Overwhelmed in sparring - how to react?

Discussion in 'Thai Boxing' started by Northai, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. Northai

    Northai New Member

    Hi everyone! I started Thaiboxing a couple of months ago and I love it:) To the point where I am almost obsessed haha:) Which is good because I have a lot to learn.

    As a beginner I sure have a lot of weaknesses but the thing that I'm really trying to figure out now is how to react in sparring when you are being overwhelmed with punches or backed into a corner. In my first sparring sessions my hands went everywhere and I kind of turned my back a couple of times, which is not good:) Frustrating because it seemed as I reacted on instinct, not out of real fear, if you know what I mean.

    Then I discovered that I dont mind taking a couple of punches and decided to focus on staying calm and just learn absorb the punches without freaking out, which I have succeded with the last couple of sessions. However, I am sure there must be a better way out of these situations, I just have no idea how:) The last sessions I decided to punch or kick my way out and it worked a couple of times. Tried to do something at least, because some of the sparring partners dont stop until you fire back. If I manage to back someone into a corner in sparring I throw maybe 3 or 4 shots and then back off.

    Any pointers to how I should think and behave in situations like these? Focus on moving out of the way or countering? I guess this is a quite common problem for beginners?
  2. Simon

    Simon Moved on Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

  3. Northai

    Northai New Member

  4. Teflon

    Teflon Valued Member

    You should definitely try to strike back if your opponent hits and stays in range. MT scoring favours whoever 'won the exchange' so to speak, which means landing the last hit in the exchange and ending it on your terms is a very positive thing to show the judges. Also, a lot of people will keep attacking you until you give them reason to back off, by hitting them usually.

    A lot of newcomers will turn their head, close eyes, turn their back, cover and curl up etc for the first few months at the least. Its all natural, nothing to worry about, just work on staying calm and controlled in your sparring and this will fade with time. Staying calm is also the key to spotting your opponents moves before or as they are thrown, giving you a good opportunity to block/dodge/counter. Absorbing a few shots in my opinion can help get rid of the flinch reactions and help you to stay calm in sparring, as you quickly realise the shots don't bother you much (unless you step into it or something). However, don't make it too much of a habit, you want to be evading as much as possible (which is what you DO want to make a habit of)
  5. daggers

    daggers Valued Member

    You shouldn't really be sparring after only a few weeks, the "learn by being thrown in there" idea is an out dated practice and usually what bad instructors do cos they don't know how to teach you the correct way!
    You wouldn't go into pad work without being shown how to hold pads first, same with sparring.
    Controll yourself and all your techniques in shadow boxing, then controll the bag. Then get shown how to work the pads and drill sparring tactics with a partner, then spar with an advanced sparring partner who will guide you and raise the level accordingly, once you are holding your own and understanding then you can test yourself against other people of same level.
    That's my thoughts anyway
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2012
  6. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    i agree with daggers. work on specific sparring drills.

    new guys used to spend a lot of time working clinch specific drills where i used to train.
  7. Ero-Sennin

    Ero-Sennin Highly Skilled Peeper Supporter

    I think there is an exception to that. I often get paired up with new guys because I've expressed a want to be able to teach. Sparring generally goes like this:

    Rnd1: I do nothing but move around slowly. New guy works on just throwing a jab and moving with me.
    Rnd1: I start moving quicker, still not throwing punches. New guy is told he can throw jab and cross.
    Rnd3: I move slow again, but start using a pawing jab. New guy can throw anything, but has to work with having a hand in his face.

    That's an example of what I did tonight actually. A lot of times I will just throw my jab and move around, never anything too intense until the newer people start getting good. After a few rounds of this the new guy gets some instruction on some of the stuff he did good, and things he can do to work on weaker areas during bag work, shadow boxing or pad work.

    I think the sooner you get thrown into the ring with an opponent (granted it's not a sparring session for the more experienced guy as it is working on basic stuff) the sooner they can start to see why what they're getting taught is being taught that way. "Throw your jab in a way that your shoulder covers your jaw" makes a lot more sense when you get tapped on the jaw after a jab and realize if you had thrown it the correct way, you wouldn't have gotten tapped there. Obviously there has to be a lot of verbal explanation during sparring to emphasize something like that, and you can only pick maybe 1-2 things to try and keep their mind on it so you don't overwhelm them with information.

    This type of situation isn't available in many gyms though. My current gym is the only gym I've experienced this in and part of it is my own effort to hop in there to help instruct. I know a lot of combat sport gyms will throw new guys in and then beat up on them which is a bunch of bull crap. The benefit of moving around in the ring to start seeing why you're being taught things in my opinion can really help somebody progress. The guys I've been doing this with have gotten a lot better pretty quick, and some of them I can even get some real work out of sparring (although it's still very restrained).

    Getting up with somebody who can hold mitts, bag work, and shadow boxing should still be preached far more then hopping in the ring though. I just think throwing a new guy in with somebody who is decent at controlling themselves and isn't out to hurt them can be a kick start to a new person's focus and understanding to what they are being taught.
  8. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    In order to correct this bad habit, you have to brainwash yourself as the following.

    If you know that you will be killed, at least know who kills you so you can haunt him after your death. This way you will never turn your head around.

    Always charge in and run your opponent down. Don't give him the space that he will need. If you move in, you may get hit once. If you move back, you will be hit multiple times. If you don't want to get hit, just hit your opponent and put him in defense mode.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2012
  9. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    Turning your back is normal for those new to sparring...so is blinking and "shelling up" and flinching. Its the natural human defensive response.

