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Training and Conditioning

Sparring for Beginners: Things to Know Before Sparring 

By Bryanna Fissori 

Sparring is awesome. The benefits are countless and include confidence building, response development, coordination, and critical thinking. But those first rounds can be intimidating if you are not prepared for what’s about to happen. Unlike when hitting the heavy bag or focus mitts, someone is going to hit you back. Here are some tips for sparring for beginners. 

Sparring Should Not Be a Death Match

That being said, there are also a few things that sparring is not. These include:

  • An outlet for anger
  • A free pass to beat someone up
  • A deathmatch

If you are at a gym that encourages sparring to serve any of the above purposes, you are at the wrong school. Sparring should not have an end result with one of the partners seriously injured. Yes, this can happen, but it is not the goal. The purpose of sparring is to make you and your partner better by providing the opportunity for each of you to attempt to apply the techniques you have learned. 

Sparring for Beginners

There are a number of foundational elements of boxing that you be able to competently execute prior to sparring. These include:

  • Blocking and evading punches while moving
  • General head movement while moving
  • Throwing basic punches at a moving target
  • Moving and punching

Drills to Get You Ready for Sparring

Practicing offensive and defensive drills with a partner extremely helpful in laying the foundation prior to sparring. There are some things that you just cannot master on the heavy bag or through shadowboxing. Drills will make sparring for beginners a much easier transaction. 

Partner Footwork

Stand in front of your partner as if you were preparing to spar. There is no actual touching for this drill so no gloves are needed. Choose which partner will lead and which will follow. The leading partner will shuffle forward, backward and side-to-side, taking one to three steps in each direction. The follower will attempt to stay in front of the leader, within punching distance. The leader should not be trying to “trick” the follower by going too fast. That will not be helpful. Maintaining the same distance between follower and leader will help to develop depth perception. Switch leader and follower after one to two minutes. 

Tap Sparring

There are no gloves needed for this drill and tap sparring is a great way to introduce sparring for beginners. The goal is for you and your partner to be able to touch each other on the shoulder. Both partners are doing the same thing. Keep your hands up as if you were actually sparring. Instead of thrown punches, attempt to touch your partner’s shoulder. They can react by retracting their shoulder and using evasive footwork, They will be trying to do the same to you. This means both of you will have to stay within punching range. Perform the drill for a designated period of time rather than the number of punches. 

Blocking Drills

Both partners should be wearing gloves. Practice the three basic techniques of pairing the jab, blocking the cross and blocking the hook to the head. The punches should be thrown in the same pattern repeatedly by one partner until the flow becomes smooth. Switch punchers and blockers and continue the combination (1,2,3).  

Instead of throwing the punches in a combination, throw one punch at a time. Change both the rhythm and the order of punches so that they are random. Once this is going well, start moving around while punching an blocking. 

Start Slow

Once you have a good foundation of footwork, distance, offensive striking and defense, you should feel confident about your ability to move into light sparring. Make sure you are partnered with someone who understands your skill levels and wants to help you improve. Don’t feel like you are being babied. A good start will help to ensure a healthy experience as your sparring continues to improve. 

Keep your hands up and go have fun in there! 

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