Taekwondo Sparring Past and Present Guest Post by Craig Lightner

It was nice to meet Craig Lightner and to visit his very respectable website Martial Art Book. I thought to invite him to do a guest post on Traditional Taekwondo Blog as a way to help promote his site. Please help me welcome him to this Blog.

Taekwondo Sparring Past and Present Guest Post by Craig Lightner

In the past, it was common for a Taekwondo student to practice a given technique day after day, year-in and year-out. The beginning student would have to develop proper moves to perform the techniques and then learn how to apply them in a real situation. They were about safety and not the lack of it. Traditionally, free sparring was about practicing control. The idea being that if there was constant touching in sparring - the mind would become wild, but if controlled sparring was practiced - the mind would be more controlled.

Traditionally, if one master touched another during a match, he would acknowledge defeat. At times, the defeated master would even kneel and prostrate while thanking the victorious master for sparing his life. There was never any need for a master to strike hard just to show his force. It was understood that a master would have trained to be very powerful and he has the capacity to kill with only one strike. There used to be no rules or referees and the combatants simply fought.

Normally, there would be no injuries as the sparring partners could defend themselves well and if they were caught off guard the opponent would throw controlled strikes. In situations where actual fight was necessary, there were no random movements, only calculated forceful strikes to vital spots to put the opponent out quickly and efficiently.

Previously, masters would never use any form of protection, such as gloves or padding, when sparring, because the art taught self defense and control. That was partially because using gloves to spar with methodical training almost results in the apprentice resorting to boxing and kick-boxing techniques. Also, previously the idea was that if one practices control, they can easily choose to hit when the need arose. Sparring was elegant and safe, but could be destructive when circumstances required it.

Today there is a large assortment of sparring items to assists with you and your opponents safety. From the headgear like Warrior
to the Ringstar sparring shoes everything is made light and tight to keep the fighters quick on their feet. There is also a lot of technology that has started working it way into the Taekwondo tournaments. For example, the detection vest or chest guard that can sense the impact of an opponents kick or punch and give them a scoring point.

Modern sparring is all about the display of ultra fast kicking, so it vaguely resembles the authentic art. Modern Taekwondo sparring has blocking but not the hard blocks of traditional Taekwondo. The kicks come so fast and furious it is hard to block anything past the third
kick and is the reason so many just back up during a match.

Historically, few techniques were used in sparring so the art was perfected; nowadays, the main goal is to learn as many different techniques as possible. However, as someone said, "Don’t fear the person that has done 10,000 techniques once. Fear the person that has done one technique 10,000 times".

Craig Lightner
Owner and Writer at http://www.martialartbook.com/


-- Traditional Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]. Colin is a martial art instructor with 25 years of experience across three continents. Colin leads a small Traditional Taekwondo group for adults in Perth, Western Australia. Connect with Colin on FaceBook and Traditional Taekwondo Group on FB.


toto333 said…
Please also visit my blog at
Colin Wee said…
Perhaps you'd like to tell us more about your blog and your background?
Be A Fun Mum said…
Sparring is one of my favourite sections at lessons: putting into practice all the kicks, punches and blocks in a random yet ordered way.

I have been injured sparring with a brown belt (when I was a yellow belt). The brusing was quite intensive (as you can see) but at least I blocked in the right place...right?


Depending on who I partner with, it can get quite physical. We are taught to stop short when attacking but with blocking, to make light contact.
Colin Wee said…
Nice seeing you here, Kel.

The issue needs to be addressed as to the importance of sparring. I don't put a lot of emphasis on it - being great at sparring just means you're great at sparring.

So it's part of the overall bag of tricks that we need to learn, and at your level, what I think is important is:

1. Awareness of the threat and specific technique used
2. Breathing
3. Movement
4. Coverage
5. Distancing

Applying technique against an opponent is excellent, but you don't need to rush it. :-)

Be A Fun Mum said…
Thanks for the list. It's funny but I find when sparring, I react more naturally; however when I'm doing three step sparring or one step sparring, I over think things. This is an area I really need to work on. Practice.... Our instructor doesn't focus on sparring either...just one part of a whole.
Colin Wee said…
Martial arts is a thinking game.

We do a lot of multiple opponent drills so that our students get to think about where they're going and how they're reacting to two people charging at them ....

And we work on strategy against one person often. We feint, throw multiple and interesting combos, aim high/hit low, change speed, and 'train' the opponent to react wrongly.

So yes, it's a bit of moving naturally and then prompting the brain to be more aware of the opponent and of its environment ..


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