Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spectator Sparring

This is a miscellaneous entry.

It's about 2AM and I'm on YouTube watching videos of sparring matches from different styles of martial arts. The video I'm currently watching is a montage of clips from the 2004 Taekwondo Olympic games. It's pretty crazy! These guys really know how to kick. I've never really realized how effective the axe-kick can be until now. There was this one guy who had chambered for a really strong spinning-back kick, but his opponent stopped the kick with an axe kick to his back, while he was chambered. Man, that's fast! I probably can't even fathom how fast he had to be to catch his opponent halfway through a kick like that. With an AXE kick, no less! That has to be one of the slowest kicks that doesn't require spinning.

Something I noticed about the sparring gear they're wearing is that they not only wear the chest-protectors, but they have shoulder-protectors, too. That's indicative that it's common to see a kick to the collarbone. That can be very damaging, since it only takes 4lbs of pressure to break a collarbone.
When I was little, I thought that the Taekwondo guys wore all of that gear because they were kind of wimpy, since we didn't wear much gear at all while sparring. Now I know that it's because Taekwondo kicks are so powerful and dangerous that not wearing gear could probably kill you or seriously injure you, especially if the opponents are going all-out...which it looks like they are in this match!

I watched a video of Shaolin monks sparring, as well. Actually, I watched a couple of videos. Nothing on Taekwondo, but I know what a TKD sparring match looks like. Shaolin Kung Fu is a different story. The speed at which they were hitting each other was ridiculous. Rather than focusing on power, it seems that speed is a really big thing with Shaolin Kung Fu. Speed and stances! They must practice footwork for years and years! I noticed that one of the guys used low dragon stance to offset his opponent's center of gravity. It was so fast, though, that if I hadn't been looking for it, I would never have known that he was doing a version of low dragon. Also, I was absolutely astounded by one guy's ability to take five (5) (FIVE) groin kicks without flinching or falling over. In fact, he took the kicks and then retaliated with a flying side kick. What?! I don't think I'd be able to stand after that. And I'm a girl.

Let's see...I also watched some Sanda, which is Chinese kickboxing. It looked like the exact opposite of Shaolin Kung Fu, although some people have told me that Sanda is just a part of Kung Fu. I don't know...this looked more like Wushu than Kung Fu. It definitely didn't resemble boxing. Lots of kicking and sweeping! They also did some pretty cool throws that reminded me of wrestling. It had a kind of 'anything goes' atmosphere to it, but not as much as UFC. It was kind of like UFC without Jujitsu...if you can imagine that.
Maybe that's a very American way of looking at it. The Sanda video was definitely one of my favorite I've seen tonight. It made me really want to work on my sweeps. I don't usually think about sweeps as an option when I'm sparring, but these guys really know how to make them count.

Of course, Judo is Judo. I'm watching a match between Kim Jaebum and Sergei Shundikov from Beijing 2008. Again I am dumbfounded by the speed at which these guys move. Hmm...I see a recurring theme in sparring, here. Speed is good. I'm also starting to notice how Sensei's different martial arts styles play different roles in his repertoire. He definitely uses a Judo-like stance when sparring. Anyway, I see why they keep their center of gravity lower than other styles of martial arts. It's harder to throw someone when they drop their weight. Also, I'm watching these guys use their hands to distract each other rather than to strike. Jaebum really likes to do this. He'll throw in a few fake grabs, but they're really just to redirect Shundikov's attention away from...his legs, while Jaebum goes in with what looks like a scissor-leg variation and takes him to the ground. Nice. It worked.

Another lesson learned about sparring: redirect your opponent's attention to some other thing that you're doing before you strike with the REAL attack. That way he doesn't see it coming. Sensei tells us to do this all the time, but it's a different thing seeing it being applied to a real match.

One more thing about Judo: these guys must have seriously strong fingers to be able to grab each other like that. Shundikov has more than one finger taped up on both of his hands. I jammed my finger today (again) while working Escrima with Zach. I wonder if Shundikov's fingers feel like mine did. He must have some serious pain tolerance.

Last one. I just watched an Aikido guy completely destroy a Judo guy. I think it was a demonstration, so I guess it's really not as valid as the other videos, but I really like Aikido. I like Judo, too, so I was really excited for this video. It was short. The Judo guy kept trying to grab the Aikido guy, but he would end up in some submissive lock or throw. It must've been like an Aikido nightmare where everything you did just ended up being used against you. Any time the Judo guy came near him, he was out of the way and his opponent was somewhere on the ground, somewhat far away from him. The only thing you could hear was the sound of the Judo guy hitting the floor. Man.

Anyway,  I think you can learn a lot about sparring by watching other people do it. Also, it's good to take into consideration the style of the person you're sparring. For example, I don't think I'd want to spar a Judo guy because I don't know a lot about Judo. I don't want to spar an Aikido guy because that would frustrate me to no end. I don't want to spar a Shaolin monk because I'm not fast enough...

But if I don't spar any of these people, I'll never learn. So while it's good to watch other people spar, it's also good to spar, yourself...Although I don't think there's anybody who wants to spar me right now, as it is now 3AM and pretty much every sane person I know is I'll just watch videos until I can resume practice!

Or sleep. That sounds better.

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