Tips For Sparring Success

5 Tips For Sparring Success

Over the last decade, we’ve helped hundreds of martial arts students achieve sparring success. There’s no shortage of helpful advice we can offer when it comes to technical tips:

  • Keep your guard up
  • Maintain a stable stance
  • Focus your eyes on your partner
  • Retract your punches and kicks
  • Keep moving

But if you’re new to martial arts training, and especially just starting to spar, these technical tips can sometimes fall short of being helpful. So, if you’re frustrated with your most recent sparring experience or you’re just ready to take your skill development to the next level…keep reading.

First, it’s important to acknowledge that sparring is more than just a physical exercise. There’s a mental component to sparring that must be equally developed. Clearly, the best tips for sparring success encompass both the physical and mental.

Keep in mind that sparring is simply an opportunity to try out your martial arts skill development on a resisting partner and, with the right mindset, it’s quite fun!

Here are our five tips for sparring success:

 

Have A Plan

Sparring is just as much a tactical exercise as it is a physical one. Sparring requires you to constantly be thinking about your next move. While your plan will need to adapt to your sparring partner, it’s always advisable to start any sparring match with a general plan. Knowing your personal strengths and limitations is a huge benefit. If you’re taller than your sparring partner, you can use your legs to keep them out of range. If you’re smaller than your sparring partner, you’ll want to get in close to take away their optimal range.

Sparring with different partners is also a huge learning opportunity. Want to level up quick? Spar with people who can out-pace, out-punch, and out-plan you. Study what they do and ask them for help. Some of the most effective strategies we’ve learned have been from sparring partners who were better than us.

Stay Calm

It’s ok to feel nervous before sparring. Unless you’ve been training for a while, you’re probably not use to the idea of someone punching and kicking at you.  It’s important to accept that in a sparring situation you’re going to get hit (after all, even the professionals do!). The key is to control where you get hit and how you respond after. Practicing offense and defense drills that help you experience what it feels like to absorb a punch or kick will build your confidence in this area. As you build trust with your sparring partners, you’ll realize it gets easier to remain calm, even with punches and kicks being thrown at you.

Most importantly, remember to breathe. It’s common for people to inadvertently hold their breath as they spar. Practice exhaling when you strike so that breathing becomes routine, even when your focus is on blocking, evading, and countering. Ultimately, breathing and remaining calm will help you conserve energy and strike with better precision.

Stick To The Basics

When your adrenalized, complex movements are more challenging to pull off successfully. When you first start sparring, use the most basic techniques you know: jab, cross, hook, and round kick. Sticking to the basics will increase your skill and also keep you mentally focused. In fact, simple and direct works best 80% of the time. Save the more complex moves for the remaining 20% of the time.

While it might be more comfortable to throw one strike at a time, using combinations will increase your chances of connecting with a viable target. Counters are also key. It’s easy to find yourself in a position where your partner is doing all the striking and you’re doing all the defending. Look for opportunities to counter after defending every strike your partner throws.

Check Your Ego

Every sparring match begins with a respectful bow as a reminder that both partners are prepared to help and not harm the other. Sparring is not about beating up your partner. Ultimately, ego clouds judgment and can cause you to rush and even loose control of your power. If your primary focus is striking with power, your technique will suffer and you will miss the opportunity for growth and advancement in your skill development.

When it comes to having the best sparring experience, adopt a givers mindset. Sparring is not a competition, it’s a partnership. When both sparring partner focus on helping the other improve, magic happens. Mutual challenge and respect results in mutual development and benefit.

Focus On Learning, Not Winning

Sparring is not about winning or loosing. Some days, you won’t be able to miss, while other days, you won’t be able to hit a single target. Sparring is all about learning. Every time you spar, try to improve from the last time.

As we mentioned before, sparring is just as much mental as it is physical. While you’re sparring, rather than focusing on winning, focus on your mental state:

  • Stay calm and remember to breath
  • Be aware of your position and guard
  • Concentrate on your opponent or partner
  • Practice those problem-solving skills
  • Stay in control of your emotions

Most importantly, have fun! Remember, it can take years to get really good at sparring. The best martial artists are the ones who show up, consistently put in the work, and enjoy the experience.

 

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personal trainer

Finding The Right Personal Trainer

Finding the right personal trainer can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re here to help! Maybe you took some time time off from your fitness routine and suddenly a few weeks turned into a few months. Perhaps you’re bouncing back from a minor injury and feeling uncertain about what exercises are best for your current activity level. It’s possible you’ve never had a consistent exercise regime and you could use some guidance. Or maybe you’re just struggling with feeling unmotivated. We’ve all been there. You know a personal trainer can help, but how do you find a coach that’s right for you?

 

Regardless of why you’re considering working with a personal trainer, one thing is certain. You want to see clear and consistant progress.

 

When you think of a personal trainer you probably think of a typical training session including some cardio as well as strength training with weights. But did you know, there’s an alternative? If running on a treadmill and working with free weights doesn’t get you excited, an MMA coach may be the perfect fit for you. Getting in shape with martial arts training isn’t just possible, it’s also a lot of fun! Understanding the benefits of working with an MMA personal trainer is as easy as A, B, C!

