Fair warning, this may be the absolutely nerdiest thing you have ever seen with respect to karate. I came up with this concept several years ago when I was on a rant in a sparring class. At one point I went to my white board and started creating a flow chart (yes, I have a white board in my studio). This flow chart eventually morphed into the Point Acquisition Plan below. Using this simple algorithm will be your answer to how to win at sparring.
Why people fail
Now that you have seen it, let’s discuss it in more detail. First, it is important to understand why it is that most people fail at sparring, whether in class or in a tournament. In my experience, there are two reasons: 1) Lack of patience and 2) Lack of a plan. The first issue, lack of patience, is when a fighter rushes in being very aggressive rather than taking the time to understand their opponent and how best to combat them. My entire philosophy in sparring addresses this problem. If interested, check out this Level 1 Sparring Course to learn footwork, distance, and defense, the cornerstones of patient fighting.
Lack of a plan
The second issue is lack of a plan. Many fighters just do whatever comes to mind without any thought or reason. That is where the Point Acquisition Plan comes in. This plan is a complete outline of how you should approach any match. Prior to being able to execute the plan, you need to have the following:
- Your 2 most effective offensive techniques (lead punch, lead side kick, etc.)
- Your 2 most effective counter techniques (fading roundhouse kick, counter reverse punch, etc.)
Once we know our most effective techniques, we then need to understand our opponent in order to determine what technique will be effective against them. We utilize footwork, defense, and distance control to gather the following pieces of information:
Is your opponent,
- Aggressive or conservative?
- Kicker or puncher?
- Fast or slow?
- Flexible or powerful?
Execute appropriate technique
Once we have this information, we know which of our most effective 4 techniques to use as a starting point. This list below are some ideas to use against each type of fighter above. This is not an all-encompassing list, there are many more. This is just something to get you started thinking on the right track.
If your opponent is,
- Aggressive – be prepared to counter, keep a safe distance with footwork
- Conservative – freeze them and hit them, be wary of counter
- Kicker – safely close the distance/jam and utilize hand techniques
- Puncher – keep them away using the lead leg jab
- Fast/Flexible – use strong techniques with power to slow them down, even if they block
- Slow/Powerful – use footwork and speed to bounce around all over the place, don’t stay in one spot; utilize counters but try not to get run over
Once you decide on the appropriate technique to do from your arsenal, you execute and analyze. If it worked, repeat. If it didn’t go back to the beginning and figure out why. Was your information wrong? Was your execution poor? Repeat the entire process again.
Now you know how to win at sparring!
I tried to explain something rather complicated in a cliff notes manner so if you are completely lost, I get it. If this is something that intrigues you, I have a lot more information. Feel free to contact me.
Note: this post is a brief subset of an online course on tournament sparring strategy. If interested contact me.