A great martial arts master once said that the only way to learn martial arts is to engage in real fights, but if trouble is not around when you’re searching for it, then sparring with your buddies at the dojo is the next best thing.
Sparring is a practical way to learn martial arts faster, especially in a Krav Maga school and if you’re not doing it regularly, then you’re not learning anything.
Let’s look at a simple 30-minute sparring exercise you can do whenever you have even the littlest time available, to keep up your skills.
You excel in martial arts through sparring and all great martial artists from legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi to Kung Fu Master Wong Jack Man (the only man to catch the superhumanly fast Bruce Lee more than once in an arm lock when they fought back in 1964) did not become legends by just taking lessons.
No, they became masters of their craft by getting down and dirty either via friendly matches or brutal fights to the death.
You can get started in training with just a few simple items of gear
Here’s a quick Krav Maga sparring exercise:
Read on for some more sparring techniques to fill your 30 minute sparring round.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is Sparring?
- 2 Spar 30 Minutes a Day for at Least 3 Times a Week
- 3 Some basic drills and techniques to do when sparring
- 4 Self-Defense and Reality
What is Sparring?
Sparring is a form of training common to many combat sports. It is a simulated fighting that has sets of rules, agreements, and customs that studies and anticipates all possible attack movements of the opponent without causing any real harm or injury to both participants of the spar.
Humble as he was, Bruce Lee’s master, Yip Man almost always had to accept challenges from various opponents, because he was considered as the top shifu (師傅 or 師父 or master) in Southern China and in Hong Kong back in his day. Those matches could be considered sparring, but they were too life-threatening to fit that description.
On the other hand, Yip Man always trains on the Wing Chun wooden dummy which was technically his “sparring partner” as it allowed him to compute the movements of his opponent’s probable attacks and countered it in the most efficient manner.
Musashi’s sparring mostly consisted of death matches between other samurais and ninjas in feudal Japan. He wandered around for many years kind of like the fictional character Rurouni Kenshin from the anime and live action movie adaptation of the same name and challenged swordsmen who he thought was worthy of his skill.
Bruce Lee did the same thing and he would either challenge other shifus or entire dojos as well as take on a group of thugs from the Chinese mafia who often ganged up on him during the filming of his movies. At times the film crew did not even know that he was already engaged in a real fight, because they thought that his attackers were extras.
And those thugs were also trained in Chinese martial arts so it was absolutely interesting to see him fight for real right in front of their eyes!
But these are masters of masters and so they’re on a different level when sparring with friends or opponents. The average Krav Maga and other martial arts practitioner will go through a standardized phase of training, including sparring.
Spar 30 Minutes a Day for at Least 3 Times a Week
When you do sparring sessions, spar constructively. In Krav Maga students are taught a lot of improvisations based on real-world scenarios in order to keep them from not relying on pre-planned moves, because basic attack and defense routines done in the dojo doesn’t work in real fights.
KM instructors will even tell you to come up with your own moves in handling a dangerous situation and if your self-defense tactics are better than what your instructor taught you, then you are encouraged to do more. Having learned the above fighting scenarios, your sparring sessions should concentrate more on how to anticipate and counter them, especially the difficult ones like the suckerpunch and attack from the blindside.
Personally, I hate cowards and this shameless man that kicked an innocent woman from behind her in this YouTube video is the ultimate example of what a coward looks like. Unfortunately for the girl, she had her hoodie on which already impairs her field of view and she was probably listening to some tunes also, which made the situation worse for her.
She could have suffered from a minor spine and neck injury after that if the guy exerted more effort into his kick, thankfully his kick was that of a playful child than someone who was out for blood. Had the girl been trained in Krav Maga or any other kind of martial arts, then she would have been able to defend herself very well like the women in this video.
For small women who were forced to defend themselves against guys who were twice their size and obviously stronger than them, they must have had spent a considerable amount of time sparring in the dojo to deliver those devasting moves shown in the video above!
Working out and doing strength training 40 minutes to 1 hour a day 3 times a week plus some 30-minute Krav Maga sparring will increase your chances of survival in deadly situations significantly.
Plus it’s great for your physical health as well.
