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High Desert Martial Arts Academy – World Tang Soo Do Association

Sport Sparring Program

Sparring is an important integral of any martial art.  Sport Sparring is as the name implies -  a sport, not fighting.  Certain sparring  techniques may have very limited use on the street especially against a trained fighter however, sparring benefits vastly outweigh the negatives in conditioning and skill development.  Scroll down below to view "To Spar or not to Spar".

Tournaments normally consist of Weapons/ Forms/Breaking/Creatively/Sparring competitions

World Tang Soo Do Association Sparring rules -  Every region will have a least 1 tournament per year.  The World games are held every two years.  Proficiency in skills are necessary to demonstrate quality martial arts techniques to the judges during matches. There are strict rules in which there is no head contact, no blind techniques, no sweeps/ takedowns or kicking below the belt.  All other contact is touch contact.  This allows for a safe contest for all participants. Safety gear is required.  Judges/ participants adhere to a strict code of conduct and scoring requirement.  Judges are trained and certified.
Open Tournaments Sparring rules will vary depending upon the governing body or school running the tournament.  Usually there is much more contact.  Head contact/ some sweeps/ spinning blind techniques/ groin kicks are allowed in varying degrees.  You will spar against several different styles.  Sparring gear is required.  The judging is usually less than perfect as different styles see and place different emphasis on scoring techniques and not all Black Belts are of the same caliber.  .
Dojang Sparring for children normally will consist of point sparring in which a point is made then:  the match is stopped - point awarded - then continues until 3 points are accumulated by one student.  Usually most matches end up in ties so as to not discourage the little ones. No head or  groin contact is allowed.  Full safety gear is required.  A favorite with the kids, we spar every Thursday.  Occasionally we may go continuous sparring with the older kids.  Since we focus more on the techniques, continuous sparring has a tendency to have less quality and more aggression, hence we prefer point sparring for the children.
Dojang Sparring for adults  We practice several levels of sparring with the adults, as one gains experience they are allowed to perform more aggressive actions against like minded opponents. Typically segments will be Point Sparring Sparring (for points), Continuous Point Sparring (sparring in rounds),  Sparring with takedowns (controlled) and Contact Sparring  This is where adults experiment with different street fighting strategies (kickboxing, sweeps,  takedowns, and grappling included) and pretty much just thump each other until till one gains the upper hand.  They are then separated by the referee and have it again.   Minor cuts and bruises do happen in sparring. 

Q. Do I have to spar or grapple?

A.  Martial arts does deal with aggressive situations so we do spar.  It is performed in a controlled manner when you  are ready.  Normally it will be against one of the instructors first.  It helps develop timing, speed, and control, and  knowing what’s its like to be hit and to hit.  Also, its helps to experience the normal body adrenal rush effect and learn how to control it.  Sparring in competitions in encouraged for those who desire it, but it is not mandatory.  We prefer not to focus only on winning a game of tag, but it does have it benefits in training. 

Often fights will end up on the ground, we teach defensive grappling to counter and recover to your feet.  However, it is our thought that striking is faster and more decisive then grappling.   Grappling is an excellent proven defense for one on one.  Attackers often come in more than one and this is where attacking and or counter attacking in a upright position is preferred.  Being on the ground is a disadvantage when faced by more than one attacker. 

 World Tang Soo Do Association rules involve very controlled point sparring.  As safe as one can be and still be sparring. Each successful tag stops the contest, a point is awarded  as determined by the judges, then the match is continued until time runs out.   We also train for open tournament competitions which also allow for head and groin contact in  point and continuous sparring rounds.  The 3rd level involves sweeps and takedowns (not ground fighting) as well most techniques excluding knee strikes - very fast paced in rounds.


To Spar or Not to Spar - Is that the Question?   (The views expressed below may not be the official WTSDA position)

By Sang H. Kim, article reprinted from the USTU website

One of the most controversial debates in the martial arts is the place full-contact sport sparring has in martial arts training. Many traditional and self-defense oriented teachers would have you believe that sparring is a useless part of martial arts training. In this article, taekwondo master and author, Sang H. Kim, explains ten basic reasons why full-contact sparring is essential to learning how to react efficiently in a real confrontation.

1. The ability to perform under pressure:

By practicing continuous (without stopping for points scored) full-contact sparring, you learn how to deal with the unrelenting attacks of an opponent. For the length of the match, you have to create and effective offense according to your opponent's fighting style.

