Beginner Sparring Advice - Keep it Simple

In my school traditional taekwondo sparring is introduced as an incremental activity. Beginner students are not expected to spar freestyle (jiyu kumite) against random opponents at the get go. Instead, they go against instructors (me namely) and train for coverage, blocking, and movement early on. In other words, they don't get to attack - they only defend. Lucky them! This is to coach them to achieve good breathing and observation - in a relatively gradual manner.

Once beginners cross a certain point where they can more or less keep a level head, then they are allowed to use strikes - sparingly. Meaning they are 'authorised' to use one weapon at a time. The first weapon, a long range one, is the front lunge punch.

What kind of tools do expert hard style practitioners use in sparring? You still see a lot of basic techniques used effectively. Certainly the effect of experience allows these people to dish out a variety of techniques, and beginning students do not have the same experience. However, if you notice, aside from experience, timing, strategy, etc., expert practitioners have a good amount of confidence, commmitment, and follow through. These last three concepts can be communicated on a physical level to traditional taekwondo beginners fairly easily.

These are the factors that will allow a committed and focused beginner wielding only one type of punch to  provide a significant sparring challenge to even senior students. One punch, after all, is sometimes all that is needed.

Once this weapon successfully lands, other weapons are gradually authorised, and the beginner uses their increased confidence with other tools. It becomes almost too easy.

My Student's Post on Beginning Sparring Training: I survived ... barely
Taekwondo Sparring Posts

Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
[Traditional Taekwondo Blog | Subscribe | FAQs | Sitemap | FaceBook]
And help us rank on Google by clicking the '+1' icon, why don't you?
How much do you know of Taekwondo? Come take our Taekwondo quiz to find out.


Anonymous said…
Some good pointers. A lot of the time beginners are far to tense, which is understandable and something we have all done. This reallt takes up there energy and then they become sloppy, with there technqiues. Trying to stay relaxed should be a priority for them right from the start.
Colin Wee said…
Well said, Mark.

With this kind of training it takes a couple of weeks for the beginner to start to centre themselves and to ease up on the internal tension.

You should have seen it. The last session I was happily 'attacking' my orange belt student, and walked my eye socket right into a static uplifted elbow. It was a perfect lesson for 'the block can also be a strike'.


Michele said…
We begin sparring in the same manner. Beginner students will only spar the instructor. I agree that it is important for the student to relax in order to build confidence.
Colin Wee said…

Welcome to the blog.

Would you expand a little on what the instructor is attempting to accomplish in the first few weeks with the beginning student?

Colin Wee said…
Michele, BTW - I thought it would be good to include the link to your posts labelled sparring.

Here're Michele's sparring posts from her blog.

Michele said…
I have seen two reactions from beginning karate students about sparring ... they love it or they hate it. There is a benefit to sparring the instructor for both. We have the student learn how to block, then use strikes and eventually start to kick.

The student that is intimated about sparring must learn to trust the instructor. They need to know that they can participate without getting injured. They may feel more comfortable sparring a black belt.

The beginning student that loves to spar may be overly enthusiastic. There was one beginning student that dropped into a split during a match. I think he saw it in a movie. It is important that they learn about control and the true nature of sparring.
Colin Wee said…
Extremely wise words.

On another level, beginners typically are given several upper body tools and several lower body tools. They're thrown into the sparring ring and they're trying to deal with so many things at once. The opponent is coming at them - they can't see what's going on. They're waddling around - and don't know what to use. Basically there's just so many new options that they can't figure out their next move - and get paralysis by analysis.

Last night my orange belt was given authority to use strikes on opponents - who were instructed not to return fire. What a luxury! She went at least 30 minutes using lunge punches and reverse snap punches on moving targets. What excellent training. Then we showed her how broken rhythm works and how to hide her intention from her opponent to land punches more easily.

A split during a match, eh? I've never seen that before! Hahahahah. Must have been beautiful! :-)

Colin Wee said…
TDA's Post on Striking - Creating Positional Openings

The link from TDA talks about movement in sparring. It's a good post with further onlinks. Many instances of beginner training provides techniques from a static position. Movement totally throws beginners off. Thinking about direction, speed, body position whilst moving around the opponent - not the least how your arms cover your body, is extremely important. It is a skill that needs to be learned at the beginning stage, before getting the crap kicked out of the beginner by some intermediate belt.

Be A Fun Mum said…
Personally I LOVE LOVE sparring. I've recently graded to WON-HYO and part of my test was sparring with 4 different people, 2 mintues each. Sparring with different partners is interesting...I have certian attack moves I like to churn out all the time so I'm trying to vary it more often now and also, adjust my body and moves, taking into account what the other person is doing and how they react.

One of my favourite attack patterns is front kick-double punch-side kick-roundhouse kick but I don't want to be predictable.
Colin Wee said…
Using patterns or combos are a great way to increase speed and reaction time. Have you tried different combos for both left and right sides of your body?
Be A Fun Mum said…
I do rely heavily on my right side...but during sparring, I use both...but I don't think I have a "left side" combo...that what you mean?
Colin Wee said…
You know your kick punch combination? One advice that I give to intermediate belts who want to improve on sparring ... choose a specific kick and punch combination that you use on one side, and train hard to get it really slick. Then choose another sequence for the other side -- and train hard to get it fast and smooth. During sparring you can use these as your 'happy meals' to serve up to hungry customers. :-)

Popular Posts