Tomorrow I am sparring twelve or more rounds with four times Lightweight EFC Champ Costa Iaonnou. Costa is a long time student of mine, a trainer in Crazy Monkey Defence, and one of my BJJ Black Belts. This is a ritual we do three times a week. I really look forward to it. It’s loads of fun and personally challenging. I can see every time we spar, that he has thought about the previous session, then purposively changes his game up, adding new strategies to it. I do the same. In a real sense, we help ‘level up’ each others games, by constantly trying to out strategize each other. The rounds are fast paced, but we never go out to hurt each other. Not only does this make the experience more enjoyable, but with the myriad of injuries I now have to contend with in my 40’s, I need to be careful with my body.
Following are 7 strategies that I use all the time in sparring. All of these strategies where inspired by my reading of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. When people learn a striking game, they think it’s simply just about landing a punch. but it’s so more than that — and nowhere is this more evident than in sparring. Sparring is both a physical chaotic dance, as much as it is a psychological one. Technique alone cannot win a fight, you need a strategic understanding on how to use your mind and your body to overcome an opponent. Thankfully, great teachers of these tactics, like Sun Tzu did the work for us. All that is then required is to extrapolate the meaning hidden within their teachings, and then find the best way to apply them to your game.
Many of the things we drill, and the way we train in modern martial arts is taken for granted – because of this, often the reason behind a drill is misunderstood. One of the most misunderstood practices is training combinations. There isn’t a boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, or MMA gym in the world that doesn’t make combination training a staple of their workout. In Crazy Monkey we train combinations too, but our reasoning is different.
At the crux of it, if one is truly honest with oneself, learning martial techniques is great, but the application of those techniques in a performance environment is the culmination of skill. At the heart of any martial expression is the question, “Will this work?” As martial artists we have found practical ways to test this question, either through sparring, or competition. At times of course, and reluctantly, we are confronted by a situation on the street, where we are forced into seeing if what we believe we know will work (the ultimate test possibly?)