Questions from Parents about Sparring

This month I opened the forum to questions from parents. Some had the same theme–sparring. So I will try to answer a couple of them.

How to do you talk to your boy about hitting girls?

This was the easiest because I have encountered it numerous times, starting when I started sparring and men went easier on me. I asked them how I was supposed to learn to defend myself if they never really attacked me.

For children, I don’t suggest a full on attack, but as I stated in my other article on Sparring, students learn from the momentary pain in sparring. People who attack you are not going to wait for you to recover if they hurt you. (You can find the full article here)

So, tell your boy that, first, if there is a girl in the class, she has chosen to be there and is there to learn. Tell him that by sparring with a girl the same way he would a boy, he helps her learn to defend herself. Tell him that if he does not treat her as an equal, he is preventing her from gaining skill, and that could hurt her if she ever needs to defend herself.

I have used these arguments with several males, both ones “back in the day” when I came up the ranks in Texas who were obviously sparring light with me, and now, as an instructor.I even have one boy, Graysun, who initially said he refused to hit a girl, period. He now pushes the girls to their limits but has the control to know where those limits are.

Girls are more likely to have to defend themselves as boys. Sparring boys helps them learn essential skills.

Should parents spar with their kids at home?

My short answer is—if you have not been trained to spar, then please don’t. Instead, sign up, come to class, spar with your kids there. That is a controlled environment and truly is the best and most productive way to spar with your child.

If your child is in the kids’ class and you are in the adult class, you are welcome to come in to the kids’ sparring class, Thu, 5:30PM, and help with the sparring, including sparring with your own child.

By working with your child, and other children, in a controlled environment, you will also learn how to spar with children in general. Then, maybe you could do a bit of sparring at home.

One of my worries with parents sparring at home, especially without training, is that personal issues may get in the way. What if your child is angry with you, or you with them? What if you start sparring with no supervision and one of you accidentally, or on purpose, hits too hard? With that emotional connection, for many, it is just as likely that the fight may escalate as it is that you will stop it.

So I recommend again that if you want to spar with your child, sign up for classes. When I started karate again after 20 years, I went with my 10 year old son, (you now call him Mr. Ian.) I did enjoy sparring with him. I used to joke that when our family fights, we put on gear first.