Welcome back to The Digging Deeper Series: Musings of a humble old yellow belt. Today’s topic will be done à la free form, flow-like, and instead of researching, chewing/stewing, and overthinking, I’m letting the magic write itself! Well, okay, I did consult my Novice Workbook and one resource on the Internet, because I do have a deep appreciation for the basics. Before I introduce this week’s topic let me summarize Part 1 and 2. We examined the moral justification to act in a self-defence scenario as well as our responsibilities related to the use of force in that self-defence scenario. By establishing the will to act and the responsibility to act, it lends to a further investigation into our ability to put our skills into practice. So, how will I have a good sense of my abilities in the use of force know while before I use them?
Sparring! (*gulp* I’m anxious just thinking about it.) Sparring is our best means by which to test and refine our skills, so in today’s post I’m taking the time to dig into what exactly is the purpose of sparring and some of the overall lessons to me as a novice Kravist. I know that I can act to defend myself, I know there are some limits on how I can defend myself, but there needs to be this important measure of understanding surrounding how I might perform under pressure.
So why do we spar?
Sparring is the closest thing to a fight without actually being in a fight. Simply put, you have to draw on everything you know quickly. You will fully understand the shortcomings of your physical skill as you work with multiple training partners, which in turn provides you with an endless amount of important feedback on your skill level (The Importance of Sparring). In a self-defence scenario you may not know the skill level of your adversary, but in a fight you will find out really fast. The very idea of testing skills under pressure will cause many people (myself included) all kinds of anxiety and avoidance behaviours. Which is really too bad, because it can provide more real time feedback in 2 minutes than can be achieved over hours of training. Training prepares the skill, while sparring provides you with the true context of how and when to use that skill.
So why don’t people like to spar?
- Lack of confidence in their abilities
- Fear of injury.
- No game plan, defensively or offensively.
- Fear of being overwhelmed by their sparring partner (i.e. being the human punching bag).
- Never getting the opportunity to trial techniques. (The Importance of Sparring)
This non-exhaustive list makes complete sense to me as, quite frankly, the root cause of my hesitancy to spar is simply that I feel like I suck at it. I’m currently sitting at 174 hrs of training with Urban Tactics Krav Maga (UTKM) and I still very much get that pit drop in my stomach when I hear the instructors call for us to put on our gear for sparring. It’s exhausting beyond belief, chaotic, and to be completely forthcoming… entirely embarrassing. I suck at fighting… I’m middle aged, not a quick thinker, and clumsy like a giant puppy (despite being a high school athlete of the year… mon dieu!) However, I’m very, very comfortable with failing… failing early, and failing often. In my first year university chemistry class, I managed a 0/25 score on a multiple-choice midterm exam… think about that for a second… if you give a monkey a pencil, it will get at least 3 more correct answers then me.
As per the UTKM Novice Handbook, it the school’s expectation that students sparring at the Novice Level will:
- Take the time to hone and refine skills with focus on head movement, foot work, and the putting together of smooth combinations with fluid punching and kicking
- Begin to learn how to deal with the introduction of takedowns, which requires a higher level of proficiency both offensively and defensively.
Essentially, we have to get better at the basics and start learning how to “impose our will” against an opponent. So we need to try then fail, then flail, then have our butts handed back to us on a regular basis. We also need to spar with people above and below our rank, to refine our thoughts, pass down some knowledge, and test our assumptions with more skilled opponents (or what I like to call “Beatings from Green Belts.”) The cycle of prep, test, and refinement will also boost our critical thinking under pressure… damn it… Jon was right again!
So there you have it, we have to spar in order to walk in peace. Sparring is a confidence booster and such a vital piece to the ever-expanding training puzzle. I may suck at sparring but I’ll happily take the embarrassment and continue living with a full set of teeth.
Until next time!
Written by: Ted E. – UTKM Yellow Belt