Posts Tagged ‘Sparring’

Editors Note: This post was originally written on November 9th, 2016, As we are currently doing a series on injuries we thought we would re-post some past articles on this topic. This one was written by Assistant Instructor Dave Young who is a professional musician as well as martial artist. Like many who train martial arts, injury is a big concern, especially if it can affect your ability to do your other hobbies or your job. Yet, many musicians train in the martial arts without issues, like David Lee Roth of Van Halen. The discipline and consistency needed for music is much like that of the martial arts, so it should be a natural draw for musicians, but fear of injury can often prevent many from learning something they always wanted to learn. See our previous post on Injury Anxiety. This, however, has never stopped Dave, who has since moved out of the city and we wish him the best. We know he will continue his martial arts journey no matter where he is, so keep an eye out for this bearded warrior.

Audio By Jonathan Fader

In any martial art, there is always the risk of getting injured. I think most martial art and self-defence students have experienced at least one mild injury during their training. This is the trade-off; training that is meant to prevent violence requires violence, so it must be imbued with an inherent risk. Yet, being trained allows you to reduce risk in a real fight.

How can you avoid injury in training and avoid injury in a real situation?

As a musician, my hands and my brain are the two most important things that allow me to write, record, and perform. Thus, throwing punches and getting hit in the head may seem counter-intuitive towards preserving these body parts. There is a balance between avoiding injury to maintain my ability to work, and taking the risk of injury to be able to defend myself and my family.

First of all, I am NOT a fan of being punched in the face or hit in the head in any manner.  Many studies show that repeated blows to the head, even those that don’t cause concussions, can cause long-term changes in the brain and have lasting neurological effects. That being said, it is very important from a Krav Maga perspective to experience high pressure real world situations and be able to react appropriately.

In a fight, you are going to get hit, so experiencing the real thing in a simulation-type environment is invaluable as a learning tool.  At UTKM, we spar in a very controlled manner, and this is great for safety.  Even so, accidents happen. Everyone is at a different point in learning to control their strikes (and their emotions), so the best way to avoid getting hit, and protect your brain, is to train hard and improve your technique.

The best way to avoid getting hit, and protect your brain, is to train hard and improve your technique.

When it comes to protecting my hands, the same idea applies: Hone your technique.  I work hard on improving my technique so that I retain thorough muscle memory of the proper movements and positions, whether I’m punching a bag, focus mitts, or sparring with one or many opponents. This reduces my chances of injury — remembering to keep my hands up, fist at 45°, elbow slightly bent, and so on. When I ingrain this into my muscle memory, I won’t need to remember to do it in a distressing situation, my body will know it and do it.

Better hurt in the gym, than killed on the street

Perhaps, I will never be required to fight for my life or to protect my family. Nevertheless, in the end, I would rather train hard and perhaps break my hands defending myself successfully, than be overly worried about hurting myself in training and ending up seriously injured in a real confrontation.

In a fight, you are going to get hit, so experiencing the real thing in a simulation-type environment is invaluable as a learning tool.

Written by: Dave Young.

The Body: Weapons & Ranges

Posted: March 13, 2018 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
Tags: , , ,
Knowing your range for Krav Maga Self Defense: Audio by Jonathan Fader

If you seriously intend on learning to defend yourself you must understand range. Range means how close you have to be to another person in order to use your body’s weapons.

  • Long Range (LR) – Kicks, etc..
Groin Flick Kick 3
Example: Groin Flick Kick/Groin jab. All kicks are long range.
  • Medium Range (MR) – Punches, etc…
Eye Flick
Example: Eye Flick. All punches, or attacks with extended but not completely locked out arms, are medium range attacks.
  • Short Range (SR) – Elbows, Knees, Grabbing, etc…
Krav Maga Knee 4
Example: Knee. Any attack that can be done from a clinch or control point is a close range attack
  • Control Point (CP) – Reference point 1, Reference point 2, Point of Dominance, etc..
Reference point 1 takedown grip 1
Example: Reference point 1 control, or “live side” control. Controls are positions in which you have broken down your opponent, and are controlling their body in some way.

As much as possible you should maintain long range prior to conflict. This allows you to assess the overall situation while still being able to attack your opponent if you need to.  If you need to Preemptivley (PE) strike, you should start from your long range; as you already properly assessed and gauged your distance. If you decide that you need to fight rather than run, attack in whatever range you are in and begin closing the distance. Once you have achieved close range you can control-and-disengage, or control-and-take-down, depending on your skill, your objective, and what will most effectively stop the threat in that situation.

One of the best ways to become effective at closing the distance and learning your ranges is sparring. While learning self-defence techniques does not necessarily require sparring, it is a MUST be included if you are serious about realistic training.

*Topics under any principle category (Eg. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time.  So check-in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.

