6 Sparring Drills To Improve Your Martial Arts Training

martial arts training
sparring drills
fighting drills

July, 2011,

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


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Pavol Bajusz Mar 2018
Dear Mr. Patrick Stemkopf, With more than thrirty year of training, competing and finally coaching, I assure you: Reluctant student(s) deserve NO attention! In my understanding, sparring is a stage after Kihon and Kihon-i-do, to prepare for a Kumite fight for competition or self-defence training. Your selection and preferences are sometimes overemphasizing sparring, which is only one link in the chain of aspects to be checked for. I would slightly modify your aspects order, 1. Stances, 2.Kicks and Techniques 3. coordination 4. timing 5.focus 6. competion with a sequence of training in the line, in pairs against opponents various pyhsical dispo (weight, height, speed), and finally fighting under refere by the rules of the coming competion (coaches my advice active or passive tactics). Well, the more we experiment the more we learn, Best wishes! Pavol
Essential Punching Bag Dr... Jun 2014
will see your skills improve in a very short amount of time. This cant not only help you in real sparring sessions with opponents, but also a successful mixed martial arts
Essential Punching Bag Dr... Nov 2014
will see your skills improve in a very short amount of time. This can not only help you in real sparring sessions with opponents, but also a successful mixed martial arts
Jeremy Lesniak Feb 2015
All of these are great drills, but there's one more we'd like to suggest adding - slow sparring. The premise is simple: at no point should you strike fast enough that your opponent (partner) cannot blog your attacks. This drill develops a lot of confidence in blocking but also allows the attacker to test new things in a safe environment. <a>whistlekick Sparring Gear and Martial Arts Apparel</a>
7 Qualities of a Martial... Mar 2015
is necessary to ensure success in most endeavors, Jhoon Rhee says. For example, when you spar, you must time your techniques so they’ll hit the target and take advantage of opportunities as