For most martial arts, light to full-energy sparring is going to be a big part of your training. For better or worse, that's also going to be when most people get hurt due to lack of tracking, improper supervision, or the wrong gear. And once you've had one good knock that could have been prevented, or one good injury that keeps you away from enjoying your practice, you're going to wish you had a bit more foresight.
So, if you're getting to the stage where you're ready to start practicing more real-life scenarios, take the following five tips when it comes to sparring, including advice about protective gear, intent, instructor presence, warmups, and post-sparring activities.
- Wear the Right Protective Gear
Maybe in a real life martial arts self defense incident, you're not going to have any protective gear on. But, when practicing sparring, there's absolutely no reason not to at least use basic body protection. This will allow you to train harder, for longer, and thereby give you more of a chance to practice rather than just being in an instant situation where hands, feet, or even heads are going to get hurt.
- Talk Through Intent
Before you start sparring, talk to you partner about what the intent of the practice is. Are you working on marital arts body conditioning? Are you working on speed, technique, or targeting? Without having a clear understanding of what you're trying to accomplish, the chance for injury spikes quite seriously, so even if you're sparring partner isn't a friend, have a friendly conversation first!
- Have an Instructor Present If Possible
If it's at all possible, have an instructor present. That way, there's someone to call a halt if something seems out of line, and he or she can also warn you about environmental dangers (i.e.. running into walls, falling into doors, things to trip over.) Plus, having someone there to talk about your techniques will dramatically improve the results of the experience.
- Stretch Beforehand
How awful would it be to start sparring, and five seconds later pull a muscle because you weren't warmed up? No matter what the activity really, even a few minutes of warming up can save you a nasty injury that isn't even caused by the practice, but just the lack of preparation.
- Take Care of Minor Injuries Right Away
After you're done sparring, get out the epsom salts, anti-inflammatories, ice and heating pads right away. The best time to take care of small injuries like bumps, bruises and swelling is right away. A very small amount of effort right after a session can make it so that by the next day you'll feel as good as new.