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Sparring Advice: Facing a Pressure Fighter

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Hey. I have a question regarding sparring.

What is the best way to progress in sparring? Sometimes I feel overwelhmed when an aggressive fighter is coming towards me. I try to step to the side but then I kinda get stuck in my guard taking shots and when i try to answer back they dodge my punches . I feel like my footwork might not be good enough or too slow.

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4 hours ago, cinematic_loop said:

Hey. I have a question regarding sparring.

What is the best way to progress in sparring? Sometimes I feel overwelhmed when an aggressive fighter is coming towards me. I try to step to the side but then I kinda get stuck in my guard taking shots and when i try to answer back they dodge my punches . I feel like my footwork might not be good enough or too slow.

Footwork is a very good place to start, as it's what allows literally everything else to function. For me, being able to "see" is the main difference between being overwhelmed and being able to wait out an combination and fire back. Everyone has patterns - ever single person - so generally you can start to read or see where those are and know when to counter in the middle of or after a flurry. There are different ways of being able to "see," but 100% it requires you to be calmer, which means focusing on your breathing and knowing literally what you're looking at (where are you looking when you spar? The face, the chest, the hips, the legs?). Trying different areas of focus is a place to start. Focusing on your breathing is a great start. Working on only one thing, like a hook or a kick and seeing when it lands and when it doesn't.

All of this depends on you not being overwhelmed though, so step one is just focusing on how to bring your heart rate and stress down. I decide on some days that I'm just going to let myself get hit in the guard, so that I can find the holes in it, feel secure in it, learn to see out of it, etc. There's this guy I spar who hits too hard, so I practice this with him because I don't want to get clipped with his power if I'm open. And there's a guy I spar who is too fast for me, so I also use this approach with him, to find momentary openings.

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On 6/16/2019 at 12:38 AM, cinematic_loop said:

Hey. I have a question regarding sparring.

What is the best way to progress in sparring? Sometimes I feel overwelhmed when an aggressive fighter is coming towards me. I try to step to the side but then I kinda get stuck in my guard taking shots and when i try to answer back they dodge my punches . I feel like my footwork might not be good enough or too slow.

Don't be afraid to ask your partner to calm down during sparring. It's a mutual exchange. If your partner is giving you no ground then there might be a problem somewhere. 

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On 6/16/2019 at 8:38 AM, cinematic_loop said:

Hey. I have a question regarding sparring.

What is the best way to progress in sparring? Sometimes I feel overwelhmed when an aggressive fighter is coming towards me. I try to step to the side but then I kinda get stuck in my guard taking shots and when i try to answer back they dodge my punches . I feel like my footwork might not be good enough or too slow.

An easy question sometimes doesn't have an easy answer. Relax a bit more. Stored tension doesn't allow freedom of movement. Breathe, if you're not breathing it'll lead to tension. Improvement also depends experience.  Become more familiar with what works for your body type e.g. are you long and lithe? Or are short and stocky? Nimble and quick or slow and ponderous?

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Ill add that it might be good to find a partner of the same level both mentally and physically as you. If youre not hyper aggressive then sparring with one who is might be more of a challenge than you can handle right now. What Sylvie said about footwork and being able to see is dead on. Maybe find a partner you can do some live drills with before sparring. Drill mobing outve the way footwork at a slower speed to get the timing down then speed it up. Practice being at your optimal range instead of stuck inside where you have to shell. Then practice shelling and giving (shell up as partner throws a whatever number combo-2-3 then return fire). You can also spar with limitations like jab only or lead side weapons only. That helps keep things lighter and gets you to think during the exercise. The way I set up sparring is designed to create a level of comfort with it. We usually start with dutch style 3 on 3 and 4 on 4 (the shell and go type drill) to get them accustomed to the hit (make it less concerning) then we move to limited sparring like jab only, lead side etc. I start adding weapons until they are going full bore. By then theyve calmed down and they can really explore. A lot of the stress of sparring is gone. And we try and spar every class, at least twice a week. Its not for everyone but Ive had a lot of success with it especially for hobbyists. The fighters have claimed its made them less jittery before competition too. 

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When the trainer says, OK sparring, find a partner. You pick the biggest, scariest looking meathead in the room, like 30kg heavier than you. 8/10 times he will be the most controlled, nicest and friendliest person there and you won't get injured. 

It's the little guy with a ying yang tattoo who has problems with over-aggression in sparring. 

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5 hours ago, Oliver said:

When the trainer says, OK sparring, find a partner. You pick the biggest, scariest looking meathead in the room, like 30kg heavier than you. 8/10 times he will be the most controlled, nicest and friendliest person there and you won't get injured. 

It's the little guy with a ying yang tattoo who has problems with over-aggression in sparring. 

9 outve 10 times this is dead on. Ive rarely been injured by a heavier partner but the smaller more aggressive guys can do damage almost by accident. 

