Students learn to deal with the unrelenting attacks of an opponent by creating an effective defense and offense according to opponent's fighting style. By placing themselves in a position where there is the risk of injury, students learn to face adversity using both their mental and physical training.
Face fears. While a point sparring is a game, there is still a possibility for injury. For some this causes anxiety. Free-sparring helps calm your anxieties and develops your confidence.
Beware of the actors. The type of opponent falls to the floor in apparent agony at the slightest contact, to draw the sympathy of officials and in an attempt to cause you to ease up. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. If it is used too much, everyone evolved will catch on and the person will suffer for it. Sometimes, just as the boy who cried wolf, when a real injury occurs, no one will believe it.
Quickly adapt to opponent's actions. Because free-sparring is not prearranged, the opponent may use any type of permitted attack. Students must learn to quickly counter an endless variety of attacks and adapt to their opponents' style and timing. Through free-sparring, students learn to respond quickly and calmly to unknown situations that may occur in real life self-defense situations.
Protect themselves when injured. If a student free-spars, he or she will get hit. If a student is involved in a self-defense situation, he or she will get hit. The result of the hit may be something as minor as a bruise, bump, or black eye, or it may be something more serious. To continue to defend and attack, students must learn to fight through the pain. Although one must continue to defend him or herself in a self-defense situation no matter how serious the injury, this does not mean one must continue sparring with a serious injury. Injuries, and the pain associated with them, cause the human body to instinctively shut down. Students not prepared for the mental and physical shock of an injury, will be unprepared to defend themselves when injured. Free-sparring teaches students not to be distracted by physical contact and minor pain.
Withstand blows and respond calmly. When students first start free-sparring and the get hit, the first reaction is usually anger and the urge to retaliate. Students gradually learn to overcome this flash of anger, absorb the blow with dignity, and counterattack calmly and correctly without emotion.
Think clearly under duress. The first time one faces someone who wants to hurt him or her, even in a competitive match, the tendency is to suddenly forget his or her training and resort to hopelessly fending off an ever-increasing rain of blows. To overcome this instinctive reaction, one must learn to face his or her, not panic, and react as required.
Build mental and physical endurance. Regular free-sparring builds mental, physical, and emotional endurance. Mental endurance permits one to concentrate fully on the opponent's actions and to read his or her intentions, and to formulate a fighting strategy. Physical endurance permits one to fight a larger or more experienced fighter and to outlast tough opponents. Emotional endurance permits one to stay calm, cool, and collected throughout a tough fight.
Build power and accuracy. To learn to apply your techniques realistically, you must use them against a live opponent. Free-sparring permits one to execute a limited number of skills against the active resistance of an opponent.
Learn to move quickly. Only the pressure of a realistic confrontation can create the speed needed to attack and defend effectively. Free- sparring, permits students to develop speed and timing in evasion, defense, strategy, footwork, and counterattacks.
Hone fighting instincts. Ever watch dogs play! Ever watch dogs fight! The only difference between the two is attitude. Animals hone their fighting instincts by playing in the same way they would fight. Sparring has the same effect for the human animal.
Spot vulnerabilities and exploit them. Free-sparring allows one to learn to spot weaknesses in opponents' defenses, read their next move, detect bad habits, and to interpret telegraphed movements. These are intangible skills that may only be learned from experience.
No-Contact versus contact. In no-contact sparring, strikes make no contact or light contact with the opponent. It provided the Taekwondo student with a safe learning experience in competition techniques and strategies. Students may spar daily with no problems. In contact sparring, strikes make contact with the opponent. Because of its full contact nature and the risk of injury, students are limited in the amount of sparring they may do over a period of time. In both no-contact and contract sparring, there are limitations on the techniques that may be used and the targets that are available. This helps minimize injuries and allows students to spar more often.