Warren Green Belt techniqueA work colleague of mine recently joined UTKM on a trial basis. He had never trained in martial arts before although he always had an interest, so he decided to give it a try.  Based on our discussions about what to expect, and not, he was quite excited to give it a shot.  His father was a martial arts practitioner when he was younger so he was also happy that his son showed an interest in self-defence.  At the end of each class we spar with a partner for a couple of rounds, so since he had never sparred before and I introduced him to Krav Maga, I felt some responsibility to help him ease into it by being his sparring partner, rather than throwing him to spar with the other, more experienced, students.  As a green belt, sparring is now optional for me instead of being mandatory, and when I passed my green belt test I had hoped I would never spar again.  Never say never.

Since my colleague only had sparring gloves and no protective headgear, I had to be careful to only use kicks and body shots against him, and allow him to hit me in the head if he wanted to since I was protected. We’ve sparred now a couple of times and he’s not bad, so I can see that once he’s fully geared up it will be an interesting experience helping him improve.  It then got me to thinking how my sparring is, and whether or not I’m very good, or need much improvement myself.  The answer is, no, I’m not very good at sparring and yes, I could also use improving.  It then made me think exactly what the differences are between someone who just started taking Krav Maga and someone like me, who’s been taking it for years.

When I first started training in Krav Maga, I had never sparred before so it was a new experience for me. The first thing I noticed was that it’s much different than just watching a boxing match on TV and there are consequences for every move you make.  I keep my hands up to protect my head, but then that means I can’t throw a punch.  I use a hook which then leaves my head open, albeit for a split second.  Still, I immediately feel vulnerable.  At the same time my partner is throwing a kick which I need to block and try to counter-strike.  Do I go fast and try to overwhelm my opponent, or go slow and measured, and ensure that my throws reach their intended target.  It was very confusing and chaotic, and while I’m now much better at controlling my emotions and being more precise with both my technique and power, I’m still not very good at sparring.  But as a green belt, shouldn’t I be?  The answer is no.  We are learning Krav Maga, and not learning how to be an MMA fighter.  Yes, I should be better than someone who has never sparred before, but it doesn’t mean that someone trained in Krav Maga should be able to out-box a boxer, out-kick a kickboxer, or out-grapple someone taking BJJ.  Krav Maga is a self-defence system, and its prime purpose is to a) not get into a confrontation to begin with, b) if a confrontation arises, to try and de-escalate the situation, and c) if it gets physical, to be able to fight well enough to be able to buy enough time to get the hell out of there.  And, as Jon had passed some words of wisdom to the class just yesterday, to run to safety, not to just run away from the threat (think about that for a bit and you’ll see why it makes sense).

As a green belt, I have learned and been tested in parts of the curriculum that the lower belts have not yet seen, such as multiple attacker defence or ground fighting. But right from the first class that anyone takes in Krav Maga, they’ll learn to spar.  So it should come as no surprise that when I watch someone taking their Yellow Belt test and they get to the sparring section, they can be pretty good and I certainly wouldn’t want to get into a fight with them.  There are some beginner students who are very strong and are natural strikers, and they can easily give the higher belts a sparring challenge. The main difference is that they can often lose control of their emotions and power, and that’s where experience comes in.  So I fully admit and concede that in a 1:1 sparring situation they may overwhelm me, but that’s ok, because I’m not taking Krav Maga in order to be a boxer.  And it can take some students a longer time than others to be good at sparring and again, that’s ok.  We’re all here to learn and help each other, not to point fingers at one another and say “I’m better than you!”.

Also, progressing to the higher levels in Krav Maga is more of a linear, as opposed to vertical, progression. In a traditional martial art such as judo, it is more of a vertical progression, and advancing to the higher belts actually does mean that you can do the technique better than the lower belts, along with its application in a competitive situation.  It can take years, and repeating the same technique thousands of times, before you can execute an advanced throw cleanly and efficiently.  The lower belts will know the same throw, but the upper belts will perform it properly, and hence the acknowledgement that the higher belts are more skilled than the lower belts.  In Krav Maga, the techniques are simple by design, so it doesn’t take years to learn how, for example, to hit or kick effectively.  Progression in Krav Maga is about learning more techniques and strategies as opposed to learning how to do a technique really, really well.  Yes, with more practice some techniques will also improve, however, I’m sure that if I throw a jab-cross 10,000 more times I won’t get that much better than I am now.  And since I am taking Krav Maga to learn to protect myself in a real-life situation, I am confident that I will be good enough to be able to escape and get to safety.

Keep in mind why you are taking the martial art or sport you are. Time is very limited and we’ll never get it back once it’s been spent.  In my case, I love watching judo matches just as others enjoy watching their sports, but I freely admit that in a real life-threatening situation, judo is not going to help me much if someone came at me with a knife.  And that’s why I take Krav Maga, so I can learn what to do in an end-to-end situation and get home safely, regardless of who was better at sparring in class.





