At Primal, we spar on day one!
How irresponsible! What Negligent coaching! What a McDojo! These are all critiques we would have jumped to before, and of course can still be valid. But we think differently now.
Sparring is a skill that needs to be developed over time. Effective, safe, fun, controlled and disciplined sparring takes an even longer time to develop. So we don’t wait, we start sparring on day one!
What this might look like:
Sparring in its most fundamental sense is a dynamic exchange of movements with a partner. Whether it be grappling or wrestling or striking, the reacting to the uncertainty of at least one stimulus can be considered ‘sparring’.
This might be as simple as reacting to a partner throwing either an inside low or an outside low kick. At this fundamental level, one is required to perceive, choose, plan, and react.
As the student becomes more comfortable, confident, and competent, at perceiving, choosing, planning, and reacting, we can then begin to adjust the rules (Constraints) to provide more opportunities for action (affordances).
By grappling (sparring) we begin to implicitly cultivate an awareness of where our bodies are in space in relation to the movements of our partners. The anxiety and inefficiencies that accompany ‘early’ rolling start to dissipate the more we spar.
By ‘sparring’ immediately and early we can become better, more disciplined and safer training partners, and ultimately much better at our sport.
We have three levels of classes at Primal. Sparring in our foundation striking classes doesn’t involve any head contact whatsoever, is very limited in our intermediate classes and then only in our advanced programs do we spar with light head contact.
The result is a culture of discipline, control and playfulness that makes our training both fun and effective. We attribute this to sparring often and early. If sparring is dangerous, lacks control and is causing injuries. That says more about the culture than the act of sparring itself. We still feel, sparring can be employed regularly, effectively and ultimately 'relatively safely'. But it takes time, lots of time.
That’s why we spar on day one!