There is a lot of debate here in the States as to how hard fighters should spar. While there is no concrete answer, here is my take from training at top gyms in Thailand and the United States.
Let’s start with Thailand, most gyms in the land of smiles foster a laid back atmosphere, even camps with multiple active champions. It is not that they are not serious, they just tend to be more playful in training. I have sparred Thai champions with hundreds of fights and have never walked away with a headache or any serious injury. On the other hand, whenever a foreigner from Europe or America entered the ring to spar, I was guaranteed to go to war! From my experience this is how many gyms spar in the US, especially MMA gyms.
Combined Saenchia & Pinto have over 500 fights! Take note of the intensity and the playful nature of both. This is very common across gyms in Thailand.
So which style of sparring is more beneficial? To answer this question, I would like you to use your imagination and think back to when you first learned to read. If you are like most you learned the sound of each letter, then slowly put the words and sentences together. Now imagine if you had to learn to read as fast as possible, under the pressure of a set timer.
Which method do you think would yield the best results?…. Of course the method in which you had time to process the letters and words gets you the desired outcome. You learn faster when you go slow. Your nervous system only recognizes patterns, it does not take into account speed when learning a complex skill. This is why when you learn to tie your shoe you tie it slowly, and eventually it becomes fast. Sparring is no different when you test newly acquired technique under high pressure, you develop poor habits.
But Is there a place for hard sparring? In my opinion yes, especially here in the United States. In Thailand there is no need to test your skill under hard sparring as Thais often fight multiple times each month. In the US we simply do not have the luxury of fighting so often.
Step one :
Acquire skill during drills, bag work etc. Then test skills under low intensity technical sparring. Then proceed to step two.
Test acquired skill under pressure (hard sparring). Find your errors and correct them under step 1.
Here at CKC we only spar hard when a competition is on the horizon, but even then I remind everyone to save their brain cells for when it counts!
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