Some basic drills and techniques to do when sparring
Attacking Techniques (arm striking techniques)
- Do basic punching while on the retzev – in doing the retzev you will have an extra sparring partner and he/she will pull you back with the rope tied to your waist as you try to hit the uppercut shield held up by your other sparring parner.
- Reverse punch – remove the rope from your waist and move on to free sparring this time. Put your left leg forward and your right leg to the rear to support your weight, then start your right hand punch all the from the back reaching forward as your waist pivots to 30 degrees rotation. That is called a . You can position both legs interchangeably and use either your left or right fist to do the punch. Start slow, then do it faster and incorporate movements until you become familiar with the reverse punch.
- Hammer fist – the attack (or more accurately a counter attack) is a self-defense move that uses your lef or right arm raised high leveled at your face to protect from an incoming punch, then using your toes (either left or right leg depending on which direction the attack comes from) to twist your body half step (again in a pivot move) and extending the arm to hit the target with the side of your fist (the meaty part near the pinky finger) to his head or torso area. This is actually a preparatory defensive tactic that allows you time to position yourself towards the enemy after you initially stun him.
- Hook punch – this type of punch is a that helped a lot of contenders become boxing champs. Pacquiao ended Hatton’s boxing career with a powerful left hook back in 2009 and the hook punch is especially dangerous when used in Krav Maga, because you can follow it up with an elbow strike or a combination of other attacks. It’s also a defensive move as the elbow (when raised) serves as a shield that can deflect any attack to the head. Watch the video in the link and practice it with your sparring partner.
- Straight punch – as its name implies, the straight punch is a fairly simple self-defense technique to practice. Again your sparring partner will hold the uppercut shield on his torso and you deliver the straight punch to it; however, it is not the same as the jab. No, this type of punch packs more power than the jab and it’s only a few notches short of Bruce Lee’s legendary 1-inch punch technique. You can also throw multiple straight punches in a burst of 3-second attack like with what this Krav Maga practitioner demonstrated here.
- Palm heel strike – this technique is best suited for women, especially if they are smaller than the average woman, because it’s easy to use in retaliation when they are choked. A simple palm heal strike with enough force to the nose can do a lot of damage no matter how huge the aggressor is. The attacker will be stunned and disorientated for a few seconds which is more than enough time for you to grab your taser or pepper spray and deliver a second and even more devastating attack. Once your aggressor is down, then you can run for safety and call 911 for help. This attack is best practiced with a dummy, but you can also try it during your sparring sessions, but make sure you only hit the uppercut shield and not your partner.
Uppercut punch – the upper cut punch is also another basic boxing move that will absolutely knock out your opponent if it connected to his jaw. It’s fairly simple to do and you just have to extend the opposite leg each time you hit your opponent with either the left or right fist. The attacks must come from underneath going very strong and abruptly upwards to his mandible which will literally shake his brain inside of his skull.
In fact, if you put too much power in your uppercut punch, then there’s a chance that you’ll kill your opponent like what Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini did when he fought Duk Koo Kim. So never try this move on your sparring partner as it is quite a dangerous one.
Attacking Techniques (leg attacks)
- Front kick and kick to the groin – one of the most effective and extremely lethal attacks of Krav Maga is the . It will take just one hit to the groin area and your opponent will be on his way either to the hospital or the morgue! Yes, it is very lethal so if you’ll practice it during your sparring sessions, then have your sparring partner hold the uppercut shield as he bends forwards and keep his groin area at least 2 feet from the shield, so you won’t hit his groin by accident.
- Back kick – the back kick is a defensive technique that was borrowed from karate and several other kinds of martial arts such as taekwondo, jiu jitsu (the traditional Japanese martial arts), wing chun, jeet kune do, kung fu and a few others. The one Krav Maga teaches though as a little bit of alteration to it as it is setup by the jab, then you spin around 180 degrees and deliver the . You can practice it with the dummy, KM bag and the body shield with your partner.
- Axe kick – this technique was borrowed from taekwondo and it is done by standing still initially, then making a high kick with your leg at 50 – 60 degrees angle relative to your body. Your other foot has to be flat on the ground in order to ensure you’re balanced, then you quickly drop the leg that you used to kick and hit the ball of your foot or your heel on your opponent’s head, then push your hips towards the front to add power to your kick.
