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MMA How-To: Finding the Best Sparring Partner

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Choosing the right sparring partner is one of the most crucial parts of building a successful game regardless of your martial arts discipline. Putting your best skills against a sparring partner presents the opportunity for both of you to grow. Choosing the right opponent is an extremely important component of training, don’t touch gloves without looking for these 4 qualities.

#5-Variety

(newjersyjiujitsu.com)
(newjersyjiujitsu.com)

It’s easy to get into close-knit friendships with sparring partners. It comes particularly natural in the world of martial arts in that you get to know a person quickly. There’s nothing wrong with sparring with the same partner repeatedly because you get to know each others’ styles, tendencies, and flaws in technique to improve. However, getting too comfortable with the same 4 or 5 partners can get you into a creative rut when it comes to expanding your game. Sparring with many partners allows you to see all sides of the sport you participate in. If you’ve sparred with the same partners over and over again, you already know where to take the offensive, how to prepare for their game, and when you can capitalize on the perfect opportunities. When you will really grow is when you spar with a partner you have no experience against. They may have a totally different style than you’ve ever experienced, and it will force you to approach your martial arts discipline with an open mindset.

#4- Experience

(http://danielgeale.com.au)
(http://danielgeale.com.au)

The more experienced your partner is, the more likely they will be willing to break down the finer aspects of technique. If they are absolutely mopping the floor with you, they are typically much better at explaining why you’re in a bad position and how they were able to beat you. Experienced partners have a clearer picture of the game as a whole and will be able to best explain how you can improve your respective techniques.

#3- Challenge

lytle-doyel-sparring2-020312

Being a white belt is a right of passage in the world of martial arts that involves learning a lot of important lessons often the hard way. In all honesty, white belts can be fun to challenge in that you get to take risky chances that would never work in ordinary circumstances against more experienced opponents. Everyone loves to look like a badass, but you won’t grow against less challenging partners. When you get your ass kicked, you are forced to innovate and survive. The best place to be is in a difficult situation on a regularly basis because it will compel you to grow. When you jump into the fire and regularly spar with a much better opponent, your technique will grow significantly. If you are going to spar with a white belt, remember back to your days of being new and don’t bring heavy punishment just because you can. The best thing you can do for new members is instruct and explain as much as possible. Cultivate as much interest from new members to help the world of martial arts grow.

#2- Hygiene

Dirty Fingernails: For mechanics in Afghanistan filthy hands means finished repairs

Martial arts are combat sports and combat sports are contact sports. Knowing your partner has and practices good hygiene will save you from a world of suffering you might never have anticipated. It may seem obvious to some, but there are additional precautions you can and should take to ensure there’s minimal risk of getting a nasty Staph infection or an untimely cold or flu. Showering before and after practice with a strong antimicrobial wash or the use of antimicrobial sanitary wipes for any exposed skin surfaces before making contact should do the trick. But don’t be hesitant to shy away from a sparring match if you think you or your partner might be coming down with something. A good sparring partner will be understanding and supportive of this, and an even better one might insist on it. Remember, it’s practice not your final performance.

#1- Safety

(Photo: Josh Hedges)
(Photo: Josh Hedges)

Keeping your hands and feet clean are important but even the best hygiene can’t save you from dirty boxing. Luckily, the martial arts community is generally very disciplined in rooting out unsafe members. Gyms, Dojos and individual Martial artists with a reputation of bully based ass-kicking get picked out quickly. Remember, when you’re rolling light, your partner is going to roll light with you. Keeping your power at half your full strength, for punches and kicks, will help ensure your partner replies similarly. The ideal sparring partner will always remember the purpose of the exercise is to “simulate” combat with another person, and any one insisting “you’re not tough enough” if you can’t take a few hard hits during practice is just baiting you into an unnecessary injury. Accidents will happen, we are human after all and you may be forgiven for occasionally letting the thrill of the win impact your judgement, but making a habit of treating people like human punching bags will net you countless losses in the continued search for quality sparring partners.

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Kurt Tellez
Kurt Tellez is a Southern California-based writer and musician. He first developed a passion for writing and literature in high school that carried through to the completion of a B.A. in English from Cal State Fullerton in 2013. Inspired by Joseph Conrad, Emily Dickinson, Alan Moore and Hunter S. Thompson, he has pursued a career in writing through contributions to online magazine publications, blogging, and social media management. His musical studies began at thirteen, and has since played in garage bands, concert bands and jazz bands everywhere from Honolulu to The Matthew Street Beatles Festival in Liverpool. Kurt has followed MMA since becoming an avid listener of the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Inspired by Eddie Bravo's appearances on the show, he became a member of Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu in 2014.