What Do Students Learn From Sparring

We spar at least once a week in our dojang. We encourage all students to participate even if they start out being reluctant.

Sparring helps improve techniques we teach in class such as punches, blocking and fighting strategy. It also builds skills unique to sparring: timing, distance awareness and footwork. And it is an essential part of Tang Soo Do.

We never let children spar unsupervised to be sure the lessons of sparring are learned and that no one gets hurt. However, not getting hurt is different from taking a hit. And we do want kids to learn that. Kids WILL get hit, and lessons can be learned from that also.

Kids learn that momentary pain from sparring isn’t the same as getting hurt. Once they get used to this, they learn to not stop fighting when they get hit! This is important in the real world where their opponents will not stop fighting and give them a break if they actually do get injured.

Kids learn to not be bullies. Sometimes, instead of getting scared if they get hit, kids get mad. They have to learn to control their emotions if they want to continue sparring. And in real life, an angry fighter isn’t usually a smart fighter. If children learn what it feels like to be hit, they will be able to keep their cool if they ever encounter a real-life opponent.

Kids learn that there are ways to minimize even that momentary pain from sparring. Tightening stomach muscles, kihapping, and other techniques that help a punch to the stomach, the most common place to take a punch or kick, not hurt as much.

Lastly, it really does become easier over time. The more you take hits, the easier it is to take the next one, both psychologically and physically.

And then there’s tournament sparring. Students are much more likely to test their skills in a tournament. They need to be able to take a hit, find openings and counter, even if they are hurting from being hit.

In the open tournaments we attend the meaning of “light sparring” is a bit different from the Tang Soo Do tournament definition. They spar hard, allow face contact and compete at a national level of competence and training. We want our students to learn to hold their own.

Many students who begin as reluctant sparrers end up being the best ones, once they learn the lessons sparring teaches. And usually, even most reluctant students come to eventually like sparring.