Kinda, Sorta? Sparring, which is called “kyorugi” in Korean, is part of the art this program teaches. It’s an essential activity for students to engage in and learn combat techniques while governed by a rule system. Students get to put all there awesome strikes, blocks and kicks to the test during sparring, which teaches application of those techniques in a way that doing them on their own could never accomplish. In fact Olympic Taekwondo centers around the aspect of sparring, much more so than any other part of the art. In many cases Olympic Taekwondo schools will focus so much on sparring that they may neglect the traditional side of the art, leaving the students with only half an education.
MARTiAL YOU's program also implements sparring as a learning tool, but it’s NOT the main focus and we abide by the rules which govern this aspect of training. When those rules are followed properly by everyone, chance of injury is greatly reduced, and when accidents do happen, which they will occasionally, they’re typically minor in nature. Before you create any pre-judgements about trading kicks and punches with your fellow classmates, let me explain a few things.
First, sparring is slowly introduced to all students and in the beginning no contact is permitted. At this level your movement and reaction to movement is the main object. This type of sparring is called “no contact sparring” and consists of two students using their footwork to move side to side and back and forth at a distance great enough to allow kicks and punches to be thrown in the air, but not making contact with anyone.
Second, as student’s skills become fine-tuned, more accurate and better controlled, typically by the 2nd or 3rd testing, they are introduced to light contact “promise sparring” with no head contact whatsoever. Promise sparring is when you and your fellow student acting as your opponent both promise to execute only certain techniques, only strike certain areas and hit with only so much power. Example: They promise to strike only the chest area with only 10 percent of their power and you promise to do the same. It’s a pretty good self-regulating honor system that’s been around a while.
Third, a full array of protective gear is worn by all participants who are sparring with contact to help reduce accidental injuries. A foam helmet, foam shin guards, foam instep guards, foam forearm guards, groin guard and a mouth guard are all standard equipment required before contact sparring is allowed.
Fourth, when it’s deemed appropriate, those students are allowed to step it up and place more power behind their kicks and punches, but head contact is still not allowed. Eventually, when students become more comfortable with hitting and getting hit, light contact “promise sparring” with head contact is permitted. At this level excellent control is required and must be demonstrated or head contact will not be permitted.
Fifth, as students train and work on sparring more and more, they become acclimated to it and begin to promise spar with other students at faster speeds with greater power and less restriction. These students work together to refine their skills and it’s in each of their best interest to not injure the other. Even at competitions, sparring is highly regulated and though the rules may give students more or less restriction, top priority is no injuries.
Sixth, if your unfamiliar with what sparring is, in regards to martial arts, let me give you some more info directly quoted from our friends at Wikipedia.
“Sparring is a form of training common to many combat sports. Although the precise form varies, it is essentially relatively 'free-form' fighting, with enough rules, customs, or agreements to make injuries unlikely. The physical nature of sparring naturally varies with the nature of the skills it is intended to develop; sparring in a striking art such as Chun Kuk Do will normally begin with the players at opposite sides of the ring and will be given a point for striking the appropriate area and will be given a foul for striking an inappropriate area or stepping out of the ring. Sparring in a grappling art such as judo might begin with the partners holding one another and end if they separate.
The organization of sparring matches also varies; if the participants know each other well and are friendly, it may be sufficient for them to simply play, without rules, referee, or timer. If the sparring is between strangers, there is some emotional tension, or if the sparring is being evaluated, it may be appropriate to introduce formal rules and have an experienced martial artist supervise or referee the match. In some schools, permission to begin sparring is granted upon entry. The rationale for this decision is that students must learn how to deal with a fast, powerful, and determined attacker. In other schools, students may be required to wait a few months, for safety reasons, because they must first build the skills they would ideally employ in their sparring practice. Sparring is normally distinct from fights in competition, the goal of sparring normally being the education of the participants.
The educational role of sparring is a matter of some debate. In any sparring match, precautions of some sort must be taken to protect the participants. These may include wearing protective gear, declaring certain techniques and targets off-limits, playing slowly or at a fixed speed, forbidding certain kinds of trickery, or one of many other possibilities. These precautions have the potential to change the nature of the skill that is being learned. For example, if one were to always spar with heavily padded gloves, one might come to rely on techniques that risk breaking bones in one's hand. Many schools recognize this problem but value sparring nonetheless because it forces the student to improvise, to think under pressure, and to keep their emotions under control.
The level of contact is also debated, lighter contact may lead to less injuries but hard contact may better prepare individuals for competition or self-defense. Some sport styles, such as sanda, taekwondo, muay Thai, Kyokushin kaikan, karate, kendo and mixed martial arts use full contact sparring.”
WTF Olympic Style Taekwondo such as taught in this program.
“Under World Taekwondo Federation and Olympic rules, sparring is a full-contact event and takes place between two competitors in an area measuring 8 meters square. A win can occur by points, or if one competitor is unable to continue (knockout) the other competitor wins. Each match consists of three semi-continuous rounds of contact, with one minute's rest between rounds. There are two age categories: 14–17 years and 18 years and older. Depending on the type of tournament and club, competitors may also wear fist protectors, foot protectors, instep guards, helmets, or mouth guards.
Points are awarded for permitted, accurate, and powerful techniques delivered to the legal scoring areas; light contact does not score any points. The only techniques allowed are kicks (delivering a strike using an area of the foot below the ankle) and punches (delivering a strike using the closed fist). In most competitions, points are awarded by three corner judges using electronic scoring tallies. Several A-Class tournaments, however, are now experimenting with electronic scoring equipment contained within the competitors' body protectors. This limits corner judges to scoring only attacks to the head. Some believe that the new electronic scoring system will help to reduce controversy concerning judging decisions, but this technology is still not universally accepted.
Beginning in 2009, a kick or punch that makes contact with the opponent's hogu (the body guard that functions as a scoring target) scores one point. (The trunk protector is referred to as a momtong pohodae or trunk guard in the WTF rules.) If a kick to the hogu involves a technique that includes fully turning the attacking competitor's body, so that the back is fully exposed to the targeted competitor during execution of the technique (spinning kick), an additional point is awarded. A kick to the head scores three points; as of October 2010 an additional point is awarded if a turning kick was used to execute this attack. Punches to the head are not allowed. As of March 2010, no additional points are awarded for knocking down an opponent (beyond the normal points awarded for legal strikes).
The referee can give penalties at any time for rule-breaking, such as hitting an area not recognized as a target, usually the legs or neck. Penalties are divided into "Kyong-go" (warning penalty) and "Gam-jeom" (deduction penalty). Two "Kyong-go" are counted as an addition of one point for the opposing contestant. However, the final odd-numbered "Kyong-go" is not counted in the grand total.
At the end of three rounds, the competitor with most points wins the match. In the event of a tie, a fourth "sudden death" overtime round, sometimes called a "Golden Point," is held to determine the winner after a one-minute rest period. In this round, the first competitor to score a point wins the match. If there is no score in the additional round, the winner is decided by superiority, as determined by the refereeing officials.
Until 2008, if one competitor gained a 7-point lead over the other, or if one competitor reached a total of 12 points, then that competitor was immediately declared the winner and the match ended. These rules were abolished by the WTF at the start of 2009. In October 2010 the WTF reintroduced a point-gap rule, stating that if a competitor has a 12-point lead at the end of the second round or achieves a 12-point lead at any point in the third round, then the match is over and that competitor is declared the winner.”
In the end, you should not fear or be afraid to engage in some form of sparring. Without sparring you will never know how to actually kick an opponent, avoid a strike or counter and attack. It’s essential and regulated with rules to prevent participants from getting hurt.