If you’re new to sparring, it can seem a bit intimidating at first. I expect all new students to have a few "sparring butterflies" when they first start mixing it up. Just remember: a big part of martial arts is overcoming your fears and developing confidence and courage. And courage means "being scared and doing it anyway". It does NOT mean you’re fearless from day one. So if you’re having a tough time getting started with sparring, follow these tips to tame your "sparring butterflies" and spar with confidence!
Tip #1: Think "Tag"
I like to think of sparring as a game of tag using hands and feet. Your goal is to win points by "tagging" your opponent’s target areas. Your goal is NOT to "knock somebody out" or pound away without restraint. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: when sparring, you want to develop your control and accuracy. This requires concentration, focus and skill. When you think of sparring as a game of "tag", it removes your fear and makes it a lot more fun!
Tip #2: Try Statue Sparring
Statue sparring is where one partner stands in a sparring stance completely motionless. The other student then throws combinations towards legal target areas without touching. Statue sparring with no contact develops sparring skills and helps you overcome your fear. It helps you learn to relax when somebody is throwing punches and kicks at you.
Tip #3: Spar Black Belts
It might sound crazy, but when you first start sparring, black belts are some of the best ones to spar. The reason for this is simple: they have greater self-control and accuracy than colored belts. Again, sparring is all about scoring points. By sparring black belts, you pick up on what works in a sparring situation. Black belts will go easy on you and inspire you to improve your skills. You can even "steal" some of their sparring secrets and use them in the future! See me if you’d like me to match you up with one of our black belts.
Tip #4: Stay Relaxed
Don’t tense up when sparring. You want to enter the ring relaxed and loose. If you have a problem doing that, use deep breathing before you spar...it really works! Visualize yourself as relaxed and confident and you will be. Remember - you CAN handle it...and you won’t get hurt. Which brings me to the next tip.
Tip #5: Remember You’re Safe
Keep in mind you’re in a safe, controlled environment. Here at our academy, our #1 focus is safety first. We’ll quickly intervene if anything ever gets out of hand. Also, believe in your sparring gear. Your gear has been developed over many years to protect all your vital areas and keep you free from harm. (This is one of the reasons martial arts ranks far lower than most other sports - even "non-contact" sports - in terms of injuries). Did you know people get injured far more frequently in soccer, baseball, basketball and football than in martial arts? It’s true! My advice? Don’t let your initial fear of sparring stop you! Change your outlook and make it your goal to become one of the best at sparring here at our academy! Invest the time to follow these tips and you’ll spend more time having fun and less time worrying about sparring! Please see me in person for even more little pointers to overcome your sparring jitters!