Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Sparring strategy (Tang Soo Do)

Last night was a good, long, hard sparring session looking in particular at some set pieces. Before we set to, though, we got into the spirit of things with some regular sparring which started off gentle and finished in a hard but well-natured manner.

It was tough though. I was trying to get a point onto my taller and strong opponent who very often stopped me with a firm but polite side kick. I was chasing him (which puts me at a disadvantage) but I wanted to play! At one point he attacked with a high kick to my 'open' side (ahneso pakeso cha ki I think) so I defended and countered with a spinning hook kick to his head. I didn't score but I avoided a kick in the chops. His kick did, however, connect with my spine at the top of my back about T3 and my body shuddered! It didn't hurt so much as rock and surprise me. It ached much later after my shower but it made me think about not getting hit there again!

That particular bout also made me reflect on closing distance on my opponent to score a point. Tang Soo Do 'neutral' distance is just out of normal kicking range-this is primarily a kicking style after all-and the two fighters want to be just outside of each other's kicks to be 'safe'. 

Distance is very important and knowing where you are on the distance spectrum can help you with techniques. As far as I can see these distances exist:

- Out of range
- Jumping kick range
- Rear leg kicking and spinning kick ranges (spinning kick has a slightly longer range)
- Front leg kicks
- Biting, gouging, finger techniques.

For sure not all of these are permitted in Tang Soo Do sparring! Biting and gouging were not permitted even before Queensbury codified boxing. Not even pankration allowed these either, but this illustrates how close real fighting can get. Feel free to add to the list. In competition however if you want to win, don't draw your opponent's blood. Although this seems harsh it is intended to ensure techniques are controlled and you will be disqualified if you see blood from your opponent as a result of your technique. In any case direct frontal attacks to the face are not allowed.

The issue I'm thinking of is getting from neutral range into scoring range quickly. A jump kick is possible but rarely scoring. I always find an initial attack of a jumping kick is seldom missed by the opponent and consequently easily blocked or evaded. This said it's very good at closing the distance in order to follow up with other techniques-more likely a kick, chasing down with hand combinations. You can also gain ground by replacing the standing front foot with the back foot and kick gaining you some distance and then follow up with other techniques.

Gain your ground into your opponent's space and follow up with point-scoring techniques.

This stringing together of techniques is important and something beginners often find hard to achieve. The truth is that your opponent will most likely evade techniques 1 and maybe 2 but will struggle or at least be on the back foot (so to speak) for technique 3. Follow up the attack and pursue. Having said that I mentioned earlier that chasing the point-scoring technique is sometimes a disadvantage as the *best* fighters are those that counter well. Don't believe me?

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