My First Sparring Experience
Twack!!! I gasped as his foot landed squarely in my stomach. As I stumbled backward I tried to catch my breath, but the wind was knocked out of me in one painful instant. Regaining my breath I threw myself straight at the tall, lanky green belt. In football we were taught to take on our attackers head-on and plant them on their backside. He didn’t play by my rules and it was clear I was no match for his skill and footwork. He sidestepped me and caught me with a ridgehand strike to my right eye, sending me to the mat. I had enough.
It was not supposed to be like this. Sparring had just started two minutes earlier, when the sensei said “I’m just going to duck out for a cup of coffee, you boys be careful and go light”. So much for his advice. As a white belt with five blue belts and two green belts, I was the seal in a pool full of sharks. At 19, I just learned my first lesson in how not to run a karate school. Never allow students to spar without supervision, and never allow untrained students to spar unless they are ready. Sparring between strangers can be especially dangerous as no one knows what to expect, and therefore everyone goes out hard.
Fortunately for me at the time, I was still in the 30-day trial period, so needless to say, I never went back to that school. The sensei’s carelessness cost him the $50 per month I was getting ready to pay for six months in advance. That was a lot of money back in 1979 and I’m certain I was not the only one that walked out during the trial period from that school in Sacramento.
Other Mistakes This School Made
Later on I would learn of other mistakes this school made. No protective equipment was used by any of the students that day. The head gear, gloves, shin guards, mouthguards, and groin protectors that are required by reputable schools of today were not used by this school. The idea was that everyone would “control their techniques”, but no one did, especially in the absence of the sensei.
How To Run a Kids Karate Sparring Class Properly
Sparring is about trust. Trust in your partner to control his or her techniques, and trust in the sensei to pull up students who lack control. The following rules should always be enforced, especially when kids are sparring:
- No striking (kicks or punches) in the face.
- No striking below the belt.
- No striking in the back.
- No striking the head with full contact.
- Hitting the front torso is okay, provided it is with light contact. For the head, the contact should be very light, or no contact, and should only be to the area protected by the head gear.
- Sparring is allowed only in the presence of an instructor.
- Students who show excessive contact consistently or do not follow the rules are to be removed from sparring until they are able to do it safely.
- Students should never be forced to spar with anyone. They should be allowed to refuse to spar anyone who is training without proper control or care for others.
Sparring is about building self defence skills in children, and improving their confidence. It is extremely important to introduce them gently into it. Sparring can be very scary for a child, especially the first few times. After this, kids will realize how much fun it can be, provided it is done safely. What are your experiences with sparring?