A thread on MartialTalk has turned into a discussion of the value of sparring for those seeking to train themselves in practical sword-fighting. One side says that sparring is essential to develop and show speed, timing, ability to feint/draw/counter, and so on; the other side says that one merely trains to pull blows, strike at not quite the right distance, trade blows, and count ineffective blows alongside effective ones. I see both sides. On the one hand, I see people stick-sparring to train the sword who end up using hacking stick-style strikes and trading a light cut for a killing stab because it's a 'wash' in their minds; yet, I also see people avoiding sparring who could use to have their preconceptions of their own great abilities put to the test. For me, it helps to have good training partners. When I spar with Mr. Hartman, we acknowledge blows that we feel would be effective. If someone gets in a clearly debilitating blow, we don't throw in a weak cut as they withdraw when we know our head would be on the floor already. (Of course, we tend to focus on the stick as stick over the stick as sword.) An honest training partner with more concern for practicality than his own ego is a real benefit. I wouldn't want to not spar. But I also wouldn't want to develop habits of point-sparring with the sword, where I might teach myself to settle for a weak cut as it scores a point rather than getting in a good cut. Any cut is better than none if there is no chance of having to take one in return...but who can count on that?