Our rule set, for new students, is to aim for the hands. We then ease them into giving and receiving head shots a little later, but our thinking is that the hands are the harder target - smaller and moving - and if they can get good at hitting those, the rest is a little easier. Eventually they must move on to delivering head shots, because hand shots only lead them to a dangerous strategy of keeping their hands back and leaving their heads wide open, and we certainly don't want them to develop that habit.
We start off with "free sparring", reminding our students to use techniques they've learned in class. If they get hit on the weapon hand, they have to switch hands - if they get hit on the other hand, the match is over. We'll sometimes put constraints on them - such as using a specific grip or a specific angle of attack only. We'll have them use two sticks. We'll have several students vs. one student. We have adults vs. kids (one of our best sparrers is actually one of our kid students - we call her "the Headhunter").
|The "Headhunter" comes for me.|
In our school, a stick is a stick, not an edged weapon. We will have some drills later on where it's an edged weapon, but for now, it's a stick (because we live in suburbia in Texas - unlikely to face a machete or sword here). My only big complaint with Actionflex is that it makes some forms of stick exchange impossible (because they have a "handle"). Not sure how to solve that one, but the other kind of padded stick that would work for that is inferior in every way to the Actionflex (and I own a pair of those - the black foam padded ones that get bent with a few good hits).
|Working a "Dos Manos" block vs. a #3 strike strike -forehand to the ribs|
If we're not a tournament school, and if we don't expect our students to get in stick fights, why do we bother to stick spar?
First, working against a resisting opponent helps our students get a more realistic idea of what an attack might look like. While we have put some constraints on them in how they attack and what the targets are (for now), having an opponent actively trying to hit you (and moving around in space) is a very different experience than a static drill in class.
|Me working with a new student, coaching her in ways to hit me.|
|Me in two vs. one. I'm the one. You can't survive this if you don't counter attack.|
|Using "Dos Manos" techniques with my empty stick bag - which is really a softball bag.|
Sixth, it's just plain fun. Sometimes I think we discount the value of fun in the martial arts, but to me, it's essential business. If you aren't having fun, you won't do whatever you're doing very long, will you? Nobody misses stick sparring night if they can help it!
|I'm smiling because it's fun. And because I'm gonna get him!|