Thursday, December 15, 2016

Why Stick Sparring ROCKS!

Every Friday night at our school, Mid-Cities Arnis, we stick spar.

Lots of FMA schools stick spar, of course, and there's a variety of ways to do it.

We don't think we'll ever get into a stick fight, so what we are looking to do is practice certain ideas against resisting opponents, stress the importance of protecting the head, and then use certain constraints (only certain targets are valid, fighting in a small space, etc.) to problem solve in an artificially stressful environment.  We require kids to wear helmets but generally speaking the adults wear a minimum of safety equipment (eye protection is the most common).

And of course, just let loose, blow off some steam and have some fun, because man, stick sparring is FUN.

We use ActionFlex sticks and a minimum of protective equipment so that we get proper feedback without risking injury.

But of course, that's not the only method.

You have the more traditional version of stick sparring, usually with tournament rules, where the participants wear armor and use rattan sticks. 

You have Dog Brothers, which has far fewer rules and goes for more realism (and thus, they risk a lot more in terms of injury):

And some of us go to extreme levels of realism and resistance with rattan and no protection at all.

We don't stick grapple (mainly because we train in hard floors and have no mats) but it's definitely something that I think people should try if they can.  I say this because we do end up "locked up" sometimes, and the logical way to get out of it is to go to the ground.

Or there's other ways to cope with it, too.
No matter which version you do, though, stick sparring will definitely teach you a few things, such as:
  • A respect for what you can and what you can't pull off when someone doesn't let you (disarms are WAY HARDER than you think they are, and I've only pulled off certain ones with any consistency whatsoever),
  • Understanding of why stick fights typically happen at long range, and how shorter ranges changes your options (and your risks).
  • When working single stick, how to get the empty (alive) hand working for you and how important that hand really is.
  • The need to protect the head (even ActionFlex hurts when you get hit in the head/face at speed) and other vulnerable areas (I can tell you, with a stick, and I've been hit in the hand with white waxwood and rattan, A LOT, don't automatically count on a hand shot disarming or disabling your opponent).
No matter what, though, you can't completely recreate the situation where someone is actively trying to hurt you very badly.  That is, someone who isn't a "good sport" as we usually are in sparring.  That missing intent is always going to be a gap in our training.

Wearing lots of protection (hockey gloves, full helmets) also means you take hits you wouldn't take otherwise.  We use ActionFlex to try to compensate for this problem but it's still a padded stick and we don't actually get 100% perfect "feedback" in our method, either.

As the saying goes, "Perfect is the Enemy of the Good", so it's okay if it's not perfect, as long as you are aware of the problem.  I think sparring, even the relatively light version that we do, is better than not sparring at all (or rather, working against someone resisting you is needed as a part of comprehensive training).

And as I mentioned above... it's SUPER FUN, and that's why it ROCKS!

Beating on children is a blast!

So give it a try, if you train in sticks.  You won't regret it.

Have you ever stick sparred?  What do you think you get from it?  Is sparring or working against resisting opponents important to you? Let me know in the comments!