Sparring – footwork-moving guard

I just have to write down last night’s session, I found it both really insightful and very useful for my progression in sparring. The main theme was footwork so Sempai decided to take back to the basics so we started by dancing around each other focusing on our positioning in attack and defence, just as if we were sparring guard up while Sempai observed our actions. Then he commented that our footwork was good, mainly use of zenkutsu dachi, Neko, Suri etc. He observed that our guards should be higher and not still (as that makes you an easy target so we had a moving guard) and we should be moving our heads like a boxer so that our heads are not easy targets.

Next he told us in our pairs (one is a, the other is b) that a would lead the fight, still not striking just working on movements so they would dictate when they should move forwards or backwards and b had to keep up with them. This developed to using sticky hands to try and get inside their guard whilst focusing on footwork. (it was surprising how tiring this was, and I felt there was even more mental focus than in normal sparring)

This then progressed to b) standing still, still using sticky hands whilst a) would work into a switch step to come off an angle, which progressed with changing our centre line towards theirs at angle. Sempai James said that we do such things in bunkai and that you don’t always want to be in a linear mode of fight and defence, angles give you more chance for an opening and to get you out of the line of fire, if temporary.

This then progressed to b) having a rigid guard, with a) using sticky hands and able to slap the face or head, showing how vulnerable you can be to a restrictive guard. But Sempai James said this did have its place within sparring in that you can use this to draw someone’s attack to where you want them to hit you for you to outmanoeuvre and counter-attack.

We then did 50% sparring, at normal speed to work on these principles, and everyone had their own goal in mind. Mine was to work on what we did but to mainly use kicks I seldom use (as I am more of a close range puncher) which put me at a range so I was forced to try and read opponents more, when to get my kicks in etc.

I believe both light and heavy sparring have its use, heavy allows you to get conditioned, find out what works for you and to deal with fear. Light allows you to try out new combinations and strategies that you don’t normally use or are comfortable with during heavy sparring.

I find the warm-up at the start of the session very useful as well, the main piece of it being break-falling but reacting to things straight after it such as; then break-falling, then break-falling followed by a sprawl, then break-falling followed by jab cross sprawl, then break-falling followed by jab cross, front kick sprawl. I find this very good at training in those fighters instincts within us.

Overall I want to take away from this is to try and focus more on my footwork, positioning, moving guard as I was much better at this then I realised (due to not focusing on hitting and being hit), so when the normal level of contact resumes I won’t just be stuck in the same old patterns of smash or defend.



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