Why doesn't sparring resemble training?

Discussion in 'General' started by cfr, Jun 10, 2008.

  1. cfr

    cfr New Member

    My disclaimer: These questions are meant to inform me, nothing more. I am in no way attempting to insult anyone, just understand....

    OK, I've pondered this for a long time now, and never got around to asking. I'll be the first to admit Im quite the FMA newbie... full of questions, skepticism, wonder, etc. Most of what Ive seen thus far is on You Tube, and it's made me wonder. First sit and watch "kali", "kali knife", etc. on You Tube for a while. Pretty cool. Then watch "knife sparring". They don't look much alike to my untrained eye. Very little (if any) checking with the empty hand. No disarms. Nothing fancy it would seem. Merely cut without cutting.

    Am I missing something here? Why don't they look alike? The same arguement is made all the time in "TMA vs. MMA" debates on other forums. In those debates the TMA guys always say "I cant do deadly techs in sparring". Fair enough! Valid arguement I suppose. But I don't see how the same arguement could be made here as it's weapons training, it's all supposed to be deadly. Plus most spar with protective gear on.

    So what gives? I have an interest in FMA or I wouldn't be dabbling in it. I would say I've learned some valuable stuff so far. But it seems odd to me that training and sparring don't look alike.
  2. bmcoomes

    bmcoomes Manaois' Systems

    I understand your question I'll try to answer it the best I can.

    In my opinion what I think the issue is that most people training don't use progression in resistance so they will go from being in there comfort zone doing drills and then spar at full speed, power, and intensity. That route takes a long time to travel to mastery. Due to the fact that once you reach that level of intensity with out the tools/experience to deal with it that you will revert back to gross motor movements and simple tactics/strategies.

    I think that they are after the checkered flag so bad that they forget about the race so to speak.

    Thanks, I hope that helps.
  3. wes tasker

    wes tasker New Member

    I believe the only thing you're missing is exposure to a school that has a good understanding of its system and trains it in a progressive manner. It's difficult to judge a group of arts solely from youtube. Bmcoomes has a good point when he talks about training with progressions.

    In my school (I teach Pekiti Tirsia...) a student starts with footwork and does nothing else for several months minimum. Then they learn basic strikes and then put them on the footwork they started with. Only then can they start with the beginning blocks of curriculum.

    When they do learn things whether they be basics, drills, techniques etc. the elements of them are then put through four different "drilling" stages:

    low risk - high predictability
    high risk - high predictability
    low risk - low predictability
    high risk - low predictability

    Once a student has gone through this kind of progression the "skill(s)" or "essence(s)" of the basic, drill, and/or technique are pretty much hardwired enough to start sparring with.

    I have a similar progression for sparring so that I insure that my students actually learn how to use the footwork, offensive, and counter-offensive skill sets contained in the system.

    On the matter of youtube clips, if you want to see some superb sparring that resembles a system's pedagogy - check out this clip:


    I hope this helps....

  4. selfcritical

    selfcritical New Member


    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ypl30xFI0pc&hl=en"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ypl30xFI0pc&hl=en" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
    link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypl30xFI0pc

    Blog post here http://www.hertao.com/blog/2008/05/sombrada-explained/

    "I’ve just added a new video on sombrada, along with pictures and a description of how to do the drill correctly. Sombrada, along with hubud and other pre-arranged patterns, trapping, etc., has been the subject of much controversy over the years. In 2000 I had a long argument on the old Inosanto forum, and another in 2002 on the old MMA.TV forum with Burton Richardson and Matt Thornton in which Marc Denny (Crafty Dog) also chimed in. Actually, most of the video I’ve posted above comes from a DVD I made to send Denny in 2002 after the MMA.TV discussion.

    Richardson and Thornton don’t see the value in sombrada type training. They both seem to disagree with the pre-arranged patterned drilling AND the techniques used in sombrada. Denny on the other hand, along with most of the Dog Brothers, uses drills like sombrada to ingrain good responses through repetition of patterns. Most people who disregard sombrada do so because they’ve seen it done and/or learned it incorrectly. If the techniques are done right, they work. And there’s nothing better than repetition to learn to use an effective technique…as long as it’s combined with realistic, uncooperative training, and as Denny would say, “the fighter’s understanding”."
  5. cfr

    cfr New Member

    The training with resistance thing makes sense. For the record though, I think the blame here would lie on me, not my instructor. FMA is not my primary art, and as such I don't devote a whole lot of time to it. I'd say we'd probably do more of this type of training if we trained together more (which again, is my fault).
  6. pesilat

    pesilat Junior Member

    The specific answer depends on the specific situation but here are some common reasons for this discrepancy.

