Sunday, November 16, 2014

Intro to Stick Sparring

The focus at our school is self defense. As a result, stick sparring has not been something that we've done much.

I mean, how likely is it we're going to get into a stick fighting match?  In the 21st Century?  In Texas?

New York City... all bets are off.

However, we know that it can teach some valuable skills, so we've been working toward introducing a bit of stick sparring into our school.

We finally broke out the Action Flex gear and tried it for the first time in class.

Man, it was fun.

We decided to keep to hand targets only to begin with, because we're getting into this slowly, and we didn't let people do much other than just go for the hands (no disarms, no locks, etc.).  This is not the way we'll do it over time, but being the first rounds, we wanted to keep it simple.  This means we were typically in long to medium range (versus the medium to short range we tend to play in for self defense applications).

We also kept it free-sparring, versus points. We didn't want to break up the flow the first time.

Here's a few pictures of me sparring with one of the kids - our highest ranked Junior (our kids program is about a year old).

We found that with this rule set, we ended up using a lot of what we call "classical strikes" - ocho y ocho (figure 8), banda y banda (horizontal back and forth strikes), rompida (up and down vertical strikes), and abiniko (fan strikes).  You can really understand the utility of these strikes when you spar, especially playing the long range game as we were.

The advantage of reach is really apparent when you stick spar with this rule set.  I am glad our Junior Green Belt was wearing a helmet because he got hit in the head when I really was aiming for his hand (he moved it to counter-attack and WHAM!  Abaniko to the head).

I'm looking forward to doing more of this, and expanding our rule set for other targets and allowed techniques over time.

I like this picture because it shows both myself and my student moving forward, versus backward. This shows that my student trusts me and the equipment and that he is not afraid of the weapon.  Fear of the weapon is a huge hurdle to overcome - if you're afraid, you put  yourself into a bad position to counter-attack (note - respecting the weapon is a different thing - respect, always) and as a result, fear makes one lean backwards, easy to knock over.

The most valuable thing I think I learned for myself and in observing our students is that we had a hard time going after the hand - we are so used to going for the stick.  This, I think, by itself, is a big reason to stick spar.

If I recall correctly, in this sequence I was using a lot of ocho y ocho and it was very successful.  Of course, the student adjusted once he figured out what I was doing and gave as good as he got.

Tag!  He's it!  

I cannot over-emphasize the fact that this was really, really fun.  REALLY.  FUN.  I can't wait to do it again.

If you're curious, yes, I got to spar with both my husband (he was taking pictures here) and one of our adult students, too, but the pictures of me and the adult student didn't quite turn out well enough to use here.  

But I cleaned both of their clocks.

You believe me, right?