Participating in your first ever sparring session can be nerve-wracking. You already have an expectation of what is to come, but to actually go in there and make yourself physically vulnerable is such an honest experience. If you have never participated in a sparring session before, it’s certainly a unique part of training.
Thankfully, before you even step foot inside the ring, your coaches and instructors will have already signed off on your readiness. They believe in you, and you should give yourself the same amount of confidence. But of course, we know confidence has to come from somewhere.
A lot of people have difficulty telling whether they are ready for their first sparring session. It’s not hard to understand why. But sparring is an important training tool for any serious martial artist and is the perfect simulation of real-world combat situations. Sparring is going to help prepare you to use your skills in the proper manner if and when the need arises.
So before you step into the ring with your sparring partner and throw down, here are a few things you should know. Remember, everything we practice in training must be safe and effective to maximize its benefits.
Today, Evolve Daily shares four beginner tips to take note of before your first sparring session.
1) Make sure you are in great condition
It should go without saying. Before you even think about participating in your first sparring session, you have to be in excellent physical condition.
When your mind and body is in great condition, you become incredibly sharp and focused. Your reaction times are quick and responsive, and your body becomes flexible and durable.
Being in great physical shape is the first checkbox to tick off on that pre-readiness list you have running through your head. So make sure you have put in the hours, so you have confidence in your strength, your technique, and your stamina.
2) Know if you want to focus on offense or defense
Now that you understand that sparring is a true-to-life simulation of real hand-to-hand combat, it’s time to grasp that there are two aspects of sparring — offense and defense. It’s up to you to decide which area you will be focusing on with every session. As you get more experienced, you don’t need to focus on one aspect so much, but to begin with, it’s good to go in with this focus.
Some martial artists use sparring to practice applying their offensive techniques and combinations. Others like to focus completely on defense, slipping and evading punches and kicks while using footwork to weave in and out of range. Whether you focus on offense or on defense, make sure you are making a conscious effort to give ample time to hone both skills.
Defense is just as important as offense and part of having the confidence to control the outcome of a real fight is knowing how to use both to gain an advantage over your opponent.
3) Prioritize learning technique than focusing on power
One of the most common beginner mistakes made in sparring is focusing on power rather than technique. This is a major pitfall in sparring, and understandably so. It is really easy to fall into the habit, but of course, this line of thinking is incorrect.
The primary benefit of sparring is allowing you to hone your technique for actual use. Yes, you’ve practiced your techniques on the heavy bags and on the pads with your coaches, but those bags don’t move like real people do and they certainly don’t hit back.
Focus on prioritizing your technique, and once you have that down, then you can start to gradually add power. It’s all about executing techniques properly first, before putting some meat behind your offense. In most situations, technique will always trump power.
4) Put safety above everything else
And perhaps the most important beginner tip before your first sparring session is that you should always put safety above everything else. Yes, sparring sessions are meant to simulate the intricate ebb and flow of real-world combat. But the key here is that sparring is held in a safe and controlled environment. This is important because you want to be sure that both you and your sparring partner can both freely practice your techniques together.
Always make sure you are using proper protective gear, and that your sparring is supervised by your coaches and trainers. There must always be a superior watching over what is going on so they can guide you. They can see what’s going on from a different perspective and can instruct you whether to pull back a little or to exert more effort.