- Heel kick – also known as the hook kick this form of attack was created to hit the cheek and temple parts of the head, which can render your opponent unconscious or dead, so it may be best to practice it only with the dummy. But if you should want to try it with your sparring partner, then have him always carry the body shield or the KM bag to ensure his safety is guaranteed. Here is how it’s done: .
- Side kick – this leg attack was also borrowed from karate and you perform it by assuming the fighting stance first, put your right leg forward and you kick with your left leg extending it as far as you can and hit your opponent with the heel of your foot. The attack is especially effective if your opponent haphazardly jumps into your area of defense and he leaves himself open for such an attack.
- Round kick – this leg attack is excellent for delivering quite an amount of damage to your opponent and will keep you at a safe distance while executing it as it is a range attack. In it is done by first doing the fight stance, then you raise your leg, pivot just a little bit, do the snap kick to hit the target and come back down. In Krav Maga, however, it is a where you don’t do the snap kick, but instead you use your shin to shield yourself from an incoming leg attack from your opponent.
- Do combination of attack moves – try practicing a combination of attack moves as you master balancing your body properly too by using your agility. The purpose of agility is to confuse your opponent with a succession of rapid movements in a matter of seconds. If you can avoid or evade his attacks and in turn attack him where he is not expecting it, then you know that your agility game is working.
Defensive Techniques (against arm striking techniques)
- Defense against hook punch – the aggressor can deliver the hook punch in two ways and 1) he throws it from a distance and, 2) he gets up close and personal, grabs your shirt and throws a hook punch at you. In Krav Maga it’s double or nothing! We will never give the opponent a chance to connect with his attack and so you defend yourself with these techniques. If he throws the from a distance: you raise your arm to block the punch and immediately counter attack with a straight punch to the nose or mouth, a side kick to the face or torso, an uppercut punch or an elbow uppercut punch. You can also do a knee strike to the groin or stomach area. If he gets up close and does a hook punch: again you raise your arm to block the punch, place your other arm on his grabbing arm, use his momentum to your advantage and bring him in, rotate your arm around his grabbing arm to lock it, push him downwards and hit his face with your knee. You must wear a head gear and gum guard when you practice this technique with your sparring partner and always give it only 20% – 30% power. Don’t go full strength.
- Defense against straight punch – the best way to defend against a straight punch is to block and divert it away from your face, then quickly follow up with a , or several punches in a rapid fire burst to the head and body (with his arm stretched out when he threw the punch, his sides will be vulnerable), or add a kick to the groin after you threw the counter punch.
- Defense against uppercut punch – it’s hard to as your opponent will most likely deliver it at close range, blindingly fast and very powerful as it follows the muscles’ natural jolt. Conversely it would also not make sense to throw an uppercut puncn from a distance, because not only will your opponent see it coming, but he will be able to block it and immediately deliver a counter attack. What you need to do is to divert it using your elbows. First assume the fighting stance boxing style, then once your opponent gets close enough to make the uppercut move, then block it with your elbow and divert it away from the intended target area, which is your mandible. Once he’s gained momentum and will follow in the direction where his fist is going with his attack, then again he’ll leave himself wide open for you to take advantage of that opportunity to make a counter attack.
- Defense against punches when mounted – if you know Brazilian jiu jitsu, then it’s extra points for you, because you’ll need a bit of knowledge in BJJ in order to defend yourself from an aggressor who is able to get on top of you and pin you to the ground to beat you until you’re bloddied or you pass out. Here is a that demonstrates how to block punches raining down on your face and get out of this sticky situation.
Train Radical Self-Defense
Okay, so you train and spar at your local Krav Maga dojo, but are you prepared to fight on the street if the occasion calls for it? What if maybe, just maybe, in order for you to be prepared for street fights is to train to fight literally on the streets?!
Well, that certainly seems reasonable, albeit radical. Here’s my suggestion, you let your sparring partner or partners (try to anticipate that you may not only face one opponent out there but several) to take the role of street thugs who will bump into you and get confrontational.
You just have to agree which street corner you will meet and spar there like in a realistic situation. Or you could also have your friends ask other guys (people you don’t personally know) to play the bad guys and spar with you that way you can raise the stakes higher.
From there you practice the four types of attacks and be prepared for it if it ever happens to you for real. Just keep in mind that both you and your sparring partners dial down your attacks as you’re only training in the streets to get the feel of what’s it really like to face threats out there compared to the dojo.