A. All About Accountability

One of the main reasons people hire personal trainers is for accountability. It’s a lot harder to blow off your training when there’s a coach waiting for you at a set time every week. Knowing you have a coach who is fully invested in your growth and development helps you stay motivated to keep doing the work and keep showing up.  An MMA coach will specifically challenge you to develop your upper and lower body as well as your cardio during each training session. MMA training is a full-body, aerobic activity that uses body-weight resistance training to develop strong bones, encourage weight-loss, and strengthen muscles. Whatever your fitness goals are, having an MMA coach as your personal trainer will keep you focused on why you started and give you the support you need to achieve lasting transformation.

B. Beat The Boredom

Let’s face it, nothing sucks the life out of you like doing the same exercises week after week without seeing any progress. In fact, many people will quit their gym memberships because they just aren’t motivated. Keep things interesting with an MMA personal trainer! A good MMA coach has mastered the art of disguising repetition. Whether it’s mixing up combos and pad drills or working through sparring techniques, every training session is different. Ultimately, you’ll stay engaged and excited about your training while working up a great sweat.

C. Customized Training

Your fitness needs and goals are uniquely yours. Shouldn’t your training program be too? A personal trainer will customize your training experience to ensure you get exactly what you want out of your workout. A good MMA coach will help you understand your body and train you to be able to maximize your performance the way only you can. In addition to training you how to perform each technique, your MMA coach will also train you why each technique works with your specific body mechanics. Worried about an old injury? Your personal trainer can suggest modified movements that will still help you make progress while avoiding re-injury.

 

Ready to give personal training a shot?  Reserve a FREE private coaching session at Invictus where REAL people like you are getting REAL results for the REAL world!

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Round Kick

Round Kick Shin Conditioning

From karate to Muay Thai to MMA, the roundhouse kick (or round kick) is one of the most used and widely recognized kicks in the martial arts. In fact, most people would agree that it’s also one of the most effective kicking techniques. But there’s a lot more to it than just performance and power. In fact, the round kick can be quite a complicated kick that, when properly executed, can not only generate devastating force but also deliver awe-inspiring elegance!

But there’s often some confusion when a person is first learning the round kick. To be specific, people always want to know: what part of the shin do I use? So, let’s take a quick look at applied science to give us the answer we seek.

Human Anatomy

The bones in the legs are some of the largest in the human body. Because of this, they’re also clearly the most durable. But what’s the difference and which one do I use? Let’s briefly discuss the two largest bones:

Femur

The femur is the largest bone in your body and located in your upper part of your leg often referred to as the thigh. This area houses not only the femur (the bone extending from your hip to your knee) but also the largest muscles– the quads (a series of interconnected muscles on the top/front of your thigh).

Tibia/fibula

The tibia and fibula are the second and third largest bones (respectively) that make up the lower part of your leg. This area is often referred to as the shin (front) and calf (back). The shin area on the front of your leg houses several muscles as well as your tibia bone (the bone extending from your knee to ankle). The calf area on the back of your leg houses the calf muscles as well as your fibula (a supportive bone).

Now that we know what part of the leg is responsible for the final portion of the round kick, let’s discuss how to use the tibia (shin) correctly in our round kicks.

Physics

There’s quite a lot of physics happening when you use a round kick: lever, velocity, and torque, just to name a few. The proper application of physics in this context is what generates maximum power or force (mass x acceleration = force).

Kicking

When kicking, you want to think of your leg like a baseball bat. You want to use a baseball bat to hit the ball near the thickest part of the bat (barrel) near the edge and NOT near the grip or handle.

Likewise, you want to use the thickest part of your tibia when you kick. To do that, you need to understand which areas are the thickest (good to use) and which area is the thinnest (worst to use).

Since one of your goals when using the round kick to extend your range, the ideal part of the tibia to kick with is the lower third of your shin known as the medial tibia (see image below). Practically speaking, a simple way to find this area is to take your left hand and place it just above your right ankle. When you do this, the place where your hand is on your tibia/shin is where you want to focus your kicks.

Shin conditioning tibia

Image Credit: GetBodySmart

Not only does this effectively give you the longest reach it also helps you kick with a thicker part of your tibia/shin.

Checking

When checking (or blocking) a round kick with your leg, the upper third of your tibia is an ideal area to use. Again, to find this area, simply take your right hand and place it just below the knee cap (patella) near the bony area where your leg begins to taper (see image below).

shin conditioning tibia

Image Credit: GetBodySmart

Checking someone else’s round kicks in this area gives you the most amount of protection. Please note that this area of the leg is a poor choice to use to kick. From an applied physics perspective, the maximum force in a lever is realized near the end of the lever and not near the fulcrum (in this instance, the knee).

