Self Defense vs. Sparring

Sparring is an excellent way to get in shape and learn to enforce your will upon another trained fighter. It also allows you to deal with a fight scenario with understood and known rules, without risking too much bodily harm. However, with sparring the occasional injury will occur. Does being a good sparring fighter or tournament fighter mean you will be a good street fighter? Absolutely not. Defending yourself on the street versus sparring in the dojo are as different as cats and tigers. Some vague similarities with a common genesis long ago, however the similarities stop there.

At Jett Garner Martial Arts in Westlake, we constantly discuss sparring techniques versus self defense techniques. We learn and practice drills and techniques specific to tournament fighting. We learn and practice drills specific techniques to street self defense.

Many schools across the globe refuse to spar and or allow their students to spar. The theory being the tournament fighting is not within the genesis of why martial arts were developed throughout the world by various cultures. To some degree I support this theory. If you were to take the time to visit most state side weekend tournament leagues, you will notice great athletes, with bad technique, and to some degree even worse attitudes. You will notice gloating in victory, hanging the head in shame of defeat, and arguing with high ranking judges about missed calls, ect. This list is not what martial arts is about. If it seems like the local little league, with parents standing on the sideline coaching their kids, well then it is little league- ish martial arts.

However, there is a happy medium to be struck between real world self defense, self improvement, and sparring.  I’m happy to say that at JGMA we have found the balance. As mentioned earlier, we constantly speak two languages at Jett Garner Martial Arts. Street fighting techniques and strategies versus tournament fighting techniques and strategies. My students know the difference. In sparring I demand that my kids learn how to be offensive, defensive, and everything in between. In sparring our students execute proper punches, proper kicks, and proper defenses that could serve them well should the gloves come off. In other words you will not see Jett Garner Martial Arts students throwing sloppy open handed back fits. There techniques have focus and drive. However, ultimately they must incorporate sound control, in order to protect themselves and their sparring partners.  Our students certainly know the difference between ring fighting and street fighting.

Sparring is a fantastic tool to practice a small portion of your tool box in a controlled and fun atmosphere. But, there is stress involved. The stress allows the martial artist to learn how to relax under pressure, and grow. The bottom line is this- proper sparring is as close as we can get to the pressure, speed, and stress of a street fight. However, the rules foster safety. It’s no different than striking pads that don’t swing back, or executing a front choke defense in class, when you know that you’re about to be choked. One must find a school that practices all areas of martial arts. Not just kata. Not just sparring. Not just conditioning. Not just self defense. Find a school the practices the entire spectrum. Then you will truly be preparing for an unknown attack by an unknown assailant at an uncertain time and place, that may or may not ever happen.