    1) Testing before developing. Sparring is a form of pressure testing. If the material isn't developed adequately then it won't come out in sparring - and if you attempt it then it will almost certainly fail. Tools have to be developed before they're tested. If they're not developed then they will fail when tested but you won't know whether the failure is due to a lack of development or because that tool doesn't really suit you. As a guy I know put it (about his BJJ training), "They started me sparring in my 6th class. Nothing I'd learned had been ingrained into me yet so I couldn't even try it under pressure. I reverted to what I've been doing all my life - I tensed up and used my muscles and tried to manhandle my opponent. Obviously that didn't work and the whole time people were telling me, 'Relax. It's not about strength.' But that's all I had available to me."

    2) Rules of engagement. The rules used in the sparring match will drastically affect the way the material comes out. I was in a tournament once where the "knife sparring" rules were, essentially, first cut gets point with no weight put on what actually got cut. I wound up fighting a guy whose reach was twice mine. He stood with his blade up by his head and waited for me to get in range then he slashed at my arm. I moved in low (where he was open) and cut his femoral - there was a big chalk line on his inner thigh. He dropped and cut the back of my forearm. I was sparring as I'd been taught (wrt to blades) - go for the vital targets and don't worry much about surface wounds like cuts to the back of the forearm. The other guy got the point, though, because he cut my arm a split second before I cut his leg. No one with half a brain would actually face a blade-wielding opponent with their arm held up exposing their whole body. But the way the rules of this tournament were laid out that was a good strategy.

    3) Equipment used. In my estimation, equipment used should be to protect against injury - not used as defensive tools. But a lot of people use it as defensive tools. This is very common in stick fights (and, unfortunately, I've been guilty of it myself - it's one of the reasons I hate using WEKAF style equipment when I spar; I prefer using padded sticks or, with more seasoned guys, sparring with rattan and minimal body protection [i.e.: a cup, mouthpiece, elbows, knees, head of some sort]). But even with all the gear or with padded sticks it's possible to keep it more realistic as long as everybody is honest about acknowledging the shots their taking - now we're back to the rules of engagement.

    Those are the most common causes I've seen for this problem. There are others, I'm sure, that aren't coming to my mind right now but these 3 are definitely the big ones in my experience.

  7. KaliGman

    KaliGman Professional Man at Arms


    Hard core sparring is a strong stimulus. Training without stimulus is unrealistic. Training with too much stimulus too soon leads to a complete breakdown in technique, as others have already stated. In my view, to hit the "training sweet spot" it is necessary to spar at an intensity (with the intensity watched and controlled by the instructor) where the technique just starts to crumble. Technique is usable at this level and the student is not totally out of his or her comfort zone, but not everything is easy or going the student's way. Following the session, the student should self-critique (as well as being critiqued by the instructor) and discuss what went wrong and what went well. This leads to improved technique and learning.

    One of the drills used in Albo Kali Silat in order to improve combat proficiency, and develop speed and precision under stress, is a Blitz Attack Drill. In this drill, two students face off with one another and engage in standard, easy, one-for-one exchanges (one-for-one sparring/training). At any time, a student can step outside the drill and attack with a continuous flurry of blows, which the other student has to stop and counterattack. The fact that the students get lulled into the "one-for-one" makes the flurry or blitz attack an unexpected event and puts stress on the students and their techniques. I have found this drill to significantly help improve free sparring ability in students. This drill is explained in more detail on the Albo Kali Silat website. A video of one of my high ranking students and I doing a modified blitz drill (I allowed him to blitz whenever he wanted, but I would not initiate a blitz, only a counterattack, which made the drill much easier for him and a bit easier to film) is also located on the site. Here is a link, for those interested:

  8. Makata

    Makata New Member

    Depending on the system one practices, what you saw re: sparring footage very well could be exactly like their training!

    It really depends! Some systems are more complicated/fancy than others.
    For example, basic Kali Ilustrisimo weapons sparring doesn't look particularly fancy at all--we just tend to hit the weapon hand/weapon arm, a lot. We either hit first, or use an enganyo (a feint) to set up our aggressively counterstriking...or evade using footwork, while counterstriking. Disarms? We usually just hit the hand!

    Under combative and/or sparring stress, things change. I dunno if intricate fine-motor techniques can really be pulled off by the average guy. A battle-tested FMA Grandmaster might be able to do those things, but not everyone has the abilities of an FMA Superhero, y'know? Honestly, I certainly don't! Maybe there are quite a few folks on this board who can do those uber-cool things at will...me, I take what I can get!

    "Cut and don't get cut" sounds absolutely and totally okay to me, actually. Controlling range and distance, cultivating good timing and target acquistion, evasiveness, power, and intent...what more do you really need? Anything else--that's just the cherry on top of the figurative sundae, wouldn't you say? :)

    Anyways--my answer to your question is: it depends!

    Happy training, and all best!

