While the idea is exciting for someone on their first night of TaeKwonDo sparring, the prospect can be terrifying for the poor higher belts that will be trading off and playing your opponent. Why? To put it quite frankly: sparring with the new guy hurts. While you’re encouraged to land blows during a match, you should never be trying to hurt your opponent, something many white belts don’t understand at first. Sparring is not to see who’s the toughest in the room; it’s a simulation training to help you polish your technique against something that’s moving. Sure, sometimes it’s fun to go all-out, but this should be with a partner who’s prepared for it and willing.
A common mistake during your first night of sparring is what’s referred to as “lack of control.” This means when you hit someone, you aren’t pulling any of the force away from them, and you’re trying to do damage. If your technique is wrong, you could end up hurting yourself as well. Remember: the sparring gear only softens the blow so much, a full strike will still hurt and hurting your sparring partner is frowned on. So, how do you pull a punch? How much force can you apply to a strike before it becomes too much?
Pulling a Punch
When you’re sparring with a partner, you want to avoid hurting them while still practicing technique. To do so, you employ a technique known as “pulling” your punch or kicks. If when you strike, you immediately recoil your fist or foot instead of following through, the force of the strike becomes drastically less. What does this mean? For one thing – it hurts less, which is important if you want your partners to spar with you more than once.
But “Real Life” Punches Do Hurt!
True, in real life punches don’t get pulled. Guess what else doesn’t happen? You don’t tend to go back to someone who just knocked out four of your teeth for a second helping. The idea in sparring is to safely practice technique, and safety includes pulling punches while still learning how to strike. The ability to pull a punch or a kick is better known in TaeKwonDo sparring as “control.” The better you are at controlling your strikes as far as pulling them, the more powerful you’ll be on the day when a real-life situation calls for the use of your skills.
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