Sparring mentality

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by kandi, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. kandi

    kandi Valued Member


    I'm new to sparring, ~18 months.

    Some days, it's great and I'm in the zone. Usually when I'm sparring people around about my own level. I am relaxed, breathe, use footwork, variety of heights and attacks, combinations etc. It flows without thinking and feels really awesome.

    Other days, it's awful. Usually when sparring with the black belts. My technique is worst against them, than against the lower grades. I over think it, I freeze and mentally can't get past the fact that I'm getting smashed. We can spar for 3 or 4 minutes without me landing a hit, and the longer it goes the harder for me to continue without retreating with guard up and cowering into a corner.

    Any tips for how to get past this? I don't need tips on how to "win" the spar, because I won't beat them. I just need to not psych out so I can improve against higher grades.
  2. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Don't chase them and counter them instead? If you aren't landing anything then the higher belts are not helping you at all. It completely defeats the purpose if you don't learn anything from it.

    Other than that, stop thinking about their grade. It means absolutely nothing. Once you remove that thought from your brain everything becomes way easier. It's not an easy switch but with practice you can ignore the fact they have any belt on at all.
  3. kandi

    kandi Valued Member

    I could counter more. Nice suggestion. Sensei suggested I could feint more, but that just made me think more, if that makes sense. I feel like thinking is the enemy of fluid sparring.

    So where does your mind go when you're losing a fight? What do you do to not slide into a bad headspace?
  4. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Losing a fight or losing sparring? There's only been one time where I was truly dominated in a fight and to be honest I was still wanting to go more rounds. The other loss was due to gassing and I fought for as long as I could but my body gave out.

    If you mean losing in sparring, well quite simply you bite down on your mouthpiece and keep going. There's nothing wrong with "losing" a sparring session. It's not alright to quit though, unless you are injured. This is a fighters mindset though. It's not a bad thing but it can be detrimental sometimes.

    Another pro tip: you can out-cardio anyone if you train hard enough for it. Rep out more techniques, run further, hit harder, go faster. Be first and be last.

    Basically, throw techniques at the other person for however long the round is continously. If they hit once you hit hem back three times. It's not the best for long term training, but eventually they will be forced to change tactics. And in the meantime you will be improving.

    You don't have to nessecarrily hit hard but just hit MORE than them. It works.
    Diego likes this.
  5. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    Everything Chadderz has said is absolutely bang on advice Kandi, and definitely something you can work on. The above quoted text however, whilst still 100% bang on, is something that your sparring partners need to work on - If they are more skilled, more experienced than you, they should be testing you to the best of YOUR ability (and slightly passed it) not to the best of THEIRS.

    Do you train in an environment where it is okay to speak up, maybe raise your concerns with them?

  6. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    When I started sparring I used short words to remind myself of things I could do:

    Test - Probe their defences for reactions
    Pay - Return on a shot given
    Press - Medium intensity combos with pressure
    Draw - Create a bit of space to pull them in to counter strike and counter position
    Drive - High intensity striking to push them back
    Slip - Evade and counter

    For me it stopped the freeze, reminded me of my options, and gave me a basic set tactics to fit techniques into so I wasn't just throwing and hoping to land.
  7. KSP08

    KSP08 New Member

    I'm not sure what your style of MA is, but in tkd, your senior belts should be giving you openings, and as you progress in skill, experience, and confidence, they will start sparring you harder. If your school trains by "being tough on people" and learning by doing, it will be harder to learn, but I bet you can do it as long as they train safe and don't beat you up.

    As to "not getting beat"... when I am the lower belt, I do better when I attack more- if I'm not kicking, they usually are, and it's more fun to hit than to get hit. I'm working on countering as I move- not just to scurry around against better or more athletic opponents, but to move with a purpose. You don't need to pressure yourself to perform against higher ranks- you have absolutely nothing to lose! Pick something each day (or if your class has a focus that day- say spin side kicks), try to incorporate that into your sparring and that is the goal, to improve that one thing. Or set a goal like "hit him with a headshot", but avoid getting tunnel vision and zoning in on only that one thing- you still have to see open targets, move your feet, set things up, and respond appropriately. Sparring is more mental than physical for me.

    It was harder for me as a new black belt to get over the "I should be beating everyone lower than me" thought pattern than it was as a beginning sparrer, because I had instructors and training partners who wanted me to succeed, learn, and grow, and I was willing to fall flat on my face. "Failing is learning".

