sparring in krav maga and traditional karate

My adult/teen Krav Maga students had their first lick at sparring tonight. Remember this is a traditional class that I’ve invited my Krav Maga students to attend on a regular basis. They did really well. For a bunch of men whom have never thrown a kick or punch at a target that moves, punches, and kicks back they did awesome. Attitudes were great. No one was trying to inflict pain, dominance, or  trying to prove their toughness. I’m really happy. My traditional students, most who have been sparring for several years now, worked well with the less experienced fighters.

Sparring whether in Krav Maga or traditional Karate must be executed with control and care for one’s opponent. In a sparring class we’re not trying to survive a street attack, we’re not competing in the UFC or any other competition, thus control and care towards one opponent is vital. In sparring we do not attack the legs, as we don’t execute eye gouges, throat punches, or head butts. These techniques are appropriate and needed in real life self defense, however said strikes are far too dangerous and unnecessary in sparring. I realize most Krav Maga programs allow leg kicks in sparring. My thirteen years of traditional training leads me to believe otherwise. If I am sparring someone and one of us ends up with a broken rib or a broken nose, we will suffer some level of discomfort and pain. However, chances are we can continue our lives and continue our training fairly normally. However, if we allowed leg kicks in my sparring class and someone received damage to the knee, which happened to me three years ago, said person cannot continue training for quite some time, and they are greatly hampered in life, as they will probably need crutches, possibly surgery, and therapy afterwards. My point is this- the knee is one of the most complicated joints in the human body.  When damaged it can be very expensive to repair, and taxing to one’s life. At JGMA we will risk the occasional black eye, bloody nose, bruised ribs, but we won’t risk knee damage. Yes, one can train defenses to leg attacks, which we do in the self defense end of Krav and Karate. However, injuries in sparring are inevitable. We are not looking to lead anyone in the surgery room. Thus, we will leave each others legs alone in sparring as a matter of safety, and avoiding the inevitable. I state my case again- leg kicks, elbows, head butts, throat punches, eye gouges- all extremely lethal self defense techniques. However, at JGMA, this techniques have no place in our sport of sparring.

Sparring allows us to practice our tools under some degree of stress. However, it is not to represent the real stress of a street fight. No more than striking stationary pads represent the conditions of  a real street fight. Sparring should me fun, challenging, allow for growth, and allow one to practice some of his arsenal against a moving target whom possesses the same goals. A great sparring fighter does not equate to a great street fighter. Nor does a great street fighter equate to a great sport fighter. (ex. Kimbo Slice). However, in my opinion for a practicing martial artist to truly grow, and maximize his set of tools and potential, he must be able to spar, he must be able to hit pads with aggression, he must increase his strength and endurance, and possess a thorough understanding of a self defense system. If said martial artist is practicing traditional martial arts he must also own an understanding of traditional kata, and be able to execute said kata with precision, focus, and power. My history lies mainly with Traditional Karate. Krav Maga is part of what I am as well. Both systems have made me a more complete student, instructor, and martial artist.