Live Sparring Vs Hitting Pads Comparisons And Contrasts
Ok, sparring with a partner is fun, I don’t think anybody could really try and debate that unless you have never done it. In which case, I kindly say to you, you have no idea what you are talking about. Not only does sparring with a partner get you as close to a real fight in a cage, or dare I say, in the streets as possible without actually doing it. Sparring also gives you the opportunity to enhance all the skills you acquire as you progress through your training.
Okay, great, you’ve spent all day doing footwork drills, that’s amazing, you can dance! But can you dance with a partner? Do you sync well together as you lead the intensity, and movement? Or are you tripping over your own feet because you got cut off? Can you move your feet while someone is throwing techniques at you? You better learn quick.
You don’t get smacked in the head anymore during the head movement drills because you have the motions down, but what happens when you fall for a fake and move your head a little to far the wrong way.
Sparring with a partner gives you the opportunity to show you which motions you like to rely on, some which will become your signature techniques, while other will be bad habits you need to rid yourself of lest you be using them in a fight and lose because of your own faults, rather than because the other fighter being better then you. It lets a fighter practice their techniques in real time to see what they are comfortable with, and which techniques are continuously not landing and need to be worked on, or which moves are just not doing any good for the fighters arsenal and should be discarded.
An experienced martial artist, will as Bruce Lee stated, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” Just because a certain technique, such as a spinning backfist, works well for your sparring partner, or for your coach, does not mean it will work well for you. As well as practicing techniques, sparring lets you work on a game plan you have been putting together to see if it works well against someone who is actively trying to stop it.
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One of the most essential things that a fighter will be able to finetune in live sparring is timing. Your technique can be better then anybody, but if you can’t find the unblocked spot on your opponent, and strike it before that spot changes it will do you no good. You can be as fast as Jose Aldo but when someone comes along with the timing of Conor McGregor, it ends in a left hook knock out. You might be the strongest fighter in your division but if you can’t time the speed of your opponent, you will waste all of your energy trying to hit a target that isn’t there.
Sparring has a lot of benefits however, if you are sparring with someone who has a lack of control, it can end in a quick injury on either side, or it could build up in intensity until someone takes a shot that should be saved for an actual fight. Knowing when to slow down the pace of, or even stop a sparring match in order to protect both fighters is something that is critical in the health of all fighters, and their relationship with partners in their gyms. Regardless of lack of control, constantly sparring without days off for recovery is a great way to get injured. Even if you have a partner who is well trained and adjusts to your pace, and skill level, your body needs time between every sparring scrap to heal.
Padwork gives martial artists a chance to fine tune power, accuracy, speed, and many other skills. Some of the fighting skills you work on with pads are also visible in live sparring, the difference being that when hitting pads, a fighter can practice and focus on improvement without worrying about strikes coming back at them continuously. If your coach knows anything about striking, they will have you moving your feet, and give you opportunities to work on your head movement and blocking.
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Even though the coach will be helping to work on defense, it will not be as urgent as when sparring, just like how sparring will not be as urgent, nor intense as being in the real fight. Whoever is holding pads, should have a more constant range of timing and distance for you to strike at, and techniques for you to defend. Padwork is less threatening to deal with, which is the reason new strikers do not spar right away but rather spend plenty of time hitting pads and shadow boxing. Once a martial artist has a good grasp of their movement, speed, strength, and more while striking pads, they will have a tough time progressing any further unless they have an adversary to spar with.
Padwork is a more constant way to improve techniques, speed, strike placement, and more. Hitting pads give more consistent targets for striking while putting less pressure on the fighter who is throwing strikes. Sparring is great for learning what a real contact fight situation feels like, and understanding your own body as a fighter, how you move, which strikes you fall back on, what defensive techniques work best for you, etc. It is the place to put all of your fight skills together.
Just like many different aspects in the art of fighting, padwork and live partner sparring both are important, and have their place. It is up to each martial artist and their coaches to figure out when its best to use one, and transition to the other.
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