Learn How to Take a Hit
Manny Pacquiao, the world record holder of being the only boxer in the world to be world champion in 8 divisions of weight classes in the global boxing arena. However, everyone remembers his first defeat back in 1996 to his fellow Filipino boxer, Rustico Torrecampo via a hard right to his gut that sent him reeling to the ground.
Before he fought Torrecampo though he had an impressive 11 straight victories all of which where Kos and yet he did not realize his own weakness – he couldn’t take a hit. Now, this is important for you martial artists reading this, because you need to learn to take a hit and not be put down easily.
Ever since his defeat from Torrecampo, Pacquiao trained his body to take hits from even a water buffalo’s powerful legs and he wouldn’t be knocked down by it. With both his head and body getting as hard as a rock he became even more formidable than he was before and his opponents actually feared him.
I think even Floyd Mayweather feared him too! Because he wouldn’t be running around the ring like a scared little cat if he wasn’t. LOL! So train as hard as you can or even as close as you can to how Pacquiao did to be able to take a hit and come back in beast mode to your opponent, so you can put the fear in him and force him to surrender or retreat.
Self-Defense and Reality
When Hollywood action superstars such as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Stevan Seagal, Jason Statham and a whole lot of laundry list of characters came into the limelight and introduced martial arts to the world, people started enrolling in a martial arts school in droves.
Unfortunately, only two decades had gone by and people are now trash talking Aikido and other martial arts that promises the best self-defense, but when it comes down to a real fight even the black belt Aikidoka gets knocked down.
Why did it happen? Recently a rumor circulated in the martial arts world in the US that the hardcore Aikido master Steven Seagal was choked out by Ronda Rousey’s mentor, Gene Lebell who was already in his 70s.
Well, looks apparently can be deceiving as this old man may have proven himself (allegedly) still formidable even in his old age, I mean, he did train MMA champion Ronda Rousey after all! This video seems to question some of Seagal’s claims and even Joe Rogan says that Seagal’s fighting style is a bit silly if applied in real-world combat scenarios.
You don’t get to choose how you fight in real street fights. The two weaknesses that every martial artist have is against sucker punch attacks and surprise attacks, especially those that come from their blind side or from the back also known as a cowered punch to an unsuspecting victim.
It’s almost impossible to use self-defense in an attack that you cannot see coming! That is a fact.
Even if you train daily and spar with your partner daily that still doesn’t guarantee that you will leave the battlefield unscathed. So how do you survive a street fight then?
The answer is to explore the various kinds of attacks and there are four kinds of them.
- The normal confrontation that builds up to heated arguments and turns into an aggression – this type of developing attack is easy to spot and you will have enough time to prepare for that incoming shove, punch or kick from the person you confronted or confronted you. There may even be instances where you practiced this type of attack in the dojo while sparring with your partner, therefore you may already be familiar with it.
- The meet halfway and fight on equal footing battle – this type of attack is also easy to spot and handle as this is the most common form of attack that you practice in the dojo every time you spar. You will also have enough time to prepare and think of the best moves to put your opponent down.
- The suckerpunch – this is the second most difficult form of attack as it can happen in only a split-second and you’ll have to develop super quick reflexes to react to it and then counter with your own fist of terror! It can happen anywhere any time and in one moment you’re drinking your Starbucks coffee cup on the go and the next moment someone hits you like a sock in the eye. The one advantage you’ll have against a suckerpunch is that the attack comes from your 180° field of view and you can block or dodge it, then deliver a counter attack.
The attack from the back (blindside attack) – this is probably the most difficult attack to deal with while you’re on the street and that’s because it is outside of your field of view. Your disadvantage is that you’ll be distracted by noisy pedestrians, traffic, you’re having a conversation with someone on the phone, you have your hoody on, you’re listening to some nice tunes, etc. and then your attacker sneaks up on you and hits you at the back of your head weakening your nervous system and knocks you down. But there is a way to anticipate it and beat your opponent in his own game! The trick is to use your other senses, especially your hearing and turning your head to the left and to your right as you catch a glimpse of what’s going on behind you even just for 1-2 seconds would even the odds. It’s equally important to strengthen your body and train it to learn to take a hit and not be shaken, so you can hit back harder than your assailant did.