Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How To Improve When Sparring Beginners

Sparring with beginner students will make you a better martial artist

I'm sure you've heard students complain about having to spar lower ranks, or people who aren't as good as they are and I want to shed some light on this process and why an important part of your training is sparring with people who aren't as good as you are.

There are 3 main types of training partners you will encounter and they are all important for your own skill development:

A. Someone much better than you. This will saying phrases such as "WOW! How did you hit me with that! That was crazy! Wow I can't even keep up with you!". It teaches you the ability to "survive" a tough sparring round with someone who is clearly dominating and keep your head under pressure. It may be inspirational, and a test of your survival mentality, and an important part of your training occasionally, but you will need more than this type of training to improve or you will quickly become frustrated and not improve.

B. Someone of equal or similar skill. This is where you take the techniques and strategies you have been practicing and try to apply them on someone your same rank/ability. It will be a decent challenge for you, and some strategies/techniques will work and others may not.

C. Someone clearly less skilled than you. This could be someone smaller, shorter, younger, less experienced, older, etc.. The benefit of sparring with someone like this is that you can relax and work on concepts and techniques that you aren't smooth or skilled enough with yet to be able to pull off on a different partner. 

I have heard countless times people saying " I don't want to spar this old lady because I won't get better". Well here are 10 ways to challenge yourself and improve while sparring beginners:

What happens once you beat a video game and you go to play through it the second time? Usually they have unlock able challenges such as "complete the game without dying once," or "complete the game using only a pistol", or "complete the game in under 1 hour", etc... Challenge yourself when you spar a beginner! Example challenges:  

1.. Block every technique or evade every technique without blocking
2.. Use only your left hand, or bad side (opposite fighting stance).
3. Use only hands or only feet
4. Spar at medium speed and move at medium speed, meaning do everything half speed. It will be difficult to hit them and difficult for you not to get hit. This helps also helps them become better in the process.
5. Only use certain techniques. Techniques that are difficult to land or what we would call "low percentage" will be very difficult to work on with someone of even or greater skill. 
6.  Slowly work your problem areas such as keeping your guard up, freezing after a technique or combination, etc.. pick these rounds to focus on those type of issues. 
7. Counter fighting. In order to counter a technique you need to see it coming or know it is coming and there is no better way to drill or work on that than with someone not as skilled as you are who is probably telegraphing, slower, etc..
8. Coach or help them with something you struggled with and see them doing. This will force you to actually articulate what you were doing incorrectly and explain the solution. As you know, teaching martial arts makes you a better martial artist by forcing you to focus on the details!

Now remember that beginners are not your punching bags, and you cannot dominate them and ruin their training experience. All these challenges must be done in a respectful manner, and good spirit, allowing your partner to improve also and keep their own training fun as well. I hope these tips will help you in your school and benefit your students.

How do you keep students training, happy, and paying? I have a lot of videos of this on my youtube channel about this.

Jeremy Molley is the owner of endlessmartialartsdrills.comFor more free drills, videos, and tips become a facebook fan.