You’ve spent hours in the gym, making sure your technique is on point and that you have all your combinations down pat. You’re comfortable on your feet, moving side to side and forward and backward, with a bounce in your step that just oozes confidence. Now you’re ready to reach the next level in your martial arts journey.
Sparring is a unique training tool that can help you familiarize yourself with the nuances of real-world combat. It can also take you from being a novice and transform you into a bonafide martial artist.
It’s one thing to know how to perform your techniques by the book, but when you climb in the ring and are faced with situations where you have to combine both offense and defense, things change. Real-world combat is not something we are prepared for from the get-go. But with the help of sparring, we can accustom ourselves to the high-intensity environment of a fight.
Which is why, if you consider yourself a true martial artist, sparring is one of the most important parts of training. Today, Evolve Daily shares four reasons why you should never skimp on sparring and why it’s important in boxing and Muay Thai.
1) You can practice real-world application of skills
What good is your textbook jab, right hook combination if you can’t use it? How effective is your Muay Thai flying knee? If you’ve never gotten the chance to try out your techniques in practice, how will you know if what you’re doing can help you out in real-world situations?
Sparring provides a unique, controlled environment for you and your sparring partner to practice your skills on each other. Whether you are sharpening your offense or tightening up your defense, sparring is an amazing training tool to help you familiarize yourself with the intricacies of real-world combat.
You’ve dedicated long hours to honing your technique, making sure your offense is crisp, clean, and technically sound. The only thing left is to ensure that your skills are, in the literal sense, effective. Sparring will help you try out your skills in a safe environment.
Sparring is the closest you will ever get to an actual fight and invaluable for any serious martial artist.
2) Gets you mentally prepared to defend yourself
Perhaps you already have a concrete idea of how to defend yourself, but you don’t quite know if you’re capable of performing your techniques when it matters most.
A lot of people tend to freeze up in situations when self-defense is called for. Even if you’ve had proper training in martial arts, it’s a whole new world when you’re actually in a situation where you have to apply your skills to defend yourself.
Most of the hesitation is mental, and sparring helps to fix this problem. Sparring, more than any physical benefit, is an exercise of the mind. It helps prepare you for combat by placing you in various combat situations. When you’re constantly in these situations, you get accustomed to the ebb and flow of a real fight.
You’ve probably heard this before, but fighting is more mental than it is physical. Of course, a peaceful resolution will always be preferred in any conflict. But in cases when it cannot be avoided, you must be able to defend yourself. Sparring can help you get accustomed to the unique and intense predicament of a boxing match or Muay Thai fight.
3) It familiarizes you with the unique situation of a fight
In a real fight, anything can happen, and sparring is a great training tool to help familiarize you with the unique situation of a real fight.
One of the many things sparring can develop in practitioners is muscle memory. Through the repeated practice of techniques in various situations, the human body can memorize its movements and the way it reacts to an opponent’s advancements.
The counter to a right hook is a slip to the left and a hook to the body. The next step after securing the Muay Thai clinch is a knee to the body. These techniques are textbook, and the more you practice them in sparring, the easier it is for your body to embed these movements into your psyche so that it becomes second-nature.
If and when you are faced with having to put your martial arts skills to use in the real world, you want to be sure that you are well-equipped. Logging the hours in sparring is a surefire way to be able to learn how to truly defend yourself and the people around you from a physical threat.
4) Helps prepare you for competition
Lastly, one of the most practical uses for sparring is that it prepares you for competition. A lot of martial arts practitioners today don’t just train in martial arts to learn self-defense, they also train to enter professional or amateur competition.
Sparring, because it virtualizes the real-world parameters of hand-to-hand combat, is invaluable to a training athlete’s preparation for competition. You’ll often find that the world’s most talented martial artists have all logged hours upon hours of sparring. The more sparring they undergo, the better they perform in competition.
So if you’re thinking of taking up martial arts as a competitive sport, or want to make sure you can apply the techniques you’ve learned in a combat scenario, sparring is essential to your training. The time you’ve spent with your sparring partners will prove invaluable when you’re in the ring or in the cage and victory is on the line.