No Partial Arts, Thank You
“Do you guys spar in your martial art? I read on the internet you only practice techniques against a cooperating training partner.”
A visitor was checking out our dojo, and wanted to clear up something that was getting in the way of his enrolling with us.
There is a lot of outright ignorance on the internet. Notice how his question only allowed for two possibilities. There was live trial that he called “sparring.” There was pre-set “role play” practice that did not allow trial.
Actually there is a third possibility, what one friend calls “asymmetrical training.” That is where a well-padded well-protected designated attacker goes at a student with the intent of knocking that student down or wrestling them into helplessness. From my observation, too few martial arts schools seem to understand the value of this third choice.
A sparring champion enters the ring confident and prepared for what his opponent is likely to do. He consents to the time and place and form of the contest. He trains in preparation for that special time and place and structure.
Street fighting is a very different reality from sparring. In a street fight there could be multiple aggressors. A real fight might be a surprise ambush. Fighting outside the parameters of the ring could mean potential death or maiming. Words are powerful weapons in a street fight; shocking insults and sly intimidation go a long way in adding to the difficulty of winning in an ambush. You need total creativity and commitment in using your body, mind, and the environment to survive a real fight. Truthfully, there is no room for preparation, and there is no time for sizing up an adversary the way a boxer or judo champion might.
There is also no room for partially-committed actions. In the historical ninjutsu I studied, there is no such thing as blocking or covering. Even the defensive moves carry the capability to control or damage the adversary’s body or limbs. A clubbing fist can throw off an aggressor’s momentum. A hard kick to the shin or ankle can impede mobility. A finger stab claw to the eyes can cause an attacker to have to regroup. This is also true for the modern To-Shin Do self-defense I teach. The seriousness of a real fight can’t be underplayed.
In a street attack, our mind can be in a jumble trying to catch up to the explosive reality of the attack, trying to determine just how serious the situation is. Is this guy just showing off for his friends, or is he a killer? Could I go to jail for defending myself too well? These days nobody can tell ahead of time just how far an aggressor will go.
Do we spar? Well, yes. But sparring is only a small part of the mix. We do not see sparring as the final test as a sportsman would. We also practice full impact on training targets. We practice body conditioning for strength and suppleness. We practice fighting against those who do not fight like us. We practice recognizing what the attack is, and making up our minds in a split second as to what is needed to stop that attack. We practice facing and overcoming inner fears to build indomitable spirit linked to intelligent compassion.
No partial art here. We train for all the grim possibilities that could emerge in an ugly confrontation. It takes a lot of differing training technologies to be ready like that.