If you want to be a good boxer in any martial art, you need to spar. Nothing is closer to reality than sparring, in my opinion it is a must. No matter how good your technique is, how good your form on the mat, if you don't take the opportunity to spar against an opponent, it will count for very little. I don't want to compete, I hear you say, it doesn't matter. You don't have to compete to spar, but it makes all your training worthwhile. It's all coming together and you owe it to yourself to reach your full potential. You started boxing for a reason, right? Even if you got into boxing more for training and the weight loss that comes with it. Personally, I haven't found anything as effective as sparring to burn fat.

Bruce Lee once said in a discussion about Jeet Kune Do: “Remember that actual sparring is the ultimate, and training is just a means to it.

It would be like taking the driving theory test but then never bothering to take driving lessons to learn how to drive. So you have to proactively put yourself in a kind of exam situation in order to find out whether what you have previously learned can actually be implemented effectively.
Each of us knows it from our own training. We've all seen someone look great banging on their punch pads or punching bag. Sometimes that person hits the sandbag or pads so hard that these loud snapping sounds rattle through the entire training hall - like tapping your car floor mats on a house wall. One or the other might then ask themselves whether they could survive even one round against someone like that in the ring.

Well, the question is easy to answer. If they have little or no sparring experience, there's a good chance they won't be able to do much to you. That's because hard training and good technique are certainly desirable, but that alone won't matter much. In order to be a holistic and accomplished athlete in martial arts, you also need sparring.


Without sparring, you're missing out on arguably the most important aspect of all - timing.
For those of you who spar, you will know exactly what I'm talking about if I ask you to think back to a time when you went without sparing for a few weeks or months and then got back in the ring after the break.
I'm pretty sure you missed the little windows of opportunity to land a punch because your eyes do see it and your brain knew what to do, but by the time you struck a punch, the chance was gone. This is called a lack of timing caused by "ring rust".
And if you don't spar regularly, you won't get your timing right. The result is a "chaotic" fight, blows go astray, and you inevitably get hit with blows you normally wouldn't have taken, i.e. with regular sparring sessions.

Sparring also involves getting used to hitting a moving target. It's very easy to hit the punch pads or punching bag that's a stationary target, but try landing a clean punch on someone moving around the ring. That presents a completely different challenge.
You might be able to land a few bombs on the sandbag, but using your feet properly and applying enough power is much more difficult when your opponent is moving around the ring around you

"You need to experience what it feels like to get hit."
(Seyhan Tayfun Sahinbas, Owner & Head Coach, Tayfun Sports)

As Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face".
If you've never been punched in the face, you can still have that perfect technique, but once you getting a hard jab or cross in the face will throw you off. This is because most amateur boxers are simply not used to someone hitting back and are not used to countering punches while someone else is trying to land punches at them. You'll soon find that getting hit isn't so bad as long as you expect it and are willing to take that calculated risk. Also, when sparring, you should always wear both a headguard and a mouthguard, especially the latter. For your own safety, don't spar if you don't have these two pieces of equipment with you in training.

If you don't want to go to work the next day with a black eye, invest in a headgear that's larger than the standard headgear so it's a bigger target for your opponent. The disadvantage is that the head protection may restrict your vision a bit and you have to get used to it (keyword "peripheral vision"). But it protects the nose and has more padding around the head, reducing the likelihood of injury to a tolerable minimum.
I can safely say that wearing a good quality headgear in combination with a mouthguard is the best choice won't hurt you.

And that brings us to the end of part 1. In the next part of this post, we will look at other positive aspects of sparring.

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