The Myth of the Ultimate Martial Arts Drill

By: Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc.

There seems to be a prevalent myth that a common martial arts drill is some kind of ultimate drill. That if you become adept at this drill, you'll be able to defend yourself in any type of attack in the street. Martial arts instructors have developed drills to improve this drill and others have made it an integral part of a sport.

Have you figured out what the drill to which I'm referring? That's right ladies and gentlemen, the ultimate, the one and only - spaaarrrriiiinnnngggg!

For the purposes of this article, we will define sparring as an abstract martial arts drill in which two or more partners exchange attacking, defensive and counter-attacking techniques and tactics in a non-synchronized manner.

All drills, including sparring, have positive and negative attributes. I'd like to point out some of these attributes, both positive and negative to bring this good but sometimes misunderstood drill to the level and categories it belongs.







Positive Aspects of Sparring



Sparring is an Abstract Drill

The drill is flexible enough to train for a variety of situations and environments.

General defensive, offensive and counter-offensive tactics are developed and improved.

Distances can be experienced and tested of a variety of partner body types.

A variety of strikes and combinations can be experienced and executed.

The timing between blocks and or evasive movements and counter-striking can be observed, executed and improved.

The drill has positive aerobic and anaerobic factors similar to a type of interval training in which the athlete jogs then sprints a prescribed distance or time at intervals.

Sparring is executed by a number of styles and seems a good

basis for different styles of martial arts to both train and compete together.







Negative Aspects of Sparring



Sparring is an Abstract Drill The drill is flexible enough to train for a variety of situations and environments. There is not enough repetition of techniques and tactics to increase learning speed in a reasonable amount of time as compared to single focus drills.

General defensive, offensive and counter-offensive tactics are developed and improved. There is not enough repetition of techniques and tactics to increase learning speed in a reasonable amount of time as compared to single focus drills.

Distances can be experienced and tested of a variety of partner body types. The wide variety of experiences are a positive aspect of sparring, however my own experience is that often times the number of partners are limited.

A variety of strikes and combinations can be experienced and executed. Strikes and combinations can be experienced and executed, however in my experience partners tend to only execute those techniques and combinations the partners are comfortable with in order to avoid being struck. This tends to limit experiences in both observation and execution.

The timing between blocks and or evasive movements and counter-striking can be observed, executed and improved. There is not enough repetition of techniques and tactics to increase learning speed in a reasonable amount of time as compared to single focus drills.

Sparring is executed by a number of styles and seems a good basis for different styles of martial arts to both train and compete together. The schools which spar a great deal will have an unfair advantage over those schools which treat sparring like any other drill. This would be comparable to students thinking their style is better by comparing how well breaking-holds are executed or any other drill.

The drill has positive aerobic and anaerobic factors similar to a type of interval training in which the athlete jogs then sprints a prescribed distance or time at intervals. From strictly a self-defense point of view, anaerobic capacity is more important than aerobic capacity. A long sparring session doesn't emphasize the intensity of a self-defense situation.







Variations of Sparring to Overcome Negative Aspects



I'm the first to admit, despite its weaknesses, I love sparring. Well they don't call me The Drillman for nothing. So I developed several variations of sparring to focus on various aspects of self-defense training and compensate for some of the weaknesses.

Repeat Sparring This helps me quite a bit. If my partner tags me with a strike, he/she repeats the same combination over and over until I develop a block and or evasive movement. This benefits my partner as he/she repeats an effective combination and it benefits me as I learn to avoid being hit by an effective combination.

Taking Away Weapons Remember I mentioned martial artists tend use only techniques and combinations of techniques they are comfortable with (okay okay with which they are comfortable for you English teachers out there)?

Now we take away those favorites techniques and combinations by removing weapons.

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination

When attacking you may only use these combinations of weapons

All

Left arm right leg

Right arm left leg

Right side weapons

Left side weapons

Left arm

Right arm

Right leg

Left leg

When defending you may only use these combinations of tools

All

Left arm right leg

Right arm left leg

Right side

Left side

Left arm

Right arm

Right leg and evasive

Left leg and evasive

Add or take away evasive

Evasive only

Now mix them up

You're attacks and defenses are unlimited

You're attacks are limited by a set of guideline above but not you're defenses

You're defenses are limited by a set of guideline above but not you're attacks

You're defenses and attacks are limited by the same set of guideline above

You're defenses and attacks are limited by different sets of guidelines above.

And the list goes on.

Think think think. Add a safely knife right in the middle of sparing. One student throws another that's sparring a safety baseball bat another student joins another.

Tai Chi like slow motion free for all with three martial artists.

This is a great drill done slowly. Temporary teams against one student are formed, but you have to keep an eye on your temporary partner as well.

I've actually got a lot more drills than this , but many of them do not match the topic of this article, my carpal tunnel hands are getting tired, and the drills don't match our stated definition of sparring. Feel free however to check out my printable ebook, Bringing the Martial Artist Out from Within for more drills.

Thank you for your support. If you have martial arts drills or articles feel free to share them in any of the martial arts groups below.

Rick Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc. http://kirkhamsebooks.com/MartialArts/BringingTheMartialArtistOutfrombykirkham.htm

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