Sparring is a form of training common to many martial arts. Although the precise form varies, it is essentially relatively 'free-form' fighting, with enough rules, customs, or agreements to make injuries unlikely. By extension, argumentative debate is sometimes called "verbal sparring".
Differences between styles
The physical nature of sparring naturally varies with the nature of the skills
it is intended to develop; sparring in a striking
art such as Savate
will normally begin with the players at opposite corners of a ring and will be stopped if they clinch
. Sparring in a grappling
art such as judo
might begin with the partners holding one another and end if they separate.
The organization of sparring matches also varies, if the participants know each other well and are friendly, it may be sufficient for them to simply play, without rules, referee, or timer. If the sparring is between strangers, there is some emotional tension, or the sparring is being evaluated, it may be appropriate to introduce formal rules and have an experienced martial artist supervise or referee the match.
Sparring is normally distinct from fights in competition, the goal of sparring normally being the education of the participants, while a competitive fight seeks to determine a winner.
Use and sport
The educational role of sparring is a matter of some debate, in any sparring match, precautions of some sort must be taken to protect the participants. These may include wearing protective gear, declaring certain techniques and targets off-limits, playing slowly or at a fixed speed, forbidding certain kinds of trickery, or one of many other possibilities. These precautions have the potential to change the nature of the skill that is being learned. For example, if one were to always spar with heavily padded gloves, one might come to rely on techniques that risk breaking bones in one's hand. Many schools recognize this problem but value sparring nonetheless because it forces the student to improvise, to think under pressure, and to keep their emotions under control.
The level of contact is also debated, lighter contact may lead to less injuries but hard contact may better prepare individuals for competition or self-defence. Some sport styles, such as San Da, Muay Thai, Kyokushin kaikan Karate and Mixed martial arts use full contact sparing
Names and types
Sparring has different names and different forms in various schools. Some schools prefer not to call it sparring, as they feel it differs in kind from what is normally called sparring.
- In the WTF, the majority of the attacks executed are kicking techniques, whereas the ITF encourages the use of both hands and feet. The ITF does not always spar with head guards, but it is known to occur in some organizations practicing this form.