Step sparring is a type of choreographed drill practitioners of taekwondo use, with a partner, to work on and improve basic stances, blocks, strikes and kicks. Since step sparring drills use prearranged movements, they’re a great way for students to try and perfect basic techniques with repetitious practice. These types of drills help you learn to gauge and control distance, timing, and accuracy as well as increasing your own self-control.
Though step sparring can include one, two, three, or more steps, this program currently incorporates only the “one step sparring” drills. The “one” in “one step” indicates that your partner will step forward with an attack, typically a reverse punch, only one time during the entire sequence of moves, allowing you to counter attack after only one defensive motion. A two step sparring drill would mean that your partner would step forward two times, executing a predetermined strike each step, causing you to defend twice before counter attacking.
In the beginning, you might find yourself being matched up only with partners that are very similar in height, weight, and reach as you; basically a mirror image of you. This makes it easy to concentrate on technique and timing more so than distance control since our partner has leg and arm lengths about equal to our own. As you progress, you’ll want to and most likely will get partnered with those whose height, weight, and reach are not the same, to help you react and adapt to those differences. A taller or shorter person will change everything, causing you to adjust your footwork, blocks, and counter strikes accordingly. This better emulates real world experience. If you do run into a mirror image of yourself, your twin, congratulations!
TRADITIONAL STEP SPARRING
To practice traditional one step sparring, you and your partner will first face each other at a distance equal to your combined arm reach. Typically I‘ll have students gauge distance by holding their arms out in front of them and moving towards each other until their fingers or knuckles touch. This is a good starting point but not always perfect.
Through the magic and wonder of photoshop, we’ll use my mirror image to demonstrate the basics on a simple one step sparring drill. On your left is a picture of me and my mirror image, a partner just like me in every way.
Once we have measured our distance, both of us will transition into attention stance, bow to each other, and then enter ready stance with a loud kiup. At this point we should already know who will be the attacker and who will be defending. When both of us are ready to start the drill, the one playing the role as the attacker will step back with the right foot into a left forward stance while executing a left low block and chambering the right arm.
The attacking partner has stepped back and is ready to go (2) but they will remain still until the defending partner signals them to come forward. To do this the defending partner will kiup, letting the attacker know they are ready. Seems silly at first to most people because in the real world you’ll most likely never know when exactly someone will strike at you. Luckily these drills are not meant to be direct self-defense training; they’re only designed to help students refine skills in a predictable and repetitive way.
After a loud kiup from the defending partner, the attacking partner will step forward while executing an offensive strike; typically, a right reverse punch as seen in step 3 above. The defending partner will then react by performing a predetermined defense such as going off line and blocking the punch. The defender can then add counter strikes to further emulate disabling the attacker. When all the moves are complete both partner will remain froze at the last move until they are called to reset by an instructor or decide to reset if they are practicing on their own. The drill is then repeated over and over to try and perfect the reaction time, technique and movement.
STEP SPARRING FROM FIGHTING STANCE
Step sparring from fighting stance is another way to practice prearranged movements with more of a sparring or actual fighting tone added. Instead of entering ready stance each partner will go into a natural fighting stance before proceeding.
My twin and I, on the right, are facing each other in a closed fighting stance position.( same foot back and middle sections facing inward in relation to each other) Depending on the setting, the drill will start either when the defender signals they are ready or an instructor does so. The concept is basically the same as from ready stance; one partner executes a single attacking strike or kick causing the defender to react with movement, blocks, and counter strikes.