Are you new to sparring and feel a bit overwhelmed with all the different parts to it or want to make sure you properly train so you improve? Below, I’ve listed out 5 important tips to keep in mind when you’re a beginner at sparring.
1. Use Combinations
Many times students get stuck on a one-kick mentality while sparring. You’ll see two people in a match, and each one will do one kick at a time and almost take turns trying to score. Combinations and footwork are the best way to improve your sparring. When our students are first learning, we encourage them to do at least 3 kicks every time they engage. This is a good strategy for many reasons, such as having more chances to score, throwing off your opponent with multiple kicks, and expanding your toolset. Combine different types of kicks with basic footwork, angles, and levels/target areas of kicking so your opponents don’t know what’s coming!
2. Have A Gameplan
Everytime you enter a sparring round, you should have a goal. I’m not talking about winning the round and beating your opponent, but having a gameplan of what you want your performance to be. This is great to practice in training because you can make different goals for each round such as:
– Focusing on offense or defensive strategies
– Working on spin kicks, head kicks, etc
– Getting out of the clinch
– Ring management
– Distance control
Make sure you have an exact goal before you go into a match so that you can have something to focus on that you want to specifically improve on rather than just going out there and hoping for the best!
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Everybody likes to win, but in order to improve and learn to excel, you have to be willing to give it your all and not have the outcome you wanted. This is specially important in a training session. When you’re at a tournament, it’s typically single-elimination and you only get one chance to make it past a fight. However, when you’re in a sparring class, this is the time to try out everything new that you may not be great at so you can improve on it!
Don’t stress about making sure you beat everyone in your class, rather work on amplifying your strengths or managing your weak points. I always knew I wanted to be good at spin kicks in sparring, but I was too afraid to try them. It took me several times of practicing them during training sessions and failing by being late to react or aiming wrong, but eventually I improved and started scoring them in sparring matches!
Don’t be afraid to fail, look silly, or miss. This is how you get better!
4. Practice Drills
Lots of students want to go to a sparring class and just spar the entire time. While practicing sparring is great, drills are essential to teach your body how to react, learn about different situations, and building muscle memory. Listen to your teacher and spend time going through different hogu drills so you can know how to manage an opponent’s different strategies and know how to react!
This is the last tip, but one that gets forgotten so often! You may find sparring to be a stressful situation, but you don’t want your body to be tense the entire time you’re in the ring. Think about it this way- try tensing your entire body and do a jump. Now, relax your muscles and jump up again. When you’re tense, your body is constricted and doesn’t perform as well as it could when it’s relaxed. I’m not talking about being lazy and slow, just a good balance of confident so it can flow!