    Lester S.
  9. lhommedieu

    lhommedieu Senior Member

    Value of Drills

    A lot of what you see from advanced practitioners will show that training and sparring do look alike. For a different slant on drills, howerver, here's a recycled post (from martialtalk.com: http://www.martialtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=623&page=3&highlight=banana) that gives a partial answer to your question:


    Last edited: Jun 13, 2008
  10. baganing_balyan

    baganing_balyan New Member

    Your question is valid. Currently, FMA is taught like a halo-halo (assortment of fruits with ice-- a filipino delicacy). Some FMA masters even think that there is no concept in FMA. He meant that FMA is just hacking or stabbing by luck or chance. That's not true at all. if it is, then fma is not a martial art. anyone can thrust or raise a machete.

    If you check out the blade fighting techniques of the lumads (natives) or the way muslims handle their kris, there are steps, movements, techniques, and footwork, and those are related to concepts. They know why they have to hold their blades this way or why they have to forward their feet that way.

    as I see it, stickfighting is ruining the blade fighting arts. They should really stop calling stick ighting as blade fighting with sticks. There are even stickfighters who squat or sit on the floor. What is that? Do you think early filipino warriors did that with their kalasags (shields) and sundangs (bolos)? Try squatting or sitting with a kalasag on your arm. You will see what I am talking about.
  11. gagimilo

    gagimilo Member

    Well, the way I see it, if there was no for sticks and sparring ,the FMA with blades strictly would probably end up resembling Japanese Iai-do and Bato-do. I guess that maybe from the cultural and ethnological (folklore) preservation side that might be valid, but isn't the functionality of FMA exactly what makes us turn to them, instead of going to something other?
  12. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    That's an interesting point! I loved iaido, but it was so formal and precise--the things I loved about it were, on the other side of the coin, evidence of its sterility. (I know some people practice it differently and are very functional, but we were not where I studied.) I'm glad the FMAs haven't gone that way.
  13. baganing_balyan

    baganing_balyan New Member

    Stick fighting in FMA is just one of the twelve forms. a person who really wanna understand and practice FMA-- in real sense-- should at least know the twelve forms. I will write intensively about these forms on my blog.
  14. Raul

    Raul Mananandata

    Says who?
  15. baganing_balyan

    baganing_balyan New Member

    IF you wanna call something as FILIPINO MARTIAL ARTS, be sure to include everything considered a martial art and filipino.

    FILIPINO MARTIAL ARTS is even a misnomer. Some of our martial art forms have pre-spanish origins. Malays in the Islands then were not Filipinos.

    Yes, stickfighting is a filipino martial art not filipino martial arts. If you want to use filipino and plural "arts," you should include all forms filipino
  16. Raul

    Raul Mananandata

    Says who?
  17. baganing_balyan

    baganing_balyan New Member

    one's common sense.

    for your enlightenment, read my blog and check how i dissected your usual defense that the arnes of Balagtas' is arnis and it is a proof that arnis already existed during his time.
  18. geezer

    geezer Member

    NOW I understand what what everyone was arguing about over on that other thread you started-- the one where you asked for concrete evidence of FMA stickfighting in earlier eras. I did read some of your blogs by the way. So you don't like stickfighting. I gather that you see it as watering down the old ways. It's interesting to note that sticks, garrotes, and wooden blades have been used in training by sword and knife fighters all over the world and throughout history. The ancient Greeks and Romans, the Europeans of the Middle Ages and many other groups used such practice weapons. And, in those cultures, this same debate was raised. Contests arose using blunted weapons, and the techniques of fighting were changed to suit non-lethal sporting events. One possible outcome is a total loss of the "true" martial art, and the heritage that it represents, in favor a sport like modern fencing, for example. Another possibility, in a civilized society, is to preserve the "original" art in a static, ritualized form like the Japanese arts of Iaido or Batto-jutsu, as Gagimilo pointed out. Beautiful, but they too lack the realism and vitality of a martial art that is actually in use. Perhaps we should encourage the legalization of all-out dueling, death-matches, and bloody gladatorial spectacles to sort of "keep it real". Like I said it's an old debate. I don't have any good answers. But I do like stick-fighting, myself...in spite of your admittedly valid points!
  19. baganing_balyan

    baganing_balyan New Member

    don't get me wrong. I learned sinawali on a banana tree. I still have my sticks made from a branch of a balete tree (Bodhi). That's how serious I was and am with stick fighting.

    What I leaned with the natives in mindanao were totally different with what i learned in eskrima (since my dad learned his from a visayan practitioner.)

    How can we preserve the sword fighting techniques of the lumads if their arts have been ignored because we have thought stick fighting in arnis, kali, eskrima are the same as their blade fighting.

    We can have a wooden sundang (bolo) and use it as such. as i see it, stick fighting is stick fighting. it just feels funny holding an arnis stick with two hands the way I would hold a bagobo sword for a quick cross-slashing.

    I don't even see stick fighters rolling on the ground with sticks and shields. there are lumads who do that with their shields and swords.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2008
  20. Raul

    Raul Mananandata

    Yes of course. There can only be one.

    What blog?

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