Sparring Tips

KAT black belt Charles DeGuzman wrote the following guide about sparring based on what you know about your opponent:

How do you study your opponent? Well, first you need to know little things like which foot is always forward, is he right or left footed, does he fight offensively or defensively, how long are his legs compared to yours, does he keep his hands down, does he like to be in an open or closed stance position, what's his favorite kick, what his reaction when you fake. Little things like these can help you a lot in choosing the right strategies. You can take advantage of his mistakes or counter his strategies.

The second step is more technical. What happens when I do this or that kick from a certain position such as open or closed, or even from a clinch? Taking risks will help you to study your opponent, but you should always be aware of the consequences.

So what happens after that? Now that you know bits and pieces about your opponent, you can now apply them together with your techniques and use them against him. For instance, if he reacts to a round kick with a back kick, I would do a roundhouse motion feint and then counter that back kick. Here are some strategies to use against different types of competitors.

"He's Taller Than You." This will happen at least once in your sparring career. This means that he has longer legs than you in a sport that requires long legs. First of all, keep your hands up! A kick to your head could easily be just a kick to the torso for him. Second, you want to sidestep a lot. The longer the legs, the harder it would be for him to recover for a second attack after missing. Third, stay inside. When keeping in close, you cut off his attack and at the same time close your gap, causing him to retreat or jump back. It is a lot easier to attack forwards than back. Again keep your hands up. You are then in his high attack range. Fake and then move in. Make him throw a kick to miss you and then go.

"He's Shorter." It is pretty much the opposite of the tall strategy. You want to use a lot of cut kicks and fakes. The basic strategy is to keep your distance. When he comes in, cut him off with a linear kick (cutting sidekick works best), move to the side and attack. When you cut him off, he may not stop attacking. He may move out of the way and then attack with a roundhouse. When you side step, you're keeping the distance the way you need it to be for your counter. If you have enough speed, you can once in a while cut them off with an axe, back kick or a high roundhouse while jumping back.

"He's Too Aggressive." If your opponent loves to attack, let him for a while, but keep sidestepping or clinching. You can counter right after that sidestep and then clinch. Use the reverse punch to knock him off balance. Keep him wasting his energy and losing his points. Use a number of fakes to keep him paranoid and moving. One who kicks too much is often standing on just one leg. Knock him off balance with a linear kick and counter while he's attacking. Remember, the majority of points are from countering.

"He Waits A Lot and Counters." These types of sparrers are usually the smartest. The main thing you don't want to do is to attack aggressively with carelessness. Again, fakes are the main key. When they wait and counter, you want to make your fakes very convincing, because they know it's coming. When executing a feint, be ready for counters. Once he misses that counter, it's your turn. Use his own technique against him and clinch.

"This Guy's Fast." If your opponent is fast, you definitely don't want to have a speed contest. You will just end up being out-kicked. You want to attack when his leg is in the air. The time it takes to put his leg back down and attack a second time should be about the same or longer than when you throw your attack. You need to make him throw that kick to throw yours. How? Sidesteps and fakes.

"This Guy's a Heavyweight or Something!" That's your problem! You should have thought about losing weight before joining the competition.

A good sparer is fast, smart, can adapt to the situation and overcome his opponent; he must first learn to overcome himself physically and mentally, though. You should not be afraid to take risks in the ring. You must never be afraid to throw your kicks and attack. Always stay calm, relaxed, confident and in control. Everybody has great technique in elite competition. It is the mind that will separate first and second.