Instructors, when do you introduce your students to sparring?

I have heard a couple different schools of thought on this and am interested in your practices.

I am also curious about your sparring and kata relationship.
@ clowns –

My current dojo group used to have a day where we’d go to a park or something and go all out, just as we did in practice (as we never got enough of it as eager little ‘tough guys’). We used to call it Go Day, to which I referred to Go time, because it only lasted about two hours.

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7 Responses to Instructors, when do you introduce your students to sparring?

  1. Christopher L says:

    I’m not an instructor, but in my karate shodokan classes, it’s Orange belt+ with padding, and Green belt+ without, if you dont have padding (body equipment) then I’d just do what my judo instructor doses.

    “Are you 12?”
    “Go spar.”

  2. pugpaws2 says:

    I believe in sparring. It is a good way to have students get their feet wet so to speak. Without sparring martial arts are like learning to swim by lying on a towel beside the pool and going through the motions of the different strokes. However there can be a big problem with sparring too. Sparring must have rules or limited technique. Otherwise someone would get seriously injured quickly. I’m not talking about sparring light contact with the flashy flip/slap techniques common in sport tournaments. I’m talking about martial arts that are practiced for self-defense. We teach many techniques that simply can’t be simulated. Either you do them or you don’t. Those techniques can’t be used in sparring at all. To do them easy is to have them not work at all. So that leaves us with this. We have students spar as a training tool. We do not see it as being realistic for teaching real life self-defense. Most real life situations are over in a very short time. Unfortunately, I have had to use my training on several occasions. In all of them I was surprised by an attacker. All of these attacks were over in only a few seconds. Had I known they were going to come, I simply would have left the area.

    Often, I hear people tell me that because we don’t spar that we can’t possibly know if what we do works. After all we have not tested them against a non compliant opponent. When I explain what I stated above, they just press the statement more. These same people will try to tell me that because they spar full power that they know that they can fight. I point out that they are not accomplishing what they think they are. What they don’t seem to realize is that they are not fighting for their life. They do not spar intending to kill their opponent. Neither do they expect that the opponent is trying to kill them. In the heat of aggressive sparring, it is easy to forget that it is not as close to a real fight as they think. Often I have these same bone heads challenge me to prove that it is possible to develop good self-defense skills without sparring in the normal sense of the term. I do not accept challenges. I care not if someone things they know better than I do. But there have been a few that would not take no for an answer. I have been attacked once or twice by these so called experts on the subject. As a result i had to do what I train to do. I’ve hurt a few people because to do what we practice is not safe. After putting them down a few times they either leave never to return, or they want to be my student. I send them on their way. Bottom line here is that good technique, proper training in a one on one environment is effective, if you don’t hold back when it is really needed. I’m sure that many will disagree with me. But the fact still remains. I have on several occasions defended myself against some aggressive people. Then after the first time I have even told them what I was going to do if they used the same attack again. In all cases I have been able to defeat them using techniques that they knew I was going to use. These comments are not intended to brag or say that what I do is better than what others study. These comments are here only to get others to stop and think about the subject in a different way than they are accustomed to.

    Just my thoughts.

  3. nwohioguy says:

    At my dojo students begin learning concepts of Kumite after four weeks of training. In terms of letting them actually spar freestyle it is after about two months. Our dojo works on Kumite a lot but we also teach several kinds as well. Ippon, Sanbon, Jiyu, Randori, Bogu…all are introduced at various rank levels. Yes I stated Randori as a form of Kumite because there days we only focus on grappling application or days where I have one student who strikes and one of grapples at the same time. In all we Kumite at least 45 minutes of every class.

    In terms of Kata and Bunkai that is every class as well. Each Kata we teach is taught both in technical perspective as well as in application perspective. We also do what we call Kata interpretation where a student must come up with their own Bunkai before we actually teach them the proper ones for the Kata. All in all it is an equal mix in our dojo…Kata and Kumite are trained equally.

  4. David E says:

    We start them on one and two step sparing, which are techniques taken straight from the kata within the first few weeks, typically they will be doing no contact free sparing at 9th Kyu and light contact at 8th kyu. We do not typically do full contact in the class I am in now. The Kajukenbo class I was in started sparing with so called “light” contact from day 1 and by 5th kyu it could only be considered full contact, with controll on the more “deadly” or “likely to cause serious injury” moves.
    I , like Pugpaws have had people tell me that because we don’t spar with full contact, we can’t possibly be prepared for a street situation. My reply is always the same. I choose to adjust my range depending on the situation. If I can place a punch at full power and speed within an 8th of an inch from contact directly in front of my target, I can easily adjust to make that same punch make effective contact. My targets are not general things like the chest, the side of the head, but rather the float rib, or the temple. When you have controll you can choose your targets and hit them full power if you choose to, or simply make a touch contact for practice.

  5. MartialArtsGuy says:

    I usually try to get them to do some sparring the first day. But—-here is the key: I have them attack a more experienced student whose job it is to just defend. Or, they attack me and I just defend. I want them to try to hit a moving target as soon as possible. Later, I tell the more experienced person to fight down to the beginner level.

    They do not spar with each other until after they get a stripe on their white belt. By then I have a good idea of who to pair with whom.

  6. clowns says:

    I have no insight on the Kata relationship because I am not a karate-ka.

    For MMA we start them off by hitting the mitts, heavy bag and doing drills for stand up and ground. They learn techniques first and then spar or roll lightly.

    This is never the same for all people. Some people come in with various back grounds and they don’t get coddled in their areas they have previous knowledge in but they do have to wait until they have shown they can throw a punch or do something related to grappling. So if a TKD guy comes down and wants to spar we have him hit the bag for a little bit and then some one (normally me lately) gear up and spar, wrestlers start rolling quicker, so on and so forth. Even in these instances we don’t go all out on them. There are things they will need to be corrected on, like how to check a leg kick or where to put their hands when grappling.

    The total newbies get stuff to get their feet wet at first like light sparring and rolling with progressive resistance in until they think they want to really go at it. Unless the person is wanting to start fighting right off the bat for fighting. These guys normally come in with an ego that needs to be “checked” first 😉

    In TKD it was much the same. We started with our poomse and two person drills worked things out on a technical stand point. Then we started sparring with lighter contact and worked up from there. In our TKD class we never went full contact but we went pretty hard. My brother and I saved the full contact for the backyard or the park with friends and people with other martial arts back grounds.

    P.S. I am not a full fledged instructor but I help teach the basics and work with the new guys a lot.

  7. Shihan J says:

    i start them free style sparing when they have an understanding of how to block and strike,

    i generally do this in stages, starting them off with ippon, sanbon and gohan kumite. as they progress they i introduce more techniques and go further into kumite, usually in about a month most of them ready depending on how they train. not for an all out match, but a controlled one.
    ippon and sanbon kumite is useful to teach tactics like go no sen, sen no sen, tai no sen and soforth

    kata and kumite i feel are related, all your techniques come from kata,
    i also incorporate ten no kata in the beginning, more to teach them all the blocks then an actually requirement. as well as having them do bunkai for the entire kata at once, with 3 or 4 people.
    to me you should be able to spar with kata and treat it like a fight going through the entire kata with opponents working out all the techniques.

    ahh yes the park days we use to do that when i was younger, we use to fight on bleachers, benches and in stairwells and what ever other terrain i could think of. my students i have now don’t like to this for some strange reason, they think i’m insane when i bring it up. the new generation lacks so much.

    i got to go i’ll try to add more later

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