Clearly, this means the remaining portion of the tibia is less than ideal to use for a round kick whether offensively for kicking or defensively for checking. The central area of the tibia/shin is less dense and more susceptible to potential breakage. In fact, when a professional does break their tibia (like Anderson Silva and recently Chris Weidman), it’s typically in the middle part of the tibia/shin (see image below).

shin conditioning tibia

Image Credit: GetBodySmart

Conditioning

Now that you understand which part of your leg is most ideal to use for a round kick, it’s time to consider how to condition your shins and use that tibia properly.

Conditioning refers to the act of building up a tolerance to kicking with less pain and possible damage to you and your legs. Initially, when you start using round kicks, it’s common to bruise or even feel some pain or discomfort. This is normal. Eventually, those pain signals that your leg nerves are sending to your brain will lessen with time and practice. Fortunately, there are several ways to accomplish this but here are three of our preferred methods…

  1. Heavy Bags: Traning in a professional gym like Invictus that utilizes heavy bags is a safe and effective way to start the process of building up shin endurance. It requires good control and effective use of technique at the proper range but has the potential to maximize your results.
  2. Sparring: Using shin guards while sparring helps you feel some of the impact without direct bone-on-bone feedback and can help you train with confidence. At Invictus, we only partner with suppliers known for specializing in combative martial arts (like Hayabusa, Revgear, and Venum- official sponsor of the UFC).
  3. Pad Work: When you’re working with a partner you’ll always use much less power than you would if you were kicking a heavy bag. That said, pad work is essential to developing good control and proper accuracy, precision, and target acquisition while continuing to condition your shins.

The round kick is obviously a fun kick to learn and we’ve only just started talking about how to use such a versatile and effective kick. At Invictus Martial Arts we’re committed to leveraging applied physics and sports science to give you real results and have fun developing amazing skills. Whether you’ve been training for years or just starting to think about it, you’re always welcome to JOIN US and try it out for yourself!

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Three Benefits Of Sparring In MMA Kickboxing

Why does martial arts training include sparring? Sparring is really just another word for fighting, isn’t it?

Not really.

Everyone knows that mixed martial arts (MMA) is absolutely great for functional fitness training and essential for developing everyday skills like discipline, focus, confidence, self-protection, and a powerfully positive mindset.

But at Invictus Martial Arts, we know that you want to do more than just feel good about your training, you want to feel resilient, adaptable, powerful. But in order to do that, you need need to know the coaching and mentoring you receive isn’t just good in theory but proven to help you achieve your goals. The problem is you don’t exactly know how to get it— you know, how to really dial-up the intensity with control whenever you need it. Additionally, what role does sparring play in really help you achieve your goals? This, of course, makes you feel unsure about how to approach sparring and maybe even feel a bit vulnerable to life’s uncertainties. 

Fortunately, we believe in giving practical, proven tips-and-tricks to help you develop mental toughness and emotional resiliency through safe and effective sparring techniques. And we understand that safety is important to you which is why we not only educate you on sparring best practices but also allow for progressive skill advancement drills to help you feel confident while you’re developing essential martial arts skills.

Let’s take a look at how we do it…

1. Learning Environment

At Invictus, we believe that sparring is a learning environment where we get to try out our techniques with a resistant partner for the sake of mutual betterment and personal growth. This means that we can confidently know that our sparring partner is there to help us and not harm us. This understanding and agreement allow us to try out our skills in a growth-minded culture knowing we’re getting better, together. Of course, this makes sparring fun while also encouraging experimentation and improvement feedback. 

2. Cognitive Flexibility

One of the lesser-known benefits of sparring is this: being able to think “outside the box.” Combinations (short and long forms of individual movements), technical and performance drills, and equipment techniques are often memorized patterns that help develop muscle memory for almost instinct-like responsiveness which is great for self-protection and performance. As good as all that is (and it really is the best), sparring takes it even further and reinforces neuroplasticity. This crucial adaptability allows you to see things from a different perspective encouraging you to adjust to changing environmental stimuli. Many people believe that this can help with achieving the much sought-after “flow state” and experience shows that it always helps a person develop increased mental toughness and improved emotional resiliency. After all, who doesn’t want more of that?

3. Adrenalized Control

The ability to manage and mitigate adrenaline and cortisol stress is a critical skill to develop for self-protection and much needed in today’s frenzied life. Fortunately, sparring affords you the opportunity to experience both in a safe and controlled environment. Nothing can ever truly prepare you for the unexpected. However, it is possible to train for chaos and, in fact, sparring does just that. The adrenaline and cortisol dump that occurs in your body when triggered by a stress-related event creates a cascade of minor motor deficiencies making typically normal movements more challenging to execute with precision. Controlled breathing, hand-eye coordination, muscular endurance, cardiovascular durability, and total-body proprioception are just a few of the excellent benefits you can readily achieve when training in an adrenaline-controlled environment. Luckily, sparring helps give you upgraded self-discipline and equips you with the tools you need to successfully navigate through the stresses of everyday life. In other words, you manage life better.

Sparring is more than just sweating and smiling; it’s learning, it’s collaborative, and best of all, it’s confidence-building. So, we invite you to take your first step today and schedule a FREE Private Consultation with us. We would love to get to know more about you and partner with you to help you achieve your goals!

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