most helpful; such as things to do and also things to not do. My only sparring experience has been in class, as well as a friend and I pairing up for fun.
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Re: Sparring group advice?

Post  Justin Sturgill on Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:26 pm

This can be a very tricky thing. First when people tend to gather outside of a formal setting there can be a tendency to make the occasion more of a social gathering than a practice session. Second it can be difficult to get people outside of the ego winning or losing mindset which can make sparring dangerous. The fact that you are practicing needs to be emphasized. There is no winner or loser. You learn just as much or more when you get hit or thrown as when you hit or throw someone else. There should also be someone outside the sparring clearly in charge that knows when to stop the practice if things start to get out of hand. When it does it should be brought into the open and discussed. Next there needs to be clearly defined parameters regarding speed and power and techniques used. "Light" contact is a very relative term. Whatever scale you use for power and speed needs to be defined and clearly demonstrated and enforced. Regarding throwing it should also be clear how to keep your partner safe. As a general rule anyone who doesn't have training in how to fall properly shouldn't be thrown.

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Re: Sparring group advice?

Post  Mike Patterson on Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:43 pm

Justin is right, Athena. You definitely need defined parameters. Everyone needs to be on the same page in terms of those parameters and there does need to be a designated referee or someone is likely to get hurt.

You don't mention the experience quotient of the others. I have an idea of what your personal experience has been by your post. But if you wish other women to participate, consider making the structure "tiered" in terms of escalation. E.g. you might allow beginner's to pad up and merely exchange one or two step technique to "get their feet wet" before they go further into unlimited technical rounds. "Tiering" allowed techincal perspectives can also be effective in this regard. Throwing disallowed until rolling and falling skills are learned for example.

I have trained many "executives" who do want to learn to fight, but not for competition. And they certainly don't want to show up at tomorrow's board meeting with a black eye or a limp. So this tiered strategy has worked well for me with such individuals. That way, it is THEY that decide how far and fast they wish to progress. They get to stay in their comfort zone in terms of fighting training for as long as they wish before advancing to the next "tier" all the while being allowed to stay and watch the other tiered groups so as to understand what the next step will entail.

Just a few thoughts.

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Re: Sparring group advice?

Post  AthenaW on Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:35 pm

Thank you for the suggestions Smile. I can see where this sort of thing can go bad if not done right. Fortunately, while being the newest, I do have good assertiveness skills, and used to running groups. I also have good communication skills, so I definitely let someone know if they go too hard, or ease it up a bit, or something I'm not comfortable with quite yet (we all have to work up to some things)... however I have noticed that many other people tend to be more silent and internalize more. Having a person watching who is not participating would help this. Also encouraging each person to watch out for their partner would be good.

The other folks have between 5-7 years experience, and one of them started when he was a kid, but "took long breaks". So far there is just 5 of us, 3 of us from the same class. So for now it will be pretty easy going. I am meeting with each of the new people over coffee first (to sort of avoid people with bad attitudes) and then we go play around for an hour or so. This way I get to know what sort of force they prefer, or how they prefer to do things.

I figure for now we can all talk with each other (we are having our first meeting with everyone over coffee this evening), to see what our comfort levels, and experience with sparring is. Then I figure when we get out there, we can pair up according to what each of us is interested in. For example someone who has only done very gentle stuff would not enjoy being paired with the young kid who has done actual fighting and goes pretty hard (compared with me).

However, once we get more then the number we have now... this might not work so well.

I like the tiered idea. Just practice a few basics at first, then see how it goes. I also always prefer to go "too light" with any new person, until we sort of get to know how each other does things.

Having a person who watches, and directs th pairing up is also a good idea. Perhaps the core group can take turns at this each week, or perhaps each half an hour. Sometimes folks get carried away having fun and lose focus... or start trying too hard to "win".

That is definitely right, being a newbie, I generally tend to "lose" badly lol, however it is amazing how much I learn each time. "Oh that one worked so well on me, I have to try that in the future" sort of thing Smile. Fortunately the more experienced folks I have met so far enjoy teaching someone new and area quite patient with me. I have also found that teaching someone newer something ingrains it better, so hopefully I can foster this attitude.

Athena
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