How to Spar More

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2 minute read

Sparring is one of the most effective ways to practice what you learned in classes and what you drilled elsewhere.

Your training partner will resist you in a realistic way. You get to work on transitions that are hard to drill, too.

You know sparring is beneficial. But after a few rounds, you feel tired and decide to sit out. That’s perfectly fine. Take it easy.

If you want to do more rounds and get the most out of that sparring session, though, here are a few pointers.

  1. The more you spar, the more you get used to doing more rounds. I know it sounds too simple, but this is the case. What might help you is to consider an entire sparring session as a single round. If you spar thinking that you will just do 3 rounds, you will probably spend all your energy in these 3 rounds. Instead, distribute your energy in such a way that it will last for 30-90 minutes (i.e., the entire duration of your sparring session).
  2. Never sit down after each round. Fix your gi (or rash guard), walk around, and practice breathing calmly. Intervals are for practicing calming down your breathes so you can recover quickly.
  3. Keep in mind that sparring is (usually) not about winning or losing. Its primary purpose is to practice your skills against a resisting partner in a more realistic environment. This also means… if you avoid sparring because you are tired and think you might “lose,” you’re missing out on opportunities to improve. In an actual match, your opponent will not care how tired you are. You can’t always roll in your perfect condition… so practice rolling when you’re tired as hell.
  4. Realize that you don’t have to do normal sparring. Meaning, you can do light or flow rolling, too. If you don’t know what it’s like to flow roll, take a look at this video by Tom DeBlass, in which Tom (235lbs/106kg) is rolling with his student (135lbs/61kg). You don’t even have to spar… you can grab someone and drill a bit. Or grab a senior belt and ask them a couple of questions. Any of the above will help you improve your skills even a tiny bit more than sitting out. These “tiny bits” will make a massive difference over time.
  5. If you are going to sit out and take a break, at least try paying attention to and learning from how some of the more technical players in the room roll. If you have done any Japanese martial arts before, you are probably familiar with the concept of Mitori Geiko, which roughly means “training/practicing by watching/observing.” You can learn from how others roll, too. Although this email is about how to spar more, I understand there are times when you simply cannot (or even should not) spar. You can still use that time to learn something new.

Get out of your comfort zone and push yourself a little bit more.