Sparring is the time when you put all of your training, skills and technique into practise against another moving person. It’s not a fight, but rather a controlled chance to fill in the gaps which can’t be taught with pads or a heavy bag – reading your opponent and controlling the situation.
Whether you’re looking to start sparring soon or have been sparring for a while, here are a few things to consider.
1 – Make sure you’re ready for sparring
There are two sides of this point. Firstly you need to be mentally ready for sparring, and secondly you need to have the basic skills to spar properly.
Sparring isn’t really for everybody and there’s nothing wrong with having no interest in it. You should want to spar either to improve your skills, because you think you will enjoy it, or because you would be interested in eventually fighting. The fact is, if you have no interest in sparring, then you’re not going to enjoy being hit in the face. While sparring should never be full power, there’s always a chance that one shot will land harder than intended, and injuries can still happen. You need to be willing to accept this.
Most gyms will prevent students from stepping in to a sparring session until they at least have a basic grasp of techniques. In reality the more experience you have before sparring, the better. After training a little while you should start to build confidence, good habits, and most importantly control. Not only is this for your safety but it’s for your training partners safety too. The best way to know when you’re ready to spar is to check with your coach. They know the game better than anybody in the gym, so trust their guidance. It’s what you pay them for after all!
2 – Make sure you have all the right equipment
Having the right gear is an absolute must, from both a quality perspective but also to make sure you’re protecting yourself and your sparring partner correctly.
The equipment you need will depend on your martial art, but is usually more or less the same. To see our detailed articles on the gear you might need, take a look at our articles What Gear Do You Need for Boxing, MMA or Muay Thai.
Below is a rough guide to what you should expect:
- 16oz boxing gloves (or MMA gloves for MMA)
- Shin Guards if you’re training kicks
- Headgear (Not all gyms use headgear, check with your coach)
- Groin Protection
- A Mouthguard
If you aren’t sure what gear to go for, take a look at our Fight Gear Reviews to help you work out what gear is best for you.
3 – Avoid thinking of sparring as a competition
You don’t want to be knocked out, so don’t try to knock your sparring partner out.
You’re not in a fight and there’s nothing to win or lose. By trying to kill each other all you end up doing is creating a messy brawl where as a beginner you’re pretty likely to be out-skilled. What you actually want to focus on is landing the shots and practising the techniques you’ve been learning on the pads.
If your opponent is frustrating you and keeps landing something that you just can’t work out, don’t go harder and faster in an attempt to stop them, but ask them to slow it down and if they know what you could do to avoid or counter it. Chances are your team mates want to see you improve and are going to help you out, which will help you learn. And that’s what it’s all about – learning.
4 – Enjoy yourself
You would hope this goes without saying, but some people still take training a little too seriously. Unless you’re a professional fighter then training should always be fun.
Lighten up, smile, be playful and try to enjoy the experience. When you’re having a good time, you’ll keep your body looser, you’ll flow more, and you’re more likely to try out new things. That’s when the real progress is made.