By Bong Abenir
If I were to choose between drilling and sparring for which is the best way to develop real skill then definitely I choose sparring. Don’t get me wrong; both are important. Drilling develops skill. And I would never downplay its role in helping a martial artist achieve a better understanding of the concepts and principles behind the style or the system being practiced. But if one is to go deeper into the art and develop important attributes that would translate easily into reality, then “actual application” is the best method to put all theories into action.
However, I do know that even sparring has its own limitations no matter how “full contact” it may be. There are indeed some things which are still difficult to simulate and must be confined into sets of drills. As better equipment is developed we are finding better ways to achieve this. For now, we do the best we can and stick mostly to those things we can actually do in a live sparring session because it is easily transferable to actual fighting skills.
The truth is, we would still find a lot of keyboard warriors even in this kind of set up. And they pretend to be the gurus who would always give their unsolicited advice on such matters they themselves are unwilling to go through. We would always come across someone who says they would have done better or they would do this and that if it had been them. But unfortunately, the usual excuse is that their techniques are “too dangerous” to be performed in a sparring scenario. Well, whoever spoke of doing things that are dangerous that would deliberately put someone’s life in peril during a sparring match? That’s not the point of the exercise.
Sparring develops one’s will to fight even if it is done in a safe environment. I find most of these guys are better prepared in terms of showing their willingness to stick and fight with their buddies in case of troubles (I could personally attest to that). While many who are merely vocal or the loudest in airing their opinions are usually the first that get out of the scene, leaving their friends or hiding somewhere (under the table perhaps). It’s either one fails to admit that he doesn’t have enough skills or that he doesn’t have the guts to put himself to the test. That’s why we seldom listen to those who really hadn’t “been there, done that.” This is also the reason why we listen to the old master’s teachings because most of them applied their skills not just in sparring matches but in actual fights involving life and death scenarios.