By Dala Griffeth

I don’t want to fight you, but we can spar!

Any time I tell someone for the first time that I practice karate, they always start talking about how I must be able to beat people up, or I must love to fight. The truth is that while we all know fighting is part of our traditional training, it is not who we are. I believe sparring as well as kumite to be incredibly valuable in martial arts training to help develop the reflexes, strength and stamina necessary to practice our art at the highest level. However, your attitude and intentions regarding this training and its use are equally, if not more important.

Through my years training with the WYKKO, I have met and fought some incredible fighters, and I have learned something from every single one. And while many of these incredibly talented individuals spend a majority of their training time developing their fighting skills, there is not one of them that I would consider violent. This is something that I love about training with the WYKKO, and particularly Athens Yoshukai. We, as martial artists, understand that we are participating in a combative, contact sport, but I feel that we emphasize the sport aspect more than the combat. We never go into the ring attempting to injure our opponent, or hoping to cause any lasting damage. We instead focus on improving our own skills and fitness levels, as well as helping our training partners improve themselves and develop new skills. As a result, we build an incredibly tight network of, not just training partners or teachers and students, but true friends.

My personal philosophy regarding fighting and sparring can be summed up pretty simply by the title of this post: I don’t want to fight you, but we can spar! When I think of fighting, I think of a situation where there are no rules, and I am in a struggle to protect myself or my loved ones from an opponent that wants to cause real harm. And while we practice full contact kumite, there are guidelines in place to ensure the safety of participants. And that, I think, is the big difference, the intent. In a real-life situation, I would do whatever is necessary to protect myself or my loved ones. But in general, I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want to improve myself. So please, to anyone out there who wants to teach me something, or would like to learn from my experience, I don’t want to fight you, but we can spar! Osu!


Self Defense vs. Sparring

By Susan Elrod

A few of us were sitting around after class discussing the idea of sparring versus self-defense. One of my friends, another karate student, said, “Wait, how are those separate? Isn’t sparring the same thing as self-defense?”

It turns out, I had some very definite opinions on the subject.Karate Sparring

With sparring, you have a responsibility to ensure your partner’s safety as well as your own. You absolutely do not strike to the joints. You avoid all contact to the face. In some styles of sparring, head strikes of any kind are prohibited.

None of those things are true for self-defense. In self-defense, your only concern is your safety. If someone has threatened your physical safety, their well-being is forfeit.

Karate Self DefenseFor self-defense, especially a woman threatened by a man, all the things you should avoid for sparring are among the first things you should do. Go for the eyes, the throat, and the knees if you can manage it. As a student in my woman’s self-defense class said recently, “Go for the soft bits.” Use elbows, knees, teeth, anything that will brutally disable your attacker as effectively as possible. As a Yoshukai student, I know that I can rely on the principles of Yoshukai to help protect me. Being prudent in action and speech are among the best ways to avoid a confrontation.

However, it’s important to realize that one’s Yoshukai techniques alone may not be sufficient to dissuade an attacker. A smaller person may not be able to fight off a larger attacker using head-high kicks and/or body strikes alone. Those abilities combined with the willingness to “fight dirty” by attacking areas typically prohibited in sparring is what may allow for greater likelihood of safely removing oneself from a dangerous situation.