Sparring 201 - Controlling the Fight

Mr. G asked me to write a paper on "Controlling the Fight" a couple months ago. Here is what I wrote.

Controlling the Fight

There is not a single key tactic that in and of itself will control, and therefor win a fight or spar. It is a combination of several things and also one’s personal ability to use them well. The physical component of the fight is important, but I believe that the mental aspect is equally important, if not more so.

I’m going to begin with the mental part of the spar.

    First is mindset, which begins before you even bow in to begin. What is your attitude – your sense of purpose for the fight? Are you going to play tag with your opponent, trade a few techniques back and forth, or are you coming in with the attitude of “I’m going to dominate my opponent.”? You need to have the mindset well before you bow in to spar. You need to “flip the switch,” especially if your opponent is better than you. Flipping the switch also has to do with mindset. For me, there's a huge difference in mentality when sparring someone who's just learning to spar than sparring one of my instructors. If I'm sparring one of my instructors, the goal is not to go “tap tap” with my opponent unless instructed to. It’s no longer a friendly game of tag. It’s a fight. My opponent is my opponent, not my friend at that point in time. Best bring your “A” game both mentally and physically.

    Next, is focusing on the fight. Your mind should not be racing a mile a minute, thinking about what could happen, what you should have done, and what your opponent’s every move means. These things should be muted, in the background of your mind at the very most. Thinking slows down your reaction time and interferes your ability to just let your training take over. It also makes you get locked up with your thoughts and distracts you from your opponent. You should be focused, but ultimately thoughtless. Basically, mushin. “Mind, no mind.” Thinking and figuring out your strategy should come before, not during.

    Third, is reading your opponent. Before the fight begins, you should already know how your opponent is going to move by their stance. You should know, if not immediately, within a few seconds the distance that their arms and legs cover and where you must be to barely avoid being hit.

The physical part of the spar,

    Fighting your fight is vitally important. You can’t wait around for the other person to initiate. You run the risk of falling into their rhythm if you’re constantly waiting for them to do something. Strike first, strike fast, and strike hard. Keep the opponent on their toes, guessing what you’re going to do next.

    Next, Be mobile. Don’t stand in one place planted on the heels. Get on the balls of the feet. MOVE, MOVE, MOVE! Vary your steps. Cut angles. Don’t be linear. Don’t make your transitions big. Keep them quick and few and far between.

    Quickness is next. Being able to spot that opening and capitalize on it immediately is key. The opening will only be there for a second, and if you don’t take it, it’s gone.

    Power is not as important as the previous things that I’ve mentioned, but it is still something you must have. Your opponent must respect the power behind your techniques.

    Varying technique is my final point. If you do the same things over and over again, your opponent can pick up on it and adapt to it. You may get by doing the same thing over and over again with a lower ranking or younger student, but when the time comes where you're sparring someone who knows what they're doing, they are going to read you like an open book. You must vary up your techniques. Throw lots of combinations. Even if you have a few go-to combinations, mix it up, because patterns are obvious.


SueC said...

Great post! You have a good understanding of sparring. Did your instructor like your paper?

Ariel said...

Thanks, Sue! I gave it as a speech (per request), so I condensed it a little as I transferred it to index cards. My instructors did like it and we talked about a few of my ideas where they had a different viewpoint, so I've tweaked it a little since then.

Marie said...

Great article Ariel. Kumite is the one area of my karate I never feel like I'm improving in. There are some excellent tips her. Glad your instructor like it.


Ariel said...

Thanks, Marie! Sparring is a difficult subject for me as well.

Guilherme Fauque said...

Hey, do you give me permission to translate your article to portuguese and post on my blog?

Ariel said...

Guilherme,Yes! You have my permission. I'm glad that you enjoyed my post.