In any sport the best way to get better is to practice,practice,practice. If your sport of choice is MMA, you probably put in countless hours of practice, shadow boxing, grappling, kicking bags, etc cause you can’t ‘play fighting’ right. Let’s say you want to take it your game a step further, and that you’re ready to take your skills to the next level and you’ve decided you want to practice implementing the moves–without getting inside of an octagon. Where would that lead you? You’d like to make contact, but aren’t quite ready to experience full contact consequences. Well my friend, the next level for you is sparring.
We all train so we all know of the practice, but do we really know what goes into keeping one of these sessions safe? Here are some basic principles to sparring that will not only keep you safe, but keep you progressing forward and pushing your level. In order to get the maximum progression in MMA or any combat sport, you have to eventually spar with another Martial Artist of your skill level or slightly higher. Now emphasis on YOUR skill level or slightly higher. There is nothing wrong with sparring with a fighter who is above your skill level, and in most cases it can prove to be very beneficial.
A good rule of thumb to follow if you’re going to spar with somebody better, is to make sure they are willing to train at your pace. As Martial Artists’ we want the best success for everyoneduring training so it’s a good idea to establish whether another fighter or student is willing to practice at your level if you are not at his. Don’t see it as you asking if he or she wants to step their level down, but see it more of you matching your partners level of intensity.
In sparring the idea is to push your level and ability, to use all the movements, strikes and your all around knowledge in a controlled environment. This doesn’t mean using sparring as a chance to add on to your highlight reel. If you’re starting out don’t go full on chute box. If you end up hurting someone unnecessarily there is no merit. In the end you failed at the object of the match, which is to safely implement techniques. If you just end up having a slugfest with your partners it defeats the purpose, and the learning process. Take a moment to be in present time, to study the situation, read your opponents moves, and answer back safely. Whatever it takes for you to learn, don’t go overboard, and everyone will be happy. Full gear, vaseline on your face and specifically made sparring padded gloves (mma or boxing) are great to avoid cuts and injuries while maintaining intensity. Although pads keep you safe it’s best to taper the strength of your strikes, or exaggerate sounds or motions to get the point across that some extra heat is coming for those tough love strikes. Just have fun, the purpose is not to hurt.
Ultimately, it’s to learn about yourself and others as fighters. A lot can be said about sparring in the way that it tests you while at the same time revealing your strengths and weaknesses without wreckless endangerment of our pride or records. Stay fluid, relax, take chances, and enjoy yourself. As long as you show respect, keep those hand up, chin tucked and elbows tight you should be fine. Protect yourself at all times and keep fighting the good fight for MMA!
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