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Sparring: Get Back Up!

January 25, 2012

Barbara Jwanouskos

Sparring: Get Back Up!


I often end up on the ground. I often end up frustrated or upset. And I sure feel like giving up a lot after a sparring session. But I don’t. I hang in there. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe they will help you too!


Being a petite, young woman, everyone that I spar with in class (except for one fellow student) is larger than me. I seem to be used for sweeping practice quite frequently, with success usually granted to my partner. That means that over time, I’ve become very good friends with the ground. And it can be easy to become frustrated with this repetitious turn of events over time. The thing I have come to realize however is I’m never going to be able to change my stature or that of my partner’s. I also can’t change my partner’s perhaps initial instincts to try a particular move or the intent behind it.


I can change my approach to the situation however. It’s just like Michael Jackson says “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change”. Words of wisdom from the king of pop that are applicable in sparring!


Recently I’ve sat out a couple of sessions of sparring and I sure have learned a lot by watching others and evaluating myself. Lately, what I’ve noticed that’s different about my sparring from when I first began is:

1)      I don’t immediately become frustrated or angry when my partner successfully lands a move that hurts either my body or my ego (or both!).

2)      I pay much closer attention to what I’m doing and what my partner is doing.

3)      I’ve learned to take advantage of opportunities and strike a balance between over-thinking my next move and not thinking at all of what I might try next.


I think each of these observations come back to lessons repeated by our instructors and the manual, which are to replace emotion with spirit and focus. Checking my ego, in particular has been a difficult task to master, and while I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was, I still have a long journey in this realm. If you take out the competiveness with others to “win” the sparring session and the competitiveness with yourself “to get things right”, you’re left with a lot of energy to devote towards paying attention to what your partner is doing and how to act when those opportunities arise.


Sparring is not the only place to practice this kind of discipline. Recently, in an interaction with a co-worker, I used what I had learned in class, and was met with success. When a situation at work came up that pointed out a faulty point in an internal process, my co-worker’s response was to become angry and defensive and push the blame to me. As I realized what was happening, I became hyper-aware of what words I was choosing and how they may be interpreted. While perhaps unprofessional of my co-worker to take her fears and insecurities about the situation on me, I could handle it because I knew and understood where it may be coming from. In turn, I responded with poise and confidence, and was able to get us moving towards a resolution. Had I acted upon the hurt I felt from her words and actions in a vindictive manner, the result would not have been the same. Ultimately, I would have been in the wrong.


There is a Buddhist saying that I have tried to live by ever since I’ve heard it: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” This is great advice for the times during sparring or your personal life that you feel frustrated or the need to act out of anger. It’s easy to give up, to lie down. It’s much more difficult to come back to a situation that you know may cause you pain, and try to learn from it.


With that in mind, one way you may improve your sparring abilities is to take the Technical Punching and Kicking class this Saturday! It will be my first time seeing this class, and I can’t wait to learn how some of these moves that we’ve been working in class work, but also how they feel if administered correctly. It’s a great chance to feel more confident with your material and find some new ways to apply something that long since seemed mysterious and unwieldy.


So, get back up from the floor already and have fun!

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