“The goal of sparring is enlightenment through getting punched in the face!” That’s how Masters Academy Essex Head instructor, Matt Chapman, puts it.
And despite his colourful language, Matt is completely right. Sparring is one of the most beneficial parts of martial arts training. It will teach you so much more about yourself and your skills than any other part of training.
Having said that, sparring is the scariest aspect of martial arts for many people.
They wrongly assume sparring is the same as fighting, so they bring the same emotions and intensity into sparring as they would a fight.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sparring is simply practising your techniques against a live, resisting opponent. And it is the ONLY way to develop correct timing and range. These are essential to becoming an effective martial artist.
At Masters Academy, we encourage (but never force) our students to spar.
Don’t worry, you won’t be thrown to the sharks during your first lesson. We gradually introduce sparring through seminars and isolated drills in our classes.
As with everything we do, safety and improvement are ALWAYS our main priority, and you will only go on to full sparring when you’re ready and if you want to.
To help you understand a little more about sparring and how it can benefit you, here is Matt’s A – Z of Sparring.
The A-Z of Sparring
A = Acceptance. Accept that you are going to get hit. Even black belts get hit by white belts. Get over it! What matters is what happens after you get hit.
B = Basics. The basic techniques have the most chance of working in sparring. So work your basic punches, kicks and knees.
C = Contact. Different people enjoy different levels of contact. Work with you partner on finding a level of contact that is suitable for both of you. If you leave injured, pissed off or on a stretcher, you are going too hard.
D = Defence. Practice defence at least as much as you practice attack.
E = Ego. Leave your ego at the door. Sparring is about both partners getting better.
F = Fitness. If you are out of shape, then your sparring techniques will suffer, and you will get countered. Fatigue will mess you up! Be fighting fit!
G = Guard. Hands up, chin down & elbows down ALL THE TIME.
H = Head movement. A moving target is harder to hit. Move your head before during and after your techniques.
I = Isolate then integrate. Learn a new technique and drill it. Then isolate it in sparring. Once you can use it well, then integrate it into full sparring.
J = Joy. Enjoy your sparring. It should be FUN! If it isn’t, you are going too hard.
K = K.I.S.S Keep it simple stupid! Flash moves rarely work.
L = Legs. Use your legs to get in and out of range. Footwork is essential
M = Mental. Sparring is at least 50% mental. Try to be relaxed yet focused and confident in your ability.
N = Notes. Take notes on your sparring. What works, what doesn’t, what you need to work on!
O = Objective. The objective of sparring is to facilitate learning for both partners in a controlled competitive environment. Not to kick someone’s ass!
P = Pain. If you want to get good at sparring you will have to accept a certain level of pain. This is not ballroom dancing. Sometimes kickboxing hurts! Persevere through the pain!
Q = Question. If you are getting hit with the same technique all the time, question why and then find a solution.
R = Range. Be competent in all ranges. Kicking, Punching, Kneeing, Elbowing and Clinching. Or you will get beat by someone who is!
S = Safety. Look after you and your partner’s safety. Use the correct equipment, watch the space, control the contact.
T = Tension. If you are tense, you will get tired quicker, and you will be slow and stiff. Relaxation is essential! Relaxation comes from doing lots and lots of sparring.
U = Unexpected. If you are not sure what is happening, Jab. If in doubt, jab it out!
V = Variety. Use variety in attack and defence, or you become predictable.
W = Watch. Watch other people sparring or watch fights to learn new techniques, strategies and concepts.
X = Do not cross your feet. Bad things happen when you cross your feet.
Y = Years. It takes years to get really good and comfortable with sparring. You have to pay your dues. Keep your mouth shut and your hands up and get on with it
Z = Zen. Try to reach the Zen state of Mu Shin when sparring. Mu Shin means No Mind. You are not thinking, worrying or elsewhere. You are totally absorbed in the moment! Free from mental chatter. Just reacting and responding to your immediate environment.
Matt has put together an online course that will teach you the how, what, and why of Sparring. It’s called the Sparring Success System and you can find out more about it here:
For more information about our classes and how they can benefit you, gives us a call on 01752 262233 or CLICK HERE. Don’t forget to ask about your FREE Trial.