Sparring Tips for Beginners

In this guide our Sparring Tips for Beginners we look to advise the Krav Maga student or student from any striking or submission based martial art on how to improve their sparring ability.

Krav Maga is widely regarded as the best form of self defence training. It is comprised of a mixture of martial arts and modern street self defence techniques and tactics. In Krav Maga, practitioners will regularly train in Boxing, Muay Thai and Grappling (BJJ) as well as alongside weapons training and multiple opponent training.

There are numerous types of sparring for Krav Maga Typically…

Sparring Tips for Beginners

  • Stand up sparring – hands and kicks, muay thai and kickboxing rules
  • Stand up Sparring – hands only
  • Ground sparring – no strikes
  • Ground sparring – all strikes allowed
  • Open sparring – stand up and ground allowed
  • Multiple opponent sparring – survival mode

Judging your improvement in sparring

In a sparring session in class, you are often pitted against someone larger than you, smaller than you, faster, slower or any other such diversity as we are training for the street we don’t limit people to fighting within their own weight class.

Don’t just look at how many times you “beat” your opponent, even in professional combat sports where two people are evenly matched many fights are not won by KO or submission, often these fights go to the judges. In Krav Maga we aren’t interested in using tactics to eek out a win by points, so how do we best use sparring as an indicator of our improvement?

You might be training with someone who trains more than you, maybe they are stronger and more experienced and every time you hit the mats with them they crush you. It’s awful. Just kidding, firstly suck it up and stop being such a nancy. This is how we grow as martial artists. So, how can we judge our improvement?

The best martial arts practitioners on the planet have all taken more hits and been submitted than most people have had hot dinners

Sparring Tips for Beginners

Count Your Small Victories!

Say for example, you are working on your stand up sparring. Here are some things you can look for to see if you are improving:

  • Did you manage to defend lots of punches?
  • Were you able to clinch when you wanted to? Imposing your will on someone is a small victory! Even if you only do it once in a round, that’s still good. Next time do it twice! Even if takes you a month of trying, keep at it and once a month will grow as a skill until it becomes something you can do at will!
  • Were you able to defend some kicks or did you eat all of them? Initially maybe you aren’t good at defending kicks, you might get kicked say 50 times in a session but work at it and the next session maybe its only 30. After a few weeks you improve more and it becomes 5 or ten. Things improve. Skills build. Look for the small victories!
  • If you are on the ground, we fall to the floor and my objectives are to get to my feet as fast as possible. This might mean choking out my opponent, causing him to submit (or in the street causing massive trauma) so that I can get to my feet or negotiating with them.
  • Initially when sparring with a senior more experienced partner, maybe they tap me out every time we train. But then what happens is each session I become harder to submit, harder to control. I start to find it easier to get to my feet.
  • When you are training with someone better than you or more experienced than you or stronger than you don’t go in expecting to win, by all means look for it but don’t be disheartened if you didn’t dominate your opponent. Fact is you probably wont dominate them until YOU become the more experienced person.

How did my sparring improve this week? 

So, look for improvement! Were you able to keep them in your closed guard for longer this week? Were you able to land or block more kicks? Maybe you slipped a punch or maybe it took them a minute to choke you out this time whereas last time it took them 30 seconds!

Look for the small victories! Over time they will accumulate. All the best sportsmen, businessmen, musicians – anyone who is good at anything understands the true cost of winning, make those mistakes, your game will improve. Work at it!

Top Sparring Tips for Beginners

1. Have a gameplan! In Krav Maga on day 1 you get shown your basic stance and how to strike, feet should be shoulder width apart, hands held high, elbows in, chin down. If you find yourself out of this stance during sparring or pressure testing then get back into it quick! Good stance is the foundation for both your striking and your defence!

2. Stick to your gameplan! Have 4 or 5 combinations which are SOLID. Nothing fancy. If you find yourself doing some fancy technique that you have invented and not been taught there is probably a reason its not been taught, maybe it doesnt work so well? Keep your gameplan basic and make it strong! There are no black belt techniques only basics performed at black belt level!

3. Chin down, hands up! whenever I see someone getting hit its usually when their hands are down. Keep your hands up to defend more punches.

4. End with a kick.

5. If you cant do it on the pads or the heavy bag then don’t try doing it in sparring. If you spend 99% of your time fighting in the orthodox stance, why switch to south paw when you fight? It will be weak!

6. If you have to cover up, use your feet to move away or close the gap and work your inside game.

7. Exhale on the effort! Do this during shadowboxing and padwork as well!

8. If you want to use a new combination in sparring, drill it on the pads first, make sure that it works before you try it under pressure.

9. Stick to the basics, many of the most powerful strikers produced the whole world over have a very simple but brutal gameplan.

Author: Krav Maga Bristol Instructor Jim Halton is a certified Instructor and teaches regular classes in Speedwell.