We include sparring in all our Kids Krav Maga training right from day one.
That may seem like a little extreme at first glance. Throwing the kids in at the deep end and have them punch and kick lumps out of each other with no previous training would not be a situation any sane parent would put their kids into, right?
Obviously, that is not the case.
Sparring is a vital part of Krav Maga training.
Our ultimate goal is to help the kids develop a range of skills that will enable them to defend themselves and get to safety should they ever have to. There are several reasons we introduce sparring from day one.
Firstly, quite rightly, we are all taught that striking another person is a bad thing and we develop our own perfectly normal ‘social norms’ around physical contact with others. We all have our own definition of our personal space and socially acceptable contact. There’s nothing wrong with this. Problems arise though when these ‘rules’ are broken. For example when a child is struck by another child. Physical pain aside, the psychological effect of someone breaking our self-imposed ‘norms’ can be significant. Try and view that from a child’s perspective. They’ve been taught not hit others, not to invade others personal space, and suddenly someone is now breaking the rules. It can be quite traumatic. Reactions can range from freezing, not knowing what to do, to complete meltdown! I suspect most of the parents reading it will have seen this at some point.
Learning to manage their reaction to contact in a controlled, safe environment is a great way to reduce the risk of an adverse reaction, in reality, builds confidence, and they begin to realize they are more robust than the think and can manage this very alien experience.
Secondly, learning self-defence techniques through repetition with a nice compliant training partner in class is great for developing motor skills etc. However, it bears no resemblance to reality. A noncompliant attacker is a whole different kettle of fish!
It’s important the kids have the opportunity to practice the skills dynamically with a resisting partner, again though, in a controlled and safe way.
Obviously, when a child begins training they won’t yet have a repertoire of techniques to