Thursday, November 29, 2007

Todays TDA Tip: Handicap Sparring Key to Improvement

If you spar (standup) or roll (grappling) on a regular basis, you know that you have weak and strong tactics and  Side kick over-reliancetechniques. Everyone does. The key question for you, as your own personal coach: "How do I reinforce my strong points and bring up my weak ones?" One of my favorite methods is something I call "handicap sparring."

Handicap sparring is where you take a weak area, and make it your focus, or take away your strongest to reduce your dependence on it. I'll use an example from my own experience: the side kick. When I sparred almost exclusively sport-style, I had a superior side kick. I wouldn't say world-class, but superior to all but two black belts I ever sparred. Ok, just one. Anyway, my superiority, and the rules of point-style sparring meant that I could lead off with my powerful front-leg side kick, forcing my opponent to cover, jam, or retreat, which left a nice juicy opening because he was back on his heels or his weapons were preoccupied with defense instead of hitting me. Defensively, my side kick was even better. I chambered it nice and high, Superfoot Wallace-style, and countered almost anything my opponent lead with, and then just enjoyed myself. I remember knocking one airborne opponent out of the air by timing alone - I locked out the side kick in his trajectory and he went down like a lead balloon. I felt bad. A little. But enough about me.

The idea is that I actually grew over-dependent on my fabulous side kick, and other areas suffered. I've always had good hands, but they got less and less sharp over time. Same with my guard (standing); I didn't worry too much about keeping my hands up because I had a foot in your gut, or you were getting knocked backward all the time. How did I improve? I gave up the side kick for about four years! I reeducated my jab, lead right (rear-hand), and Thai kick. I re-learned how to control a ring and move laterally.

Other examples:

Are you a good kicker? Hands only for a while.

Good infighter? Try to control the range and only use straight punches or backhands.

Always moving straight back? Start with your back to a wall, or in a corner, and have to work your way out.

Lousy head movement? Drill rounds with only slipping and movement for defense. NO offense out of you.

Got the idea? Here's a short video of Sam and I just working legs to give you an idea.

More examples and information:

MCMAP video: Start on the ground
Handicap sparring: Striker vs Grappler
Almost all of our Training Journals have examples of this. They make excellent reading when you want to get some early shut-eye.

Let's discuss this at the Convocation of Combat Arts thread.

1 comment:

MARKS said...


Something tyhat we practice at my dojo from time to time is sparring with one hand always behind your back, and concentrating on just hand techniques. Obviously the sparring is not with hard contact as defence is weak, but this type of training is excellent for reactions and head movement.