At the same time, you must defend yourself accurately and forcefully, or risk getting injured by a full-contact strike. Although participants wear protective gear, a full-contact kick to the head will absolutely result in a knockout.

2. The ability to quickly adapt to your opponent's actions:

Because free-sparring is not prearranged (like self-defense practice), your opponent can use any type of permitted attack that they choose. You must be prepared to counter an endless variety of movements, adapting to your opponent's style and timing. Although a street fighter has many less rules limitations, an experienced sparring competitor can respond more quickly and calmly to unknown situations through full-contact practice.

3. The ability to protect yourself when injured:

In almost every sparring match, as in almost every self-defense situation, you will get hit and possibly hurt. Whether it is a bruised foot, banged shin, bump on the head, black eye or something more serious, you have to know how to continue in spite of the pain. Competition teaches you this principle. As you watch sports competitors leave the arena after a sparring competition, most will be sporting some sort of bandage or ice pack.

Injuries, and the pain associated with them, cause the human body to instinctively shut down. If you are not prepared for the mental and physical shock of an injury, you might be unprepared to defend yourself when hurt. Of course, this doesn't mean sparring with a serious injury; but it does mean learning to not get distracted by physical contact.

4. The ability to withstand an opponent's blows and respond calmly:

Novice students often imagine themselves stepping on to the mat and taking on an opponent with the serene calm of the black belts they have watched spar. Once they face their first opponent, reality sets in. When you get hit, your natural response is not calmness, but rather anger-a quick instinctive flash that urges you to exact revenge on your attacker, even if it is your classmate.

Learning to overcome this flash of anger is essential to both competing and defending yourself successfully. With experience, you can take your opponent's blows in stride and counterattack calmly and correctly without emotions.

5. The ability to think clearly under duress:

In other words, don't panic. The first time you face someone who wants to hurt you, even in a competitive match, you may suddenly forget everything you ever learned and resort to hopelessly fending off an ever-increasing rain of blows. Or perhaps you may find yourself tied in knots, thinking of what you should have done instead of actually executing your strategy.

To overcome the instinctive fear you feel when confronted with a physical threat, you must face this fear and practice controlling it in a secure environment. There is probably no better environment for this than competitive sparring. Your skills are useless if you can't use them in a stressful situation.

6. The need for mental and physical endurance:

Regular sparring builds physical and emotional endurance. Physical endurance is important in confrontations when your opponent is larger than you or is a more experienced fighter. Through sparring with a variety of partners, you also learn to pace yourself and outlast tough opponents. Mental endurance is necessary in order to concentrate fully on your opponent's actions and to read his intentions-as well as to formulate your own strategy when the odds are against you.

7. The ability to strike with power and accuracy:

Hitting the heavy bag is useful but, as the saying goes, heavy bags don't hit back. Nor do they move around and try to avoid your attacks. If you want to learn to apply your skills realistically, you must apply them against a live opponent, just as you would in a real situation. Of course, applying deadly skills (like eye gouges and throat strikes) to your partner is impossible, but sparring does give you a forum to apply a limited number of skills against active resistance from your opponent. You quickly learn what works and what doesn't when the pressure is on in the ring.

8. The ability to move quickly:

Practicing your skills in training drills improves your form, but only the pressure of a realistic confrontation can create the speed you need to attack and defend successfully. When your opponent launches an attack, you must be quick in both your reaction (to defend yourself) and also your action (to counter your opponent's attack). Through sparring, you develop speed and timing in evasion, defense, strategy, footwork and counterattacking.

9. The ability to spot vulnerabilities and exploit them:

Through sparring, you learn to spot weaknesses in your opponent's defense, to read their next move, to detect bad habits and to intercept telegraphed movements. These are intangible skills that you can learn only from experience. They are essential to defeating bigger, stronger assailants such as the one you may meet in a street confrontation.

10. The ability to apply your knowledge:

When you are proficient at sparring, you can easily apply your skills, speed, timing and strategy to any situation, whether competitive or confrontational. To enhance your self self-defense skills, you can modify your sparring practice to include technique that may not be legal in your style. Some techniques, while not legal in sport competition, can be safely applied in full-contact sparring. Full-contact sparring is certainly no substitute for practical self-defense skills, but it can absolutely enhance your ability to defend yourself. By giving you a chance to put yourself at physical risk, full-contact sparring creates a realistic threat and gives you the opportunity and the tools to learn to control that threat and also your response to it. In this sense, self-defense and full-contact sparring are one in intent and spirit.