Sometimes people wonder why I am so keen for my students to get into sparring. Well here are ten reasons why sparring is awesome and you should do it whenever you get the chance. The reasons encompass physical, mental and social aspects. Sparring truly is awesome!
The first reason is simply to do with understanding. Sometimes the techniques and forms you learn in Kung Fu and other martial arts can seem very abstract, maybe even like you are just waving your arms and legs around – until you actually use the movements in a live fighting environment. By sparring regularly you will gain many ‘Aha!’ moments of comprehension as you come to a greater understanding of the movements you have learned.
2. Skill development
It is one thing to learn a movement or technique and quite another to be good at that movement and be able to apply it in real time. Sparring regularly will take your skill level from knowing about something to actually being able to use it. This of course is very important if you want to be able to use the skills you have learned for self defence purposes.
3. Innovation and adaptation
When you spar regularly both you and your opponents will improve – a lot. This will mean that techniques you were able to use one week you may not be able to use the next if your opponent has learned to better defend themselves against them. You may also have opponents who attack you in new ways you have never experienced before. This means you have to learn to innovate and adapt your techniques and tactics in the moment. This will help you to be able to apply you skills to a wide range of situations in the future.
4. Get out of your head and into your body
One of the features of our modern world is that we spend a lot of our time talkind, reading and thinking about things, and not so much time actually DOING things with our bodies. This can lead to us getting a bit stuck inside our heads. The immediate physical feedback we receive from sparring practice gets us out of our heads and back into our bodies. It really does help to build a strong mind-body connection.
Those who have tried sparring can attest to just how physically demanding it is. Every part of your body is working and ready for action while you are sparring. This is very tiring to begin with, but your fitness builds quickly.
In sparring we fight with the aim of not actually hurting out opponent. We aim to outclass them by landing our strikes and kicks without being hit back – but not to injure. This is very challenging and develops a high level of physical control and confidence.
7. Inner Calm
Sparring can be a bit stressful. Someone is trying to punch you, kick you, maybe throw you to the ground. They are not trying to hurt you – but you are still under attack and it can become a bit overwhelming. One of the great benefits of sparring is that you experience that overwhelmed feeling and learn to remain calm and work your way through it. This can take some practice of course – that’s why you should spar regularly J.
When you become good at remaining calm and focused during sparring, you will find that you also become better at remaining calm and focused in other stressful or overwhelming situations in life.
8. Socialisation – learn to compete and still be friends
In sparring we compete with our opponent and try to win against them. We do this while having no ill will towards them and while trying to not harm them. In the end this creates strong camaraderie and friendships.
In life we also often come into situations where we must compete with others. We encounter people who want different things than us and our interests do not always align. Through the physical competition of sparring we become more skilful at these other social interactions where we need to strive for our own interests while still being considerate of the other people involved. We become better at competing without making enemies, and hopefully actually making more friends. There are studies that support this really well, showing that children that are allowed to playfight end up being much better socially adjusted as adults than children who were not allowed to playfight (sorry I can’t find the reference for this at the moment, if someone reading this can find the reference could you maybe leave it in the comments section below?). If you’re already an adult and you weren’t allowed to playfight as a child, its never too late to teach an old dog new tricks J.
Ok, we’re down to the last couple of reasons so its time to bring out the big guns of why you should try sparring. Reason number nine is that it is FUN! Really sparring is a kind of a game. A really challenging and unpredictable one. One that will keep you coming back for the challenge again and again. This element of fun will help to keep your kung fu training interesting and enjoyable for you. It will also provide you with many stories to share with friends and maybe even grandchildren.
10. Formal Requirement
Reason number ten in our list is that in many schools including Long White Cloud Kung Fu, sparring is a formal requirement for advancement. For all of the great reasons listed above, students are required to spar in order to gain their black belt. We don’t consider that they would be a truly well rounded martial artist without sparring experience.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on reasons why sparring is AWESOME! We actually have two students who are grading for their black belt this weekend. During one of those sessions they will be doing a LOT of sparring as part of their testing. You are welcome to come along to watch and support them in this.
While sparring is not required until a student is preparing for their blackbelt, coloured belt students are encouraged to get into it as soon as they can for all the reasons listed above J.