One of the most important aspects of training in boxing is sparring. Sparring is the closest thing to a real fight, without actually fighting. It will help you gain a better grasp of the correct use of the skill and techniques you’ve drilled in the gym and how to utilize them in terms of distance and reach, timing and rhythm, and in different degrees of power.
The core essence of sparring is to make you and your partner accustomed to the ebb and flow of a real fight. It’s designed to mimic specific circumstances and situations you will face either in the ring or in real life, so that you know exactly what to do when the time comes to put your skills to use.
However, sparring can be very daunting, especially for beginners. It’s a nerve-wracking task to climb through those ropes and stand across an opponent for the very first time.
If you’re interested in beginning sparring, here are a few pointers to consider, to help get you ready both mentally and physically for your first time in the ring.
Today, Evolve Daily shares four sparring tips in boxing to help prepare you for when it’s time to step in the ring.
1) Go in there with a plan
Sparring is just as much a tactical exercise as it is a physical one. You will want to go in the ring with a concrete plan of what you want to achieve. Before you step in the ring for sparring, make sure you have a game plan to follow. Adjust your sparring session to focus on honing specific skills.
For example, you may want to practice your combinations against a live opponent, so have your sparring partner only defend for a few rounds. Perhaps you want to train your counterpunching and timing, notify your sparring partner that this is your intention, and then proceed to execute. Maybe you want to practice clinching, so instruct your sparring partner to close the gap and fight on the inside.
By going into sparring with a plan, you’re not just blindly trying to pick a fight. Sparring, after all, is not a real fight, so don’t treat it like one.
2) Practice different techniques
Now is your chance to try out those moves you’ve been working on in the gym. There are only so many ways you can utilize the heavy bag, the double-ended bag, or the uppercut bag, for instance. You’ve worked hard to hone your techniques, now it’s time to put them to use.
If you’ve ever wondered how your right cross will hold up in a real fight situation, you can test it out in sparring by focusing specifically on that technique. Maybe you want to practice slipping punches and ducking under, sparring is the best way to tweak your techniques and make sure they are applicable in a real fight.
Don’t go into sparring sessions with the intention of winning. Sparring is a tool boxers use to sharpen their skills. Even if you make mistakes in there, the lessons you learn will prove invaluable in the long run.
Also, don’t be afraid to diversify the techniques you use in sparring. Remember, in this closed and controlled environment, you can take bigger, more calculated risks. So take advantage of that and spar wisely.
3) Focus on your defense
Offense isn’t the only thing you should focus on in sparring. Defense is just as important, if not more important, than learning how to attack. Dedicate a set amount of time to hone your defensive skills.
There are three key elements to defense, namely blocking/parrying, head movement, and ring generalship. Take a few rounds to focus specifically on these aspects in every sparring session. Once you reach a level of comfortability, you can then add counter-attacking to your repertoire.
Like they say, offense may win the game, but defense wins championships. Solid defense is what separates amateurs from the pros. Having good defensive skills will also amplify your offensive skills, believe it or not.
Wild as it may seem, sparring is also a chance for you to experience what it feels like to get hit clean. Sparring sessions will very rarely go a hundred percent in terms of speed and power, as fighters will usually go at limited capacity. There is no better time and place for you to discover if you can take a punch or not than in sparring.
4) Condition yourself physically and mentally
Before you even step foot in the ring, it’s important to condition yourself both physically and mentally.
On the mental side of things, taking note of what was earlier discussed, like going into the ring with a game plan, the aim to practice certain techniques, and to follow a structure, will all prepare you mentally for the task at hand. Because you know what to expect when you get in there, it helps get your mind ready.
Physically, you will want to prepare yourself by eating clean during a week you know you will be sparring, and getting ample rest. A well-rested body and mind is sharp and focused. So make sure you have enough rest and sleep throughout the week, especially the day before sparring.
Let go of all the stress you are experiencing at work or at home, and try to clear your mind. Daily meditation, before and after training, goes a long way in getting your mind and soul ready for sparring.