Sparring in America
by Kevin Ross
Recently I was sent a quote by Saenchai,
“When it comes to technique, work on it over and over again until you have mastered it. The most important thing for me is technical sparring, I always tried to do as much as possible throughout my career and think it should be the most important part of any ones training. You should try and spar with as many people as you can, spar in a controlled manner so you are learning not just using brute strength. When you get to a good level always look for fighters better than you to work with and learn from.”
This got me thinking of the different levels, as well as styles, of sparring I have experienced throughout the years, from technical to straight out fight sparring.
Training with JWP
Sparring in general can be a great thing that can greatly improve your overall gams as long as it’s done correctly. On the other hand when you don’t have the right people to work with it can counter productive as well as lead to unnecessary injuries. What I’ve noticed sparring here in the states as opposed to what I’ve experienced in Thailand, for the most part, is that people here spar as if they are fighting whereas in Thailand it is more about improveing technique and timing. I think there’s a few reason’s for this. One; in general a lot of ‘fighters’(in America), or people that train, seem to feel the need to prove something, ego’s get involved and a simple sparring match quickly escalates into a fight. Also there are way to many peole that don’t really fight, they just train, and the gym is their proving ground. These types of people are usually refered to as gym warriors. People that like to beat on weaker students but will never have what it takes to actually get in the ring and test themselves. Another reason I feel there is a lack of technical sparring is that not a lot people here in America have good technique, in general. It’s hard to have a good technical sparring session when you are the only one with proper technique and the person you are working with is seems to be emulating what they saw in the last toughman tournament.
Sparring with Stephen Bonnar
A lot of gyms here in the states, ,most these days, are a lot more greated toward MMA. You have all these guys, most of which came from wrestling or Jiu Jitsu, who are just now picking up the stand up game. Just like anything in fighting, it takes two, you need to have good training partners in order to get better. If you are the best in the gym it can be really hard to improve unless you really know how to work on specific things even without the help of better fighters. I deffinitley think that there is a time and place for full on, fight-like sparring. The problem is that a lot of these gyms make this a daily practice as opposed to a once a while kind of thing. I deffinitley think you should know what it’s like to take a hard shot, get rocked, know how to stay composed and continue fighting and the last place you wan’t to figure this out is in an actual fight. Hard sparring is the closest thing you can come to this without actual getting in the ring and finding out first hand.
Clinching with Sittichai
Now I’m the type of person that loves to get hit and loves hard sparring, especially when I first started. I love getting in there mixing it up, getting hit, and testing myself. But just like anything else you need to have balance. When I first started I sparred all the time and it was always full on, luckily I had other good technical guys to work with so it wasn’t just a brawl and I wasn’t getting too many unnessacary injuries. Finally after about 5 years I made it to Thailand for the first time. I was surprised at how little they actual sparred and when they did it was either technical sparring with no pads or it was boxing sparring where would would go almost full speed. I went in to that fight feeling pretty awkward cause I usually gadge how good of shape I am in by how I feel sparring. I almost felt off but I knew these were the best fighters in the world so they must be doing something right. At the same time it was probably the healthiest I had ever gone into a fight because I didn’t have any stupid injuries that you normally get from going too hard. So I’ve seen these two extremes, from full out sparring everyday to almost no hard sparring at all, only technique. I’d have to say that from me, personally the best answer is a balance of the two. I definitely think it’s good to go all out once in a while because it gives you the closest look at how an actual fight is going to be. But I do feel like there should be a lot more technical work if we as American fighters ever plan on competing at the higher levels.
working with Chaz
Now days I try and save the full out sparring for the end of the week, usually saturdays. During the week I stick to a much more technical approach, granted there are days when I do pick it up a bit but I feel that my level improves drastically when I have to be more technical rather than relying on power. The other good thing about technical sparring is that you can do it with whoever, regardless of weight difference, granted they are technically good as well.Obviously everyone is different and for some, sparring hard every single day will work for them. I think you just need to find the right balance between the two but I guarantee you will see a lot more imporvement if you slow things down a bit and really work on the technical aspect of the game.
What kind of sparring goes on at your gym or what have you noticed works best for you?
I was born in Reading, PA July 27th 1980 and spent the majority of my youth criss-crossing all over the United States. From Pennsylvania to New York, Georgia, Oregon, Colorado and then finally, in the summer of 94′, ending up in Vegas, where I have been ever since. I spent my teenage years not doing much other than partying day in and day out. I was already a full blown alcoholic by the time I turned 21. Luckily I came across Muay Thai when I was 16, seeing it on ESPN, although it did take me another 7 years to actually get started. I got into Muay Thai for one purpose, to be the best fighter that I could be. I gave up drinking two days before I stepped foot into the gym and never looked back, the rest is history.
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