The JDK Sparring Program

One of the few things I wanted to accomplish for the Joong Do Kwan was to introduce a sparring 'program' in which students, especially beginners, would learn sparring skills and would steadily improve in their abilities. Last week, we had a few friends visit our kwan, and we took the opportunity to look at the beginner to intermediate stages of our program.

The main problem when it comes to sparring? Sparring should only be part of your entire bag of exercises. Everyone however equates great sparring skills with great martial art ability - and this is a mindset that many instructors try to dispel.

Basic Skills Start Way Before You Spar
Lots of good sparring skills can be introduced way before opponents go head to head. During warmups, students can be prompted to raise their hands above their jawline, and to tuck their chins down into their shoulders. If you get your students to do side skips you can also make sure they're moving on the balls of their feet rather than on their heels. See Warmup Drills to Increase Coverage for Sparring

Non-Contact Drills
We have this multiple person non contact sparring drill where we get one person against two opponents. The 'defender' in the middle has to try and align both of his opponents and use one of them as a shield. After some time he drops the shield and goes to the other person. The rules of the game doesn't allow opponents to grab, so this allows the 'game' to proceed fairly fluidly. This exercise helps students increase awareness, increases cardiovascular fitness, and helps introduce some really good tactics to use in a multiple person scenario. See Taekwondo Non-contact Sparring Training, Multiple Person Drills

Moving Around
Beginners start their sparring training just moving around each other in a circular fashion. They back themselves into a circumference of the circle around each other. Every four seconds they are told to switch and change direction. Hands are held up defensively, breath is managed, and footwork needs to be light.

Calibrating Power
Beginners not only land kicks or strikes on to kick shields and striking mitts - they MUST land and practice strikes on an opponent's body. This is the way in which they are taught to moderate their strikes and control how hard to launch a kick and how to appropriately target an opponent's body. Their opponent should accept strikes comfortably and should communicate whether they need to be struck harder or softer.

Basic Coverage
I think that going up and down the line doing kicks and blocks is great to make sure everyone is getting basic movements correct. But trying to resolve 'the block' as a technique and the speed at which an opponent comes at you is very difficult. So what we do is to repeatedly fold for blocks, swinging the arms together and using that fold as a basic skill for providing coverage.We then use this move - bringing the elbows together against strikes and covering the body to ensure that there is enough speed to deal with an attack. Beginners are paired up with intermediate or above students. They are instructed to only block, and opponents are told to attack with large looping techniques that are easily seen. Students need to continue Moving Around properly. 

Basic Coverage is tested using attacks that are less telegraphed. Once the student can continue Moving Around smoothly, breathing naturally, and able to recognise attacks, it is time to up the ante.

Distancing and Attacking
Beginners are now allowed to use one or two techniques (typically a lunge punch and a front kick) to attack their opponent. The opponent should be an intermediate belt and above and is told to cover and block only. Beginners learn to move around, target, and place strikes on opponent's body in a dynamic environment.

Applying New Techniques
The beginner and intermediate practitioner has a lot to learn and needs to improve the speed at which he is processing things around himself. One tool in which can be used to help the beginner is the use of the 'Sparring Bingo' game. The student is presented with 9 techniques and whilst sparring needs to cross out techniques used. This lightens the mental burden the student has, and yet allows them to try different techniques against an non-compliant opponent.

Colin Wee
Chung Sah Nim (Principal)
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