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8 hours ago, Oliver said:

When the trainer says, OK sparring, find a partner. You pick the biggest, scariest looking meathead in the room, like 30kg heavier than you. 8/10 times he will be the most controlled, nicest and friendliest person there and you won't get injured. 

It's the little guy with a ying yang tattoo who has problems with over-aggression in sparring. 

When I first started training there was a big scary guy like that, and I jumped in sparring with him on my second week. He kicked me in the head three times consecutively but didn't hurt me once. Was a cool dude. 

One time we had a guy who was pretty alright at fighting come in, and he was roughing up the newbies, and the big scary guy kicked the shit out of him for it. 😂

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19 hours ago, AndyMaBobs said:

When I first started training there was a big scary guy like that, and I jumped in sparring with him on my second week. He kicked me in the head three times consecutively but didn't hurt me once. Was a cool dude. 

One time we had a guy who was pretty alright at fighting come in, and he was roughing up the newbies, and the big scary guy kicked the shit out of him for it. 😂

Thats the beautiful duality of big guys that know their stuff. They can easily let go and be brutes but usually are so aware of their strength, they dont...unless provoked lol.

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On 6/15/2019 at 6:38 PM, cinematic_loop said:

Hey. I have a question regarding sparring.

What is the best way to progress in sparring? Sometimes I feel overwelhmed when an aggressive fighter is coming towards me. I try to step to the side but then I kinda get stuck in my guard taking shots and when i try to answer back they dodge my punches . I feel like my footwork might not be good enough or too slow.

Hello!

 

I can only echo the advice that has been said here.

 

However, there is one little thing I have experienced that has helped me both psychologically and physically. 

Try to find someone that is either a bit above your skill level or at the same level. With a little bit of courage, ask them if they could do some pad work with you, go through some drills, or show you things they have learned and really like.

The reason why I recommend this is because the other person teaches what they have learned which; in turn, helps them develop a deeper understanding of what it is they are talking about. You also learn something (or perhaps are going over somehting you already know) and can build relations with others in the gym. 

Besides learning Muay Thai, the biggest thing I have successfully taken away from the gym is the social interactions with people. The more relations I have, the easier it is for me to learn and really internalize what it is I am learning. Plus, it feels good to train with friends.

 

Hope this helps in terms of defusing the anxiety that comes with sparring progression.

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5 hours ago, SPACEDOODLE said:

Try to find someone that is either a bit above your skill level or at the same level. With a little bit of courage, ask them if they could do some pad work with you, go through some drills, or show you things they have learned and really like.

100% agree. I learned so much when I was first starting because the two guys I was sparring with regularly were A) much better than me and B) were friendly enough to show me when I made a mistake or how I could do something differently. Talking about that stuff during sparring turned into doing other drills outside of the ring and overall really helped me improve very quickly compared to if I had been left on my own. It also allowed us to turn things up a bit in sparring (occasional hard sparring sessions) without anyone getting emotional because we "knew" each other. Most of the times I have seen sparring get out of hand is when the two partners don't know each other outside of that setting. Someone feels like they get tagged too hard or starts to panic a bit and it just escalates. If you have talked socially while drilling together it typically removes some of the emotion.

I've found most people in the gym to be quite helpful and social (even if they don't outwardly appear to be). Don't be shy and remember, you've already got something in common that you can talk about, you both love Muay Thai! 

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On 6/27/2019 at 5:52 AM, Tyler Byers said:

 Most of the times I have seen sparring get out of hand is when the two partners don't know each other outside of that setting. Someone feels like they get tagged too hard or starts to panic a bit and it just escalates.

I completely agree with this. The golden rule we have in sparring is "Leave your ego at the door". You shouldn't be trying to kill eachother, it's just not what sparring is for.

At times when it seems people are going too hard, our instructor makes us take shin guards off. It's amazing how quick people calm down then.

When it comes to sparring people who I know are better than me, or are known to be aggressive / pressure sparrers (if that's a word), I just think of one thing I want to achieve out of the round. Whether it be to land a combination we have drilled, or just land a knee. Something simple which I want to work on. From that point on, I've narrowed the room for overthinking and getting flustered, and can simply concentrate on trying to relax, and look for openings. Then, if it's going well, I can then start trying to make openings, and build from there.

It's a lot easier to build from a muted canvas than it is to turn down the noise from having so many options from the offset.

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1 hour ago, guyver4 said:

 

When it comes to sparring people who I know are better than me, or are known to be aggressive / pressure sparrers (if that's a word), I just think of one thing I want to achieve out of the round. Whether it be to land a combination we have drilled, or just land a knee.

I like to do this too. Really I think it is good advice for any sparring session, always go in with the intention to work on something specific. I like to talk with my partner during the break too and let them know what they are doing well or ask how they are doing something specific that will teach me a little bit more about their style. I think that communication builds us all to be better fighters and it creates a social aspect to the gym.

Edited by Tyler Byers
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