The martial arts were created as a means of weaponless self-defense. That’s why almost every art has sparring at its core. By taking the basic martial arts techniques you learn in class and applying them in controlled fighting situations, you’ll learn how you react under pressure.


Unfortunately, many students are afraid to engage in uncontrolled sparring with another student. They don’t want to get hit, and they don’t want to do what it takes to learn how to counter and defend themselves.

The following drills were designed to help reluctant students work their way up to free sparring and thus enhance their performance in combat and competition.

Training Drill No.1: Focus Sparring

Find a partner to hold and move the focus mitt as you strike it with two- and three-punch combinations. It’s important that he orient the mitt in the guard position and not show you the surface until he’s ready for you to strike it.

Note that this drill also works with kicks, but your training techniques will need to be precise or you’ll miss the target.

Training Drill No. 2: Shadow Sparring

This is a form of shadowboxing that’s performed in front of a mirror. Throw kicks, punches, elbows and knees and use proper footwork while you study your reflection. Try to maintain a flowing motion as you determine which parts of your repertoire need to be corrected.

Caution: If you spar with another person in front of a mirror and attempt to watch yourself, you will get hit.

Training Drill No. 3: Heavy-Bag Sparring

Striking a heavy bag gives you an idea of the force and speed you’ll need when you face an actual opponent. Standing in front of the bag, freely throw kicks, punches, elbows and hand strikes. When the bag starts swinging back toward you after a strike, you know you’re making progress.

For more fun, pretend the moving bag is an angry opponent trying to smack you and take evasive action.

Training Drill No. 4: Dummy Sparring

When you’re trying to develop trapping, parrying and centerline-defense skills, a wooden dummy from wing chun kung fu can be useful. It teaches you how to create free-flowing offensive and defensive combinations and how to use both hands at the same time.

Training Drill No. 5: Point Sparring

In the early days of point sparring, the action was limited to punching, kicking and sweeping. Now martial artists frequently add trapping, grappling and throwing. No matter which techniques you choose to include in your workouts, use mats and protective gear.

Training Drill No. 6: Circle Sparring

This drill encourages you to remain aware of your surroundings. Three to six people form a circle around you and attack one by one. You have no time to think about the attack; you simply react. If your skills are sufficiently advanced, you can have more than one person charge you at the same time.

Your Turn

What’s your favorite way to spar? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Story by Willie Johnson and Nancy Musick

SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
Keep Reading Show less

Munk Pack Protein cookies are a perfect on-the-go or post-workout snack that helps keep you full, provides nutrients you need, and also lets you enjoy a sweet treat without feeling the guilt

Keep Reading Show less

By now, you've probably heard all about 52 Blocks — especially because we featured the martial art and its most visible proponent Professor Mo, aka Mahaliel Bethea, on the cover of our magazine last year. Just in case you haven't, know that 52 Blocks is a self-defense system that was spread in American prisons but that actually originated in Africa, according to Professor Mo. That's the reason we titled our June/July 2019 cover story with him "Art of Africa, Not Art of Incarceration."

Keep Reading Show less

Looking for an all-around reusable water bottle? H2O might be something you should consider!

The half a gallon (2.2L for you metric people) is the perfect amount to take with you to your training session and keep you hydrated the whole time. It will also keep your water nice crisp and cold with it's think 5mm Neoprene insulation, oh and did we say it has a built in phone holder for you to not having to worry about keeping your phone on the floor and being stepped on, but it does not stop there, it also has a slot for your cards and another place to hold your keys! Yup, your phone slides right into a small sleeve on the side of the bottle and keeps it nicely tucked away! The bottle is also BPA and BPS free and FDA approved Food Safe Water Gallon Jug.

These bottles come in many amazing designs and are reasonably priced at just $25.99 check them all out online at www.h20capsule.com

Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter