One-On-One with Freddie Lee : Sparring

Sparring is necessary in order to become proficient in the combative aspects of martial arts.  But we must be clear on what constitutes as sparring and how far we shall take the sparring in order to increase our ability but at the same time remain healthy and safe.  We learn the physical aspect of martial arts to protect ourselves from harm not to place ourselves into greater physical harm.

If you are to spar to the point of which you receive broken bones, broken teeth, fractured bones, loss of consciousness, and torn ligaments which create long term complications, then I would say that you have forgotten about the initial purpose of practicing martial arts.  You are supposed to practice martial arts to protect your own health, not to cause unhealthy damage to your body.

With that being said, we must be intelligent when we spar.  We must not spar out of competition but rather with the intention of increasing our ability so that we are more likely to survive a deadly confrontation on the streets.  Sparring is not restricted to entail sparring with protective equipment.  Protective equipment can actually hinder a martial artist’s development rather than increasing one’s ability.

Wearing headgear and protective padding hinders ones natural field of vision, restricts movement, and hinders natural flexibility and speed.  It also gives the student the mistaken assumption that they can withstand more damage than they really can so they are more likely to dangerously expose vital parts of their bodies whereas if they were not wearing protective equipment they would be more conscious on protecting their vital organs.

Compare it to a knife fight.  When real knives are used, a martial artist must be intently aware of not exposing any part of the body to be sliced or stabbed, otherwise death is more likely to occur.  In unarmed fighting, the concept is similar.  One well placed timed punch or kick can disable an attacker, so the student must be intently aware of not exposing ones line of defense to allow the opponent to deliver a damaging attack.

Advanced practitioners of martial arts either need no protective equipment or have a very minimal use of protective equipment when sparring.  That is because they have precise control of their attacks, and they can deliver attacks without placing their sparring partners health and safety in jeopardy.  Advanced practitioners know a well timed attack with proper placement, speed, and power when they see it.  They know that if their training partner had delivered the attack at 100% in real life, there would have been significant damage.  Thereby they are able to learn and better their ability by that observance without the unnecessary need of placing their own health and safety in jeopardy.

Beginners do not have this awareness while sparring.  Beginners do not learn to protect their vital areas until those vital areas are attacked with resulting damage.  Because of this, many beginners need to wear protective equipment to minimize the chance of injury.  But a beginner who spars with an advanced practitioner can spar with minimal protective equipment because the advanced practitioner has adequate control of his attacks in which to minimize the chance of causing injury to the beginning practitioner.

An example:  A beginner who is wearing headgear may need a punch delivered at 60% of the instructor’s power in order to receive a feeling of daze to learn that he had mistakenly exposed himself.  A beginner who is not wearing headgear may only need a punch delivered at 20% of the instructor’s power to receive the same feeling of daze in order to have the same learning experience.  An advanced practitioner will be able to control his delivery of attacks in order to help the beginner achieve his learning experience without the need of using protective equipment.

The use of little to no protective equipment is highly preferred because it is the most realistic.  On the streets, in real life, one does not wear protective equipment.  One stands as is, no headgear, no groin protection, no fist protection, no chest protection, no shin protection, etc.  The only advantageous protection one does normally possess is feet protection from ones shoes.  A martial artist will use his feet protection of shoes to his advantage when kicking.  But as far as the other parts of his body, he must be intently aware of protecting himself from harm and utilizing his hands and feet to deliver attacks at their utmost efficiency while causing the least amount of injury to himself.

Sifu Freddie Lee


CombativeCorner Profile

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