Milestone with Your Training Partner
One of the milestones in a relationship with a training partner in karate is the first time you realize you can safely spar with them without the need for pads. In an ideal world, everyone who practices karate will focus on control and injuries won’t happen when working together. Realistically, that isn’t going to happen, and as instructors we must set up safeguards when students are working together to prevent injury. As time goes on though, most karate students develop a high level of self-control. When you work with the same partner, you begin to notice their level of self-control and then one day it happens. You decide it would be fun to fight without any pads on.
There is a pretty high degree of variation between partners and their comfort levels. Some people have a fun game of tagging each other with light punches. One of my friends in Orlando practices randori, where they fight full contact without pads. I have a student here who loves to spar without pads, I would call our fighting semi-contact with a focus on grappling. Why? Different goals and situations. If he were to get hurt, it prevents his chances of flying planes in the Air Force – so we tone it down a little bit. Everyone is different. Regardless of the types of padless fighting you do, your body is going to be taxed and you can help with that by getting into better shape.
The following information is my thoughts on training for a fight. Another option is to check out this exercise program and get into better shape with the help of a professional. St-Pierre is a professional fighter, he has a very different look on building your muscles than me. I offer my experience with getting into shape while in the military.
One of the biggest challenges with this kind of fighting is the taxation on your body in these busts of of 10 seconds to 2 minutes. Most people can handle point sparring where you throw a punch, back up, bounce around, throw a punch, etc. If you recognize the concept of overwhelming an opponent and ending a fight quickly, then you won’t be bouncing around much in a contact fight. You are going to get in close, lay down a barrage of punches, and go for the take down (or knockout if you play rough). The problem here, is that the other guy is a karate student too – and he is trying the same thing. You size up on each other and just unleash a fury of strikes in 30 second bursts.
What if you tie up? Well now it becomes a grappling game and you are using more muscle to keep control (or gain control). Regardless of your strategy, fighting is anaerobically taxing, and you need to prepare for that. One thing I recommend is a daily workout.
Building Your Muscles
The next step is building up your muscles. No one likes being 115 pounds and fighting a guy who is 185. Especially when he is all muscle. I am not suggesting that you can’t fight if you don’t look like Arnold, but building some muscle will definitely make winning the fight easier. It is important to build up your entire body, rather than just focusing on getting bigger arms or a six-pack. There are a few articles on this site that can help you with this.
Anko Itosu said, “Train [your] body so that it [can] withstand any blow, no matter how powerful.“ This concept is not unique to karate, but is unique to martial artists. You won’t go to the gym very often and see someone training for the strong man competition by having someone punch him in the stomach over and over. It is important that you understand the difference between body hardening and masochistically beating yourself. To illustrate this point I have two prime examples:
Wrong way: Homer Simpson takes a massive beating to his face until his opponent is too tired to keep hitting him.
Correct way: Mas Oyama trains by punching straw wrapped around a tree until his knuckles are like rocks.
The last thing I want to emphasize with fighting, whether with pads or not, is safety. The main reason you wait to spar your training partner until you both trust each others ability to have self control is because no one wants to get hurt. If you can’t contain yourself the first time you get popped in the face (if that is considered fair in your fight) or when you are losing, then you shouldn’t be in the ring. Karate-do is about building character, that includes humility when you are losing. Enjoy a good fight, but under no circumstances should it ever get so rough that you have to worry about getting hurt or injuring your partner.