To be effective at sparring, a competitor need proper technical skills, flexibility, strength, endurance, experience at fighting all types and sizes of opponents, and a fighting strategy. If you are to win a tournament, you must fight a number of times, so energy conservation is important. A plan will keep your energy use under control so you will not "burn out" before the competition ends. With proper training, a competitor will instinctively react to an opponent's actions with the correct response. To be a winner, a competitor must keep analyzing the opponent during a match and reacting accordingly, but the fighter must also have a fighting plan before stepping into the ring. The plan should include:
- Watch potential opponents fight and assess their fighting styles, favorite techniques, level of physical conditioning, susceptibility to feints, reactions to certain movements, etc. Take notes for future competitions.
- Watch officials in your ring and in general and assess their judging style, their favorite location in the ring, what techniques they seem to favor, etc. Take notes for future competitions.
- Know the rules for the current competition. Technical structure and variations according to the competition rules. Create unique offensive combinations designed to score points while avoiding penalties and not being scored upon.
- Know you current physical status and plan accordingly. If you are not feeling well, you may need to slow the action and fight defensive, or you may feel great and want to press the opponent continually. Know you endurance level and plan your fighting strategy to so you will have energy throughout the competition.
Developing a plan
A proper plan will consider both the mental and physical aspects of sparring:
- Study opponents to gather information on their actions (such as does he counter punch) and inactions (such as does she respond to feigns).
- Determine what information is important.
- If needed, gather more information on important information.
- Decide what actions or inactions your need to use to overcome the opponent's actions or inactions.
- Have alternate actions or inactions to use if primary ones fail.
- Execute your chosen actions or inactions at the proper time
- Conserve energy by using it judiciously.
Defensive strategy is a plan to prevent the opponent from scoring points while setting him or her up for a score. From your study of possible opponents, you should have an idea of what defenses may work against them. Students of the same instructor will have certain characteristics in common. Have a defensive plan but do not be locked into it; it will change as fight develops.
Offensive strategy is a plan to score on an opponent while preventing him or her from scoring on you. It is most commonly applied with forward footwork and explosive movements. To be successful, offensive skills must be executed with good timing and range assessment. Offensive methods include:
Direct Attack. An attack made with an initial movement toward opponent.
Static. Range that is ideal for kicks or punches with movement.
Reach. Range is such that attacker must lean or reach forward. Feign first to distract from attack.
Moving. Range is such that attacker must move the body to execute the attack. Must be quick and not telegraph movement.
Indirect Attack. A deceptive attack made by using an initial movement away from the direction of the actual attack.
Feint. Feign to draw opponent's guard and then attack the opening.
Cutoff. Cutoff opponent's attack with your own movement and counterattack.
Footwork. Use footwork to confuse opponent and then attack
Counterattack. A reflexive attack in response to an attack.
Direct Counterattack. Blocking and countering without changing position. .
Indirect Counterattack. Avoiding attack with movement and then counterattack.
Four ways your fighting plan may fail are:
- Immobility. Inability to move the body caused by a failure to move correctly or by superior tactics of the opponent, such as ring positioning and use of the boundary lines.
- Disconnection. Disconnection occurs when one or more of your hands/feet are unavailable due to poor tactics or superior tactics of the opponent. You must be especially careful when you move your body that you do not disconnect your own weapons.
- Poor Weapon Choice. Do not use an attack simply because it your favorite. Use the best attack for each circumstance.
- Closure Failure. Use of incorrect tactics in a closure. The choice of tactics used in a closure should result in your scoring first. If the opponent, scores first your closure tactics are failing.