When sparring, if you want to win, you must control the ring.
Control Your Opponents
Controlling a fight is similar to playing chess. You must know when to attack, when to defend, when to bluff, and when to counterattack. You must plan many moves ahead and you must be aware of the position of all elements on the playing field.
- Speed or slow the fight pace according to your own plan. Do not let your opponent control the pace of the fight. When the referee says "fight," attack immediately. Whenever your opponent approaches the boundary line, crowd him or her out and, when the opponent steps out, attack since the opponent cannot score while out of bounds. When the opponent is in a corner, he or she will be similar to a cornered animal looking for an escape, so be prepared to counter an aggressive attack. The most productive round for scoring is the last round so maintain a heavy pace in the last round.
- Be unpredictable. One way to confuse an opponent is to be unpredictable, so he or she cannot plan ahead. A fighter who can keep the opponent off balance is showing superior ring strategy and has control of the match. Alternate your tactics each round, sometimes attack, sometimes defend, so your opponent cannot predict your next move. If you are fighting aggressively and then switch to a defensive mode, your opponent may misinterpret your relaxation and advance into your waiting counterattack.
- Know your opponent. Know your opponent's best technique so you can prevent their use. You can do this either by having a strong guard around the region of attack or lure the opponent into using that technique, and then counter. By rendering your opponent's favorite technique useless, you will destroy his or her confidence. When you are able to manipulate your opponent, you will always win.
- Test your opponent. Try a few forward steps or fakes and watch your opponent's posture and/or response. Test for counterattacks by charging forward and quickly retreating.
- Do not give credit. During class sparring, especially with a lower rank student, we tend to acknowledge a good technique that scores. In competition, continue fighting as if nothing happened.
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