Here are 10 Martial Arts Sparring Tips. Sparring is one of the best martial arts training drills. It teaches timing, strategy and how to keep your cool in a fight. Best of all it teaches you how to react when you’ve taken a hit. On the mat, this develops your personal self control and tolerance for pain. On the street, it means you can take a hit and keep fighting until you’ve gotten to safety. Sparring can be intimidating, especially for beginners. Keep these tips in mind while you’re learning or preparing for competition.
- Footwork is key. Good footwork gives your punches power, your kicks range and your body mobility. Your opponents' footwork can give away what they plan to do next.
- Relax. Loose muscles are fast muscles. Fast muscles mean quicker movement. Admittedly, it’s hard to relax when a trained martial artist is trying to punch you in the head. With practice, you’ll get there.
- Use combinations. Don’t ever just throw one strike while sparring. Practice, then use, flurries of two, three or more shots. Even if your opponent can avoid them all, time he spends avoiding them is time he’s not spending hitting back.
- Set up and take down. Build combinations that are hard to counter in sequence. For example, a high punch draws up your opponent’s guard so you can throw a low kick.
- Watch range. A lot of fighters throw strikes out that are 'finish' inches or feet away from the opponent. That’s wasted effort. Only throw strikes when you’re close enough to land them.
- Block with your elbows. Even when your arm is fully extended for a punch, your elbow can drop to block a punch or kick in a fraction of a second. You can use your knees similarly. If you practice this, you double your number of potential blocking instruments from four to eight.
- Breathe. Many beginning fighters are surprised how quickly they get out of breath. This is because they forget to breathe in all the excitement. Although kiais are appropriate in sparring, deep and regular breathing is the best way to keep your wind.
- Move offline. Don’t fall into the rut of moving just forward and backward or in a circle. Cut the angle by moving at 45 degrees to the angle of attack. This puts you out of immediate harm and sets you up for more effective counterattacking.
- Use explosive movement. When it’s time to move, move with everything you have. Slow strikes are easy to counter. Don’t worry about maintaining control while moving explosively: most fighters find it’s actually easier than when you throw less energized attacks.
- Realize you’re going to get hit. Getting hit is part of sparring and teaches important lessons about combat. Don’t flinch away when it happens. Take your lumps and keep fighting. It’s the fastest way to learn.
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