by Sifu Laurent Bernardin
Sparring is one of the pillars of our Kung Fu curriculum. This activity involves students facing off against a partner, both wearing protective gear. However, you will find this to be very different from a boxing match or MMA fight.
The emphasis in sparring at WKFA is on working with a partner to develop your skill. As such, safety is the primary consideration and strict rules apply for that purpose. Absolutely no contact to the head or back is allowed. Kicks need to be above the partner’s belt or sash level. Other areas of the body are permissible targets, however, students need to control the force of their punches and kicks. The goal is to make contact without hurting or injuring your partner.
When students first start to spar at the Youth Yellow Belt or Junior Yellow Sash level, they need to undergo an assessment to show that they display the required control and can get their kicks up sufficiently high. Only then will they be allowed to engage with a partner, all in the interest of keeping everyone safe.
Sparring can be a very rewarding experience and helps to develop technique and footwork. It is also a high intensity activity and builds endurance. Students will typically emerge from a sparring class just a little more sweaty than usual.
In addition, there is a self-defense aspect to sparring: Students will experience getting hit and learn how to react. In a real-life situation, how you deal with getting punched can make a bad scenario worse. Sparring experience can make a difference.
During classes, Sifus monitor the students to make sure good technique is used and all safety rules are followed. However, mishaps do happen. Serious accidents are exceedingly rare, but occasionally a punch will make contact with a nose or a kick may land too low. Usually students shake off such incidents rather quickly but I would encourage you to reach out to Sigung if your child does not have a positive experience during sparring. A student may be barred from sparring if the Sifu feels that they lack sufficient control to keep their classmates safe.
Another aspect of safe sparring is to make sure that the student’s gear is in good condition and fits well. They are not permitted to spar if their equipment is too small, or is damaged. Students are taught how to properly put on their gear and to make sure none of the velcro is exposed as that can lead to painful scratches for their partner.
Sparring is an important part of your child’s Kung Fu journey and will help them develop skill, endurance and confidence. They can apply the techniques that they learned and measure up against a partner in a safe environment.