Martial Arts and Contact Training for the New Practitioner
One of the most debated subjects regarding martial arts usually revolves around the issue of what training value there is by using full, partial or non-contact sparing. This is only one of the many major issues for the budding new practitioner to consider when deciding on what is best for them and what will meet their goals.
Let’s start with defining the obvious differences under the banner of martial arts. The Olympic Tae Kwon Do (TKD) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) are generally defined as contact sports martial arts. These athletes at competition level are focused on beating their opponents in a fight within the confines of a set of rules. A full contact athlete is a better description, rather than martial artists mainly because they train to a fitness level and solely focus on fighting an opponent and basically only use a group of techniques that will work best in this type of application.
The sports martial arts have moved well away from the self-defence characteristics, the old masters traditional training methods, ancient philosophies and the mystique originally regarded as the martial arts package. Many of these martial arts clubs are now focused on training fighters with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) making a large impact these days. Some of these clubs may retain some of the traditional club type functions but to some degree they are changing the perception by the public of what a martial art is and it is arguably debated as progress.
The traditional perception of a martial art in the physical form was fundamentally centred on self-defence concepts. You have normal Tae Kwon Do classes, Karate, Kung Fu, Judo and some other styles that teach much of the syllabus in the traditional manner to suit adults and children who want to learn for reasons of self-defence, fitness, flexibility, discipline, stress relief, weight loss and many other personal goals but do not want to risk injury from contact. These clubs may also offer the option of contact sparing considering a large amount of their students may be teenagers and young men who gravitate towards the physical aspects and want contact sparing. I do believe there are fewer clubs dedicated to martial arts self-defence classes, however there has been a growth in combat style self-defence schools.
Onto the issue about contact sparing. It would likely to be foolish if the contact martial artists did not train for their fights with a certain amount of striking contact. I do believe however you do not need any striking contact to learn how to defend yourself, especially when children and older persons are involved.
I have trained for many years to obtain the ability to strike quickly at vital areas to incapacitate somebody long enough to allow an escape from a violent situation. I realise it would be truly stupid to practice or gauge my ability with full contact sparing for obvious reasons. Non contact or at the most very light contact at non critical targets is sufficient for self-defence applications such as finding distances, angles, balance and movement. We spar with complete control allowing us to shorten our techniques to within inches of our training opponents. This training has its place but due to the risk of inherent pulling of a technique in a real situation because of the repetition in this type of training we work far more on striking pads as it is the safest and more realistic training.
It is a fact that most people will be involved in a violent situation very few times in their lives if any at all, and usually only lasts a short period of time with the element of surprise often being the deciding factor.
The most important aspects of self-defence come from mind control. Most of us do not know how we would react in any given life threatening confrontation, just as many people react differently in an emergency situation involving a fire, car accident or airline crash and there is no way reaction to confrontation can be practiced unless you purposely provoke violence, therefore you have to develop your mind in preparation for this event.
A conscientious mature individual will at an advanced level of their training realistically understand his or her own capabilities and focus their minds on dealing with situations during practice sessions as much as they physically strike pads or imagined targets without striking another person. This concept is really what I see traditional martial arts are all about, the mind body and spirit coming together as one. If you are able to apply this and maintain the disciplines and philosophies of your chosen art then you have experienced a life enhancing experience.