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The Clinch and Knees

It has been suggested by some that we incorporate knees into our sparring, as well as clinching; two things that are not often worked on enough.  In adding knees to the sparring it is advised that we use kneepads (what they do at Five Points), something that I do not have first-hand experience with, so those of you who practice with them could better describe what this would really look like, exactly what kind of pads are used, etc.

As for clinching, I personally think it’s an integral part of sparring and should absolutely be included, but we should decide as a group how we will incorporate it.  I know some gyms keep clinching for the end of sparring practice, mostly because it’s so exhausting and often occurs the end of fights.  However, I would rather not have clinching relegated to later rounds as a rule, but rather have each pair decide whether or not the clinch will be included in their rounds together at any time in the rotation.  This way, each of us can choose whether we want clinching to be in every  round,  saved for later, or left out all together. In general, partner to partner, round to round we decide what we are going to do anyway. If we’re vocal about it, a few times through the cycle and we’ll all get a sense of what is happening.


Another issue that perhaps can be talked about is the intensity of sparring.  I believe that part of the importance of training with sparring is that it simulates, to some degree, the discomfort and pressure of a fight.  That said, sparring is not fighting and the true pressure and stress can only be vaguely approximated. It therefore should not be treated as a fight (we all know this).

It seems that when it comes to intensity of sparring there are at least two camps (perhaps others can jump in an say how they see it):

1) one should train how they want to fight and utilize high-intensity sparring in order to overcome the fear, hesitation and discomfort that come from inexperience  and, essentially, get used to being pressured, hit and hitting back.

2) sparring is part of training and is therefore intended to teach the employment of technique and combinations in a safe, low-intensity context where the student/fighter does not have to be distracted by the kind of discomfort and pressure of a fight that sparring approximates.

What’s nice about these two schools of thought is that both are completely managable within our group.  Both styles are absolutely legitimate and, being from camp 1 does not make one “tougher” than being from camp 2, nor does camp 2 make one “nicer” than camp 1.  Basically, I think we just need to communicate to each other what we want and don’t want out of sparring.  High-intensity sparring for a low-intensity opponent can be intimidating and downright infuriating, but only if it seems unfair that one person is going harder than another.  In general, high-intensity sparrers want to be hit back with equal intensity, so low-intensity sparring can be a little frustrating for them as well.  It’s important that we know what we’re aiming for in each round, so that we can either move up or down in intensity to meet one another at a common ground, or to avoid sparring with those whose intensity makes the experience feel stressful or unproductive.  We don’t have to spar with everybody.   But it’s really great when we’re all mixing together.

Again, this sparring circle is not a class.  We are the authors of its methods and outcome.  We should each get out of it only what we want.  In all, this circle is intended to be a resource for experience, variety, improvement and, of equal importance, fun.

But this is how I feel about sparring and clinching and knees. Please comment on what you think is best, what makes you comfortable or excited. Last Tuesday was really good, and we can only make it better by talking about what we want.


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