Sparring should be the most enjoyable part of your training (apart from pad work that is!). However, many students struggle to apply the techniques that have drilled on the pads in sparring. Here are the 20 things you should try to use in EVERY sparring session.
(This list is adapted from Erik Paulson’s Sparring Tips he gave Matt 15 years ago. Erik is a wonderful coach. He has forgotten more than most instructors know. Check him out at http://erikpaulson.com/
- Hands up
Keep your hands up beside your head in a defensive guard at all times
- Chin down, shoulders up
Tuck your chin into your collar bone & lift your shoulders up to protect your jaw
- Move your head evasively
Keep moving your head before, during and after you strike. This makes you harder to counter.
- Circle left/right, don’t move straight back
To avoid being charged, circle left or right after striking. Never go back more than two steps in a straight line.
- Vary the height of your attacks (low, middle, high)
Overwhelm your partners defences by striking on different levels.
- Get an angle
Use your footwork to get to your partner’s side or back so that your partner finds it harder to strike. This limits thier striking options and leaves you in a dominant position
- Return 2-5 for every 1
Keep your work rate higher than your partners, every time you get hit come back with more. Keep scoring points.
- Be first/ Be last
Strike first and strike last. He who initiates, dominates! Always win the firefight by landing last.
- Use your hands to set up kicks
Kicks will be more successful if you use your hands to set them up. Fake a punch and kick when they react.
- Punch when kicked
When you get kicked, punch as your partners guard may be open and they are stood on one leg so cant escape.
- Kick when punched
Kick the legs when you are covering against punches. It’s unexpected and may throw your partner off balance allowing you time to escape.
- Clinch when hurt
If you get hurt, close quickly and wrap up your partners arms so they can’t continue striking. In a fight don’t let go till the ref tells you to.
- Punch or kick out of clinch
When you are ready to leave the clinch punch and kick to exit. Don’t just step back, you will get punched. Fill the gap with something.
- Never take without giving
Never allow your partner to strike you without hitting them back or they will gain psychological dominance. Always give something back!
- Stalk your opponent / Ring control
Control your distance and the environment (ring or cage). Use your footwork to stalk your partner, cut them off and make them walk into your strikes.
- Variety in attack & defence
Don’t rely on just one method of attack or defence, variety gives you more options and keeps you unpredictable.
- When you score blitz
If you connect cleanly, continue striking to maintain the initiative.
- Use broken rhythm
Try to vary the rhythm of your strikes. Speed up, slow down or pause to work your way around your partners defences.
- Always fake or feint your way in
Use body feints and hand and leg fakes to facilitate your striking. This causes your partner to freeze and tense which makes them easier to hit.
- Perpetual motion & non telegraphic motion
Keep moving at all times, move your head and feet non stop. When you strike do so without winding up, be as direct as possible.
Apply one concept per sparring session and watch your skills rocket.