Sparring is a form of training practiced in many combat sports. It is essentially ‘free-form’ fighting with enough rules, protective gear, consent, and respect to minimize injuries as much as possible.
Krav Maga is a non-competitive fighting style. There is no way to apply the techniques we teach in class in a “fair” or competitive setup. While the aim of Krav Maga is to disable an opponent with “maximum efficiency and minimum effort”, the aim of sparring is to practice fighting skills and make the sparring partners better. During sparring, you’re not trying to beat your partner into a knockout or an injury.
At its core, Krav Maga (see the article about krav maga core) lacks the “play” element. We work hard to train the body and mind to avoid fighting as much as possible, and when unavoidable, fight to win. Winning in Krav Maga /self-defense means you are able to walk away from a situation safely.
Each situation is different, hence the way to get to the point you can walk away safely may change. For example, if someone is trying to stab you and you can’t run away, or as I like to say “diplomacy failed”, now you need to fight hard until this person is no longer presenting a threat to you or to others.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you can “swallow” your pride and walk away from a conflict, the only thing hurt is your ego. That is a good outcome.
Sparring is a form of training that is necessary to put your fighting skills to the test. Learning how to release yourself from a choke or a bearhug is a very different feeling and requires a very different type of stamina. In a sparring match you must be more calculated, accept that you will get hit sometimes, and pay respect to your opponent. This is a very different mindset than a “self-defense” mindset, which at its core has no respect for the opponent who is trying to harm you.
When learning how to fight you should be pushed outside your comfort zone, to find where your limits are. If you are a beginner reading this article, please note that it takes time to build a fighter and the “stress test” must be appropriate to your level. Don’t get discouraged, frightened, or become overly aggressive! The trained fighter is usually at a disadvantage when training with the “new kid”. That is because often the inexperienced trainer has not yet developed control of power or target accuracy, may become tense and fight with too much aggression.
The sparring sessions at KME are designed to teach the students to train safely and learn how to get comfortable with discomfort. This will help keep you from freezing if you’re ever in a situation where you need to defend yourself off the mat.
While we are at it… Remember that the gear requirement is not negotiable. Safety isn’t something we are willing to put in jeopardy. If you want to spar, you should own a pair of boxing gloves – 10 -16 OZ. Shin, mouth, and groin guards are needed for full protection.
- Check your ego at the door. Never hit your training partners with the intention to hurt them. Be humble and don’t act like you’re better than others (even if it’s true). Show respect and let people know that you appreciate their knowledge.
- When you fight, you get hit. It’s a part of the game.
- One instructor policy. The instructor calls the shots.
- Wear your gear. The only way to conduct such training safely is with gear on.
If you are ‘losing’ the sparring match:
- Don’t be too proud to admit to people that you need the pace to be easier and that you need to work slower and softer.
- If you’re scared of getting hit, you need to slow down the pace. Personally, I trust people who know their limitations better. I know they won’t hurt me when I need them to slow down.
- Give yourself a FAIR chance in the fight to learn. Getting beat up by someone more trained (or more natural at fighting) than you proves nothing and only increases the likelihood of injuries.
If you are ‘winning’ the sparring match:
- Give your sparring partner a chance to fight. When you allow other people to learn and improve that makes you a great training partner!
- Get out of your comfort zone and change your fighting style. Try to use tactics you aren’t yet comfortable with to use against someone at your level.
- There is no need to show off against a beginner…Doing that only proves you have no self-control.
Respect the sparring partners. They will respect you in return and always be willing to help you in any way they can.
I look forward to seeing you on the mat