    Padwork for your striking combinations, which also incorporates counter attacks. These are key and need to be drilled hard.
    Holding pads are just as important as striking the pads, as it also trains your hand eye cordination in regards to strikes coming towards you and also a bit of defence. I always state that padholders have to hold pads while in correct stance, as they also will be asked to throw the odd strike for countering purposes.
    Unfortunately the best way to get better at sparring is.....sparring. Its not (or at least shouldnt) be hard sparring nor should the more experienced students use you as target practice. I'm not perfect myself, I still flinch when flustered..
    but when I spar with a new person, who is not used to sparring. I help correct stances, techniques etc, while sparring.
    So if I keep getting them with a inside leg, I would advise the counter...or if being flustered in the corner, I would shout fight back or something (depending on the situ)

    Anyway, thumbs up and hope things get better.
  10. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    Its alright, I wouldn't beat yourself up over it or anything like that. It takes time to learn how to control your fight-or-flight response.

    To make it easier for yourself, try working on sparring drills with a partner or sparring with your coach or other equivalent (someone that will show you the ropes, and will spar at your level while coaching you).

    Another thing you could do to when you spar with a partner is to set up some rules eg; in this round we will only execute two punching techniques (jab and a cross, or you could just have the jab) and low to mid range thai kicks to the outside of the body (thighs and ribs). If you want to, you could start off with having no headshots and work your way up from there, incorporating different techniques as you become more confident until you've built yourself up to full contact sparring.

    When you start incorporating head shots into the mix, I would advise wearing a helmet and a good mouth guard (you should be wearing these things anyway, even if you're sparring without head shots).
  11. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    i'm doing an essay on the neurotransmitters and hormones involved in this as we speak!
    it seems the best way to stop staring into head lights and disengage such a strong response to sparring is to take it in baby steps with situational sparring to stop your amygdala from losing its poop every time!
  12. Ero-Sennin

    Ero-Sennin Highly Skilled Peeper Supporter

    Lol, the genius of years of study for an explanation, figured out by everyone who sticks with fighting and learns in a couple of months :p.
  13. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    yeah true but it has bigger implications
    except now that we have evidence for how something works we can work out the best system for us to utilise it.

    one application for you might be interested in the use in military and understanding shell shock

    also stops people disagreeing with the idea of taking it slow because we have evidence that it works better.
  14. Northai

    Northai New Member

    I am charging in but I back off in order for me and my sparring partner to "reset".

    I will remember your brainwashing tip;)
  15. Northai

    Northai New Member

    Maybe I used too harsh words when I said overwhelmed. English is not my first language so sometime things get lost in translation:) It's not like we are getting thrown in with the wolves and beaten senseless. But even if the punches are very light I still feel "overwhelmed" sometimes and freeze. I guess I just have to do this over and over again until the fight or flight/flinch instinct goes completely away.

    We started very light sparring after maybe six weeks of training. First 1-2 rounds and then escalating to 3-4 and 5 rounds. Usually the first round is restricted to certain punches and kicks building up to the last one or two rounds being free float, meaning that we can try whatever we want. I would still say that the main focus is on drills and conditioning. A lot of conditioning:)

    However, in addition to the beginner class which is twice a week I also attend morning trainings and open mat on a weekly basis. This is where I have done most of the sparring. There are very few beginners that go to these sessions so I get to learn from the more experienced intermediate and advanced fighters. They often help me if I make the same mistake over and over again.

    I actually love the sparring and I try to choose one or two things that I want to focus on improving each time. It seems to me that we learn fast this way. It's humiliating to get tagged with the same punches over and over so I go home and research how I can block or counter the next time. It's very inspiring to me. But as I said, I have become obsessed:)

    Maybe practising only technique and padwork the first months or year would be better. I dont know. I have not done this long enough to have an opinion on that. I just know that I love every day of training Muay Thai and I am very happy with my gym. Very friendly and skilled coaches and the environment is great. The only thing I am missing is more information on how to hold pads for eachother. The gym I am going to is the one everyone would recommend in my country for Muay Thai. They have the best fight results by far. But I have to admit that I live in a small country so theres not a lot of options.

    BTW. The gym has an own sparring nights and I doubt that they would let any of the beginners in the ring at those times;)
  16. Northai

    Northai New Member

    I would guess that you need a lot of coaches to be able to give a lot of feedback during sparring? We usually have two coaches, maybe three during each training.
  17. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    It sounds like you're attending an excellent gym Northai. Just keep sticking with it and over time it will get easier.
  18. Grass hopper

    Grass hopper Valued Member

    It's easy to get overwhelmed while sparring when your new, don't worry about it, with experience will come confidence. Number one thing to remember, keep you hands up and strike when there is an opening. Good luck :)
  19. Northai

    Northai New Member

    Just wanted to post a little update on how things are going:)

    I've been focusing very hard on three things while sparring lately: keeping my eyes open, looking straight at my opponents face and firing back whenever my partner starts hitting me with flurries. I have to say that I have got a lot better at it and every time I spar with a partner that does not do these things I feel in total control. It also enables me to stay a lot calmer.

    A lot of the time in my MT classes is spent working on combos with a partner. I've used these drills also to practise looking into the eyes of my partner and not flinching or looking down at his legs. Very helpful:) Maybe this can serve as a tip for other beginners.

    I also noticed that I was looking down to the floor a lot while shadowboxing. Turning this bad habit around has also helped in sparring I believe.

    All in all I am happy with my progress so far and I'm just going to keep on training as much as I can:) It just getting more and more addicting. Always something new to practise:)
  20. ShadowHawk

    ShadowHawk Valued Member

    If your backed into a corner, especially by a taller opponent, uppercut your way out. Not all the time obviously, but coming from the bottom they wont see while they are unloading on youl

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