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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Sparring » 8 Sparring Drills We Do

8 Sparring Drills We Do

When we spar, the goal is to get better at incorporating our basics and techniques into faster, more intense situations. Freestyle (sparring) is the highest form of martial arts application. Sometime though, we get into the rut of just using our “go to” moves and pounding on each other for 2 or 3 minutes. To break out of that, we will utilize some of these drills in sparring class to focus on targeting, timing, stamina, etc.

Students working sparring drills at Bowley Kenpo Karate.

Students working sparring drills at Bowley Kenpo Karate.

Rhythm Sparring – Each fighter in a two person group is given a number: 1 or 2. Saying the numbers out loud as they spar, on “1” person 1 attacks and person 2 blocks. On “2” person 2 attacks and person 1 blocks. The rhythm comes into play as more numbers are added to the sequence: 1-1-2-2, 1-1-1-2-2-2, 1-1-1-1-2-2-2-2. It can be a tricky drill at first, but can also flow very well.

No Front Leg, No Front Hand – This is the drill we practice most often and also the one the kids like the least. Audible moans every time it’s announced. One person in the match can not use their front hand nor their front leg. They can block with all four limbs but only strike the rear ones. Who doesn’t need more work incorporating their rear weapons?

Conversational Sparring – A drill we picked up from Mr. Rich Hale. While this is a fairly light contact drill, both fighters stay in the pocket (or very close as the pocket moves.) Mr. Hale described the drill as though you were having a conversation with someone and sparring at the same time. You’re looking for openings, finding targets, changing angles, and discussing the weather (idle chit chat) at the same time.

Debate Sparring – Another drill brought to us by Mr. Rich Hale. In a debate, one individual has the floor to make their point and all others have to be silent and listen. It’s the same concept for this drill. One attacker pursues their opponent throwing strikes, while the partner continues to move away. The partner provides a moving target to train against. Once the partner reaches the edge of the mat, he becomes the attacker pursuing now.

Bull in the Ring – For Bull in the Ring, a defender stands alone inside a circle of opponents. At an indication by the instructor, an opponent charges in on the defender. As the defender moves, the circle moves around him. The attackers keep an eye on the match and one looking for the green light to go in. As a new attacker goes in, the prior attacker takes their spot on the ring edge. The drill runs until the defender has had a go at each attacker on the ring.

Debate sparring drill in action.

Debate sparring drill in action.

Defend the Line – There is a line of tape, maybe 12 or 18 inches long, a few feet off the wall at one end of the mat. A single defender must protect that line. 3 or 4 opponents are lined up at the other end of the mat. The opponents are sent in, one at a time, to try to move the defender off the line. This is probably the favorite drill of our kids class. But we have to remind them often to not push and use clean techniques. It’s not a shoving match.

Clashes – Picked this one up from Mr. Toby Rodriguez. While very similar to Conversational Sparring, this drill has the intensity cranked up a few notches. Now, each opponent starts at the edge of the mat, and on “Go!”, races to the center. Once the opponent is engaged, you can’t retreat. You trade shots and look for openings as quickly as possible. We only go for about 10 seconds or so before we reset.

Multiple Opponents – Sparring multiple opponents is one of the all-time classic sparring drills. Usually reserved for the upper ranks, we run 1 on 2 and 1 on 3 matches. Rarely do the last longer than a minute. But the goals are to keep an opponent between you and the other opponents, keep moving, and don’t allow yourself to get trapped or taken to the ground. By far the most intense and stressful of the sparring drills.

Basics, techniques, and sparring (freestyle) are the three core pillars of Kenpo karate. Without training in all three, there will be a gap in the ability to defend yourself. But just strapping on the pads for sparring isn’t enough. A plan and methodology must be used. These are some of the drills we use as a method of improvement.

Sam Bowley
Bowley Kenpo Karate in McKinney, TX

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8 Sparring Drills We Do
8 Sparring Drills We Do
These are 8 sparring drills we use in our sparring classes at Bowley Kenpo Karate in McKinney, TX.

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