Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Last night, we pulled on our headgear and pads, put in our mouthpieces, and sparred. My first bout was with a fellow yellow-belt. I'm 5'10", 177 lbs. He's about 6'2", and pretty muscular. When we've done grappling and fighting up from the ground, he's always been a tough opponent, and last night was no different. He had so much of a reach, height, and weight advantage, and he's starting to learn how to capitalize on that, but our match went well, and I gave as good as I got, and maybe even a little better...

I ripped off one kick to his left thigh, and I think my foot pad had slipped out of place. I tagged him good, but my right ankle is in a lot of pain, today. Hopefully, it's just a sprain. There's not been any great swelling or discoloration, so I'll give my body some time to deal with it, before I go running to the doctor for X-rays. Anyway, I gave a good showing for that match.

The second match, I got my ass kicked. There's a younger black-belt in class, and again, he's a big guy: Maybe 6'4", and all arms and legs. I threw a punch, which he blocked, but I turned it over and nailed him in the face with a back-fist. Oh, baby... It was ON!! It was like fighting a spider... All arms and legs, and he wasn't doing much to pull his punches and kicks. I got in a few good shots, and he was telegraphing his kicks, so at one point, when he went to throw one, I grabbed his foot and he stumbled, losing his balance, but he recovered too quickly for me to move in and capitalize on it. He ripped off a kick to my head that had me seeing stars and little birdies for a moment, but he never knocked me down, and again, I feel that I made a good showing, even though he beat me soundly. At the end, I said, "Well, we proved one thing; I sure know how to take a punch!" Everyone cracked up...

One thing I really need to work on, is keeping my hands up. I always start out pretty good, but as the round wears on, I start dropping my hands. Not good... I ate a lot more shots than I should have. Ah well... I'll get better with time and practice. What I lack in technique, I make up for in toughness, heart, and speed. I'd sure like to get hit a lot less, though! ;-)

Anyway, I really enjoyed it. :-)


  1. Seems like you’re doing ok in your training, in my view sparring is one of the hardest aspects of martial arts and it takes the most practice to get right. Basically it’s what all training should ultimately culminate in: performance under stress, fatigue and against a resisting, live opponent. I’m surprised they let you spar seeing you’re just a yellow belt but apparently you’re up to the challenge: holding your own against a black belt is impressive and I salute you for it. The fact he didn’t pull his punches much is a sure sign of frustration: he must have known he wasn’t that much better and it must have stung especially since he’s younger than you. What accounts for this performance? I’m sure you must have had some hand to hand training in the army but in general it’s a rather low priority. Most yellow belts shy away in sparring and it usually takes quite a while to overcome the flinch reflex and even more to read the opponent instead of just flailing wildly and hoping you’ll hit something.

    About the guard: it is indeed of vital importance to keep the hands up at all times, however this isn’t always that simple, especially when you’re getting tired (which you will eventually). I sometimes drop my hands too: a while back I was practicing kicks with sensei (we were uneven so he paired me) and he reminded me once to keep my hands up, apparently I didn’t since the pad came flying at my face and he was yelling at me. While it’s not exactly fun (especially since the other students were gaping) it sure does the point across and I’m actually grateful for it: in reality your opponent will take advantage of every opening you give him and more than pride will get hurt. One way to help with hands is doing punches with freeweights (not too fast or hard to avoid injuries to the elbow): I don’t do this regularly myself but it’s supposed to lessen fatigue in the arms by strengthening them. It’s not unlike the Roman method of letting legionairs train with heavy wooden replica’s of the weapons they were to be using (the gladius and pila), twice as heavy as the originals. The result was that in combat the weapons felt light as a feather and I’m sure it must have done wonders for their arm strength.

    Keep up the good work!


  2. Hi Frank. It sounds like you're doing fine with the sparring. Your style of sparring sounds a bit heavier than ours (ours is touch contact only, though in reality it sometimes gets a bit rougher than that!). A few tips I've picked up: Fighting youngsters is always difficult because they tend to move around a lot and are very quick with their punches and kicks. Don't chase them around - let the fight come to you. If these youngsters want to wear themselves out then that's their problem. If you're sparring with someone with a longer reach than you then set your front fist further away from you so they have to reach further to get at you. Use the leading arm to feint but leave your fist infront of their face so they are forced back and can't see what you are doing with the other arm - then do a reverse punch. Finally, stay off line or it makes it too easy to kick you.

  3. Thanks, Zara! I don't know how to account for my performance, really. I trained in Wadoryu for about a year, but we didn't do any sparring. I've trained and trained and trained, since starting Isshinryu, and when I was in combat or as a medic working when seconds counted, I was always the one who was cool and kept a level head. I think this was probably my greatest strength. I didn't get rattled, frustrated, or angry.

    Thanks, Sue! When I think back on the match, I was proud of the first shot that I got in on him. It was textbook... I threw the straight punch, he side-blocked it, I let the block carry my punch around, and then came full-circle back to 12-o'clock and nailed him with the back-fist.

    What I wish I would have done, since he was bigger and had so much reach with his arms and legs, was move in tight and close and go to work with uppercuts, back-fists, knees, and shots to the body. I also wish I would have shuffled around and stepped on the back of his knee, forcing him to the ground, or caught one of his punches, stepped to the outside, and cranked down in an arm-bar. There were so many things I could have done, and next time, I'll be a little more together, and maybe more willing to take the risks to get inside and control the match better.

    I have to say, if the round would have gone more than one minute, I would have had time to start pulling off other techniques. I had just begun to get my jab going, and that would have allowed me to get inside.

    Ah well... I'll be better and smarter, next time out. :-)

    Thanks again!