    And I'm preaching to the choir here, because confidence and "success" in sparring still goes up and down sometimes (I'm in my 5th year of training and just had a little confidence issue two weeks ago!). Try not to be frustrated and relax. Sparring is supposed to be fun, and with more time, hopefully it will be for you, too. :)
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
  8. kandi

    kandi Valued Member

    Yeah it's a pretty good club and we can talk about this sort of stuff openly. I told my sparring partner tonight that I wanted to work on technique and precision rather than speed and force, and they were OK with that.

    I tried a few different things tonight. I let them attack first, so I started on defence then countered (thanks Chadderz), and I stopped walking backwards altogether. Those two things really helped.

    Also spoke to my Sensei. He suggested I work on my footwork. I tend to start with a wide stance but get narrower as I move around and that makes it difficult to add kicks into the combinations. Make sense?
  9. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    That's an excellent point about not going backwards. There are a few types of counter fighters. Pressure counter fighters are like Conor McGregor who can hit you whilst they are walking forward. Then there is the pure counter stylists like MVP who wait for the other person to throw first.
  10. kandi

    kandi Valued Member

    Hey - thanks :). Nice to hear I'm not alone. Confidence does ebb and flow but oh my... mindset has a HUGE impact on your sparring. I wish I could stay confident and in the zone all the time.

    We do kyokushin karate.
  11. kandi

    kandi Valued Member

    Ta :) who is MVP?
  12. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    One thing to bear in mind are styles (not martial arts styles but how a person fights).
    Some people match up with my (or your) style much better than others and that's just the way it is. Some people don't match up so well.
    Sparring my instructor for example is horrible. He's very hard to land on and has a great sense of distance. He's either all the way out landing kicks on me or all the way in smothering in the clinch (this is TKD so think of that when I say clinch). I end up second guessing myself, being hesitant, breathing heavy etc.
    With other people it's easier for me to get into my preferred range (in the pocket) and work because they don't fight like he does (although they present their own set of challenges of course).
    I've found that sometimes there are just some people that are hard to spar against and they can be all sorts of grades.
  13. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

  14. KSP08

    KSP08 New Member

    Me, too, because on good days, sparring is awesome. Hang in there!

    I also agree with the poster who said some people aren't good matches for your style. There are some I have trouble with every time and others I can push all over the place.
  15. Unreal Combat

    Unreal Combat Valued Member

    I got destroyed in sparring last night. I did a monster 2 hour training session where I got absolutely beasted until I couldn't stand anymore, and then I sparred against probably the hardest person to spar with in our gym.

    It was hard. I took some horrible body shots that made me want to give up right there. At the end of the third round I didn't want to get up and go another. I did. Sometimes it is those sessions where you will learn more about yourself than you will in a session where it is easy.

    Sometimes you may feel the other guy is going all out and not giving you a chance but the reality is that they don't need to, they're just better than you.

    Sometimes, not always mind, instead of asking the other guy to come down to your level, try stepping up to his level. You might surprise yourself.
  16. bigreddog

    bigreddog Valued Member

    Every time you spar someone, have an objective. A specific objective for that round.

    Lots of good advice here. Remember you need 3 partners:
    1. Beginners who you can work with without risking yourself
    2. Peers who push you at the right level
    3. Superiors who you can learn from

    I'm a big guy and fairly experienced, so I often spar with beginners - I just let them tee off on me to build their confidence, and work on something specific (say relying on head movement for defence) which I wouldn't try with better fighters

    Against the guys who are better than me, I look to prevent them exerting their game plan on me. Not winning (its sparring, there is no winner) but if they are looking to work at range, I'll see if I can close them down in a clinch. Or vice versa.
  17. KSP08

    KSP08 New Member

    Good way of thinking about it! :)
  18. kandi

    kandi Valued Member

    That's good! Having one or two things to work on might help "overthinking".

    I don't see a thanks button floating around, so :bow1:
  19. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    They're working on it (allegedly :D)
  20. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    Another thing that helps is planning ahead of time what you want to work on this time while sparring. Always have a plan. For example, here's what I'm working on most times when I spar:

    BKB/Combatives: Landing my right hand more (I'm a lefty who boxes orthodox)

    Judo: Ippon Seio Nage (single arm throw). I'm too tall for it to work well, but it's still a pet project of mine. Also O Uchi Gari (major inside reap), since it's good for a lefty like me vs. a righty.

    HEMA: Guard breaks: Picking the appropriate attack to launch at a given guard, delivered at the right range. For example, against a low point forward guard (Plow, Posta Breve, Chudan etc), the optimal attack is a downward diagonal cut with the back edge ending in a thrust. Landing it when the opponent knows that is tricky. :)

    So every time I spar, I work on those things. It means I get hit and thrown a lot. but that's OK, because every time I get closer to pulling those things off in a more consistent fashion.

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