Step-sparring is when two students work together to perform a set of choreographed moves where they alternate as attacker and defender. It is an invaluable training tool for developing self-defense and sparring skills.
In step-sparring, students should pretend they are in an actual self-defense situation so the exercise will build automatic self-defense reactions. Step-sparring helps students develop the precise control they will need when free-sparring. In step-sparring the opponent is moving in a prearranged manner so it is easier for students to develop their control. They learn the length of their arms and legs and how to make changes in range to accommodate different opponents.
Students learn to face an attacking fist without blinking or turning away and to react with a block and counterattack. Step-sparring helps students develop clean, precise, powerful techniques without fear of harming their opponents. As a step-sparring technique is repeatedly practiced, the speed of the technique increases without sacrificing power, accuracy, and control. As students advance in rank, the complexity of the step-sparring techniques increases and students are expected to perform them quicker, more accurately, and more powerfully.
Two types of step-sparring
Two types of step-sparring are generally used in Taekwondo training: three-step and one-step. In step-sparring, the attacker advances and the defender retreats. Sparring drills are designed to reflect the two possible strategies that may be used a fight. One is to simply attack, the other is to react to the opponent's movements and counter-attack before the opponent can complete his or her attack.
Three-Step Sparring. Three-step sparring allows students to practice the three components of one-step sparring. The first step is to step backward with one foot while keeping the center of mass in place, while executing the specified block. The second step is another step backward, while executing the specified block. This step allows the student to gauge the range for the upcoming counter-technique. The third step is a final step backward, while executing the specified block and a specified counter-technique.
Three-Step Sparring. In one-step sparring, students must reduce the time between blocking and countering. The attacker learns to make a single, explosive attack. The attacker learns to reduce telegraphing of intent to attack while the defender learns to recognize incoming attacks and react accordingly. In one-step sparring, you react to an attack with a defensive block that redirects the attacker's power and opens a target area or you to counterattack.
Step-sparring begins with two students facing each other. The instructor assigns one to begin as the attacker and the other as the defender.
- Attacker and defender face each other at attention and bow. Then both step into ready stances. The instructor informs attacker and defender of the technique the attacker will use and what blocks/counterattacks the defender will use. Attack and counterattack techniques may be punches, kicks, or a combination of kicks and punches. The attacker extends his or her left arm in a middle fore-fist punch position. The defender then adjusts his or her distance from the attacker to reach a comfortable range.
- Attacker steps backward into the assigned stance and gives a kiai (yell) to show that he or she is ready to attack. Defender responds with a kiai to indicate that he or she is ready to defend.
- Attacker steps forward using the assigned technique. Defender steps backward using assigned block. This is repeated for the assigned number of times: three times (3-step) or 1 time (1-step). On the last step, defender finishes with the assigned counterattack. The point of step-sparring is to learn to perform techniques powerfully, technically perfect, and aesthetically beautiful, so take your time. As you gain experience, then you may start to add speed.
- The sequence is repeated again, this time with the attacker becoming the defender and the defender becoming the Attacker. The sequence is repeated again and again (until stopped by the instructor) with the attacker and defender switching roles each time. No matter how much you think you are helping, it is considered poor etiquette to coach your fellow students, regardless of your rank or experience.
- Attacker and defender return to ready stances, come to attention, and bow.