Recently I was asked why our kids do not spar like in other martial arts classes and if we could start including it in our class. My answer is always the same, NO! Kids should not spar and anyone who makes kids spar, allowing for blows to the head, is either stuck in the past or does not care about the health and well-being of their kids.

Aside from the obvious facts that kid’s bodies have yet to develop fully, that their coordination is not consistent, and that their ability to control their power is questionable, recent years have produced numerous studies outlining the dangers of repeated head trauma that can stem from sparring.

The concept of Punch Drunk is nothing new and though past research has been done on the subject it isn’t until recently that it is actually being taken seriously. Previously, people simply thought it was just a normal part of the fight game, in those times the fight game would have been boxing.

It only takes a quick glance at interviews of boxers in their later years, like Mohammad Ali and other greats, to see that there is clearly a problem. Many are now affected by mental health problems, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, linked to the sport. The tale is always the same, repeated serious or mild head traumas, like concussions from repeated unchecked blows, can cause long lasting effects. Is this acceptable? Not really, and just now science is breaking down the facts when it comes to head trauma.

Here’s the quick break down: a blow that causes a concussion is not that bad, however if a person undergoes a concussion and isn’t given enough time to properly heal, serious compounding issues arise. Unfortunately, the problem is that most people don’t even realize they were concussed in the first place.

More recent times have seen the criticism of American Football.

In a study by Alan Schwartz commissioned by the NFL in September 2009 he reported that:

“Alzheimer’s disease or similar memory related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league’s former players vastly more often than in the national population — including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49.”

Another side effect that repeated head trauma can cause is reduced levels of testosterone, growth hormone, and various other important natural chemicals required to function properly.

There has also been a lot of controversy in the MMA world on fighters taking human growth hormone. But no one ever asks why so many fighters take it. Yes, one could say they take it to perform better. However the truth is probably closer to them needing to take it in order to return to normal functioning levels, both physically and mentally. Why? Because of the old school training methods or gyms that do not take head trauma seriously, causing serious brain damage in the fighters and requiring growth hormones to return to these normal levels.

How important is Human Growth Hormone?

Numerous studies have shown that human growth hormone affects the nervous system in many more ways than previously thought. A published article by Neruoendocrinol 2000 Oct:21 (4): 330-48 Nyberg F Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden says:

“GH replacement therapy was found to improve the psychological capabilities in adult GH deficient (GHD) patients. Furthermore, beneficial effects of the hormone on certain functions, including memory, mental alertness, motivation, and working capacity, have been reported. Likewise, GH treatment of GHD children has been observed to produce significant improvement in many behavioral problems seen in these individuals. Studies also indicated that GH therapy affects the cerebrospinal fluid levels of various hormones and neurotransmitters. Further support that the CNS is a target for GH emerges from observations indicating that the hormone may cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and from studies confirming the presence of GH receptors in the brain.”

Think about it, this hormone is extremely important for a person to feel good both mentally and physically. If a child begins to receive head traumas and is too young to understand the dangers of being hit in the head after being concussed, then the lifelong trauma could be devastating. It could not only stunt their growth but also slow their mental processing, and cause depression among numerous other life altering issues.

A question you may have then is, why on earth should adults be sparring if it can be so dangerous? The answer is a simple one; we now know the dangers of head trauma unlike the past where it was just the way of things. Sparring is a very important part of learning Krav Maga. I have said it before but I will say it again, punch a black belt in the face and he is a brown belt, punch him again and he is a blue belt etc…

We all work the same way, trauma to us is the same as trauma to a would-be assailant. However we need to learn to react to being hit so that we can appropriately defend ourselves.

You can learn all the techniques you want but if you fail to apply them then they are useless. Sparring is the only way to overcome the natural reaction to panic and freeze under stress. On the other hand, if you get attacked in the street and you have conditioned yourself to react, rather than panicking, your body will react without thinking.

However this is not to say sparring should not be regulated. For example our Krav Maga sparring rules are as such:

  1. You must have a mouth guard and appropriate face protection (for Krav Maga that means head gear with a face mask).
  2. You are only to spar at 30% unless told otherwise.
  3. If you get hit hard you are done sparring for the day.
  4. If you think you have a concussion or have a concussion you cannot spar for a minimum of 6 weeks or as your doctor has advised you.

We want to train our students as best as we can but their health and safety is paramount. This is why in our schools kids do not spar and this is why our adult sparring, though may appear chaotic, has rules and our students are expected to follow them.

I suggest that if your school allows children to spar they should reconsider and if you have full contact sparring that you should look at the safety precautions in place to keep your students and fighters healthy and training as long as their mind and body allow.

By Jonathan Fader

Edited by: Vanessa Mora