Sparring is one of the highlights of martial arts training. All of the heavy bag work, shadowboxing, and fine tuning technique you put into training prepare you to fight. Once you get in the ring, however, you will realize there are limits to straining on a heavy bag or sparring an imaginary opponent.
As you spar, you learn you have to be strategic in the way you fight. On a heavy bag, you are free to throw punches and kicks whenever and however you want without the worry of being hit back. In sparring, this type of fighting proves to be very unwise. Those who are eager to start throwing everything they have will soon learn the hard way. There is even the likelihood you will not be able to hit your opponent at all because there is no strategy to your madness.
In this article, we will discuss drills you can use to improve your sparring and create good habits in the ring. These areas are developing strategies, your reaction and response, and the use of counters against your opponent’s attacks.
Learning to know when and how to hit your opponent where appropriate is important. In some cases, you will need to be deceptive, especially with a faster opponent. A strategy very commonly used is to learn to fake or set your opponent up in a way that creates an opening. In this drill, we will use focus mitts.
- Partner one will hold the focus mitts. He can set the pad up for any technique he chooses. This will force you to learn which technique is appropriate in certain instances. Partner two will throw the correct technique(s) as he can before the mitt is moved out of the way. This drill benefits both partners with learning how to read your opponent, move out of range, or knowing when to strike. In this drill, focus mainly on boxing techniques.
- Partner one will hold a body shield or he can use a body protector. Partner two must try and kick the pad as many times as he can without missing. It is a little harder with kicks because they are more telegraphic than punching. But it is essential to have fast kicks as well as fast punches. Use the same methodology as you did with the boxing drill. Partners holding the pads can also work on clinching up the kicker to prevent him from kicking as a strategy.
Countering Boxing with Kicking
Kicks are a great way to counter boxing technique. You have longer reach and have proven to keep yourself out of trouble. Even though kicks can be much slower than punching, if performed at the right time, can not only keep your opponent at bay, but can deliver some damage in the process.
- Partner one throws a jab and cross combination. Partner two blocks, slips, or a parry to avoid getting hit, but sets up to deliver a kick such as a push, round, or side kick. To add a little bit of difficulty, add a hook and uppercut to the mix.
A push kick is a great kicking technique to create some distance. Even though it does not seem to be the most powerful of kicks, it can generate some needed distance between you and your opponent. It also can provide means to adding a kicking combination among others.
- Partner one throws a double jab trying to close the gap. Partner two will execute a push kick followed by a jab and cross combination. To add a little variety to your counters, follow up from the push kick with a round kick.
Countering the Push Kick
Unfortunately, for every action there is a reaction. What I mean by this is that for every offensive technique, there is an ability to defend against it. A push kick can be defended against in a multiple ways, such as evasion or leg checking.
- Partner one throws push kick. Partner two will parry the kick by pushing it out of the way, and then he will execute a boxing combination. One partner executes a push kick. The other opponent will learn to parry the kick and throw a jab and cross combination as a counter.
Slip to Counter Kick
Slipping around strikes is one of the hardest things I have experienced in my training. It is easy to slip a jab when it is broken down, but much more difficult when you are going at one hundred percent speed and with limited experience. But learning to slip around strikes allows you to keep your eyes on your opponent and areas of opportunity. Blocking is great, but if you can learn to master slipping, counter-offensives easier to execute.
- Partner one executes a jab. Partner two slips outside of the jab and steps out slightly. Then partner two executes a back leg round kick to partner one’s rib cage. Other opportunities could be hooks to the body or the face, or other areas of opportunities for striking.
Sparring develops confidence, strength, and courage. But it also develops the ability to read your opponent, respond appropriately, and learn to be strategic in how you fight. There are so much learning advantages in sparring, and knowing how to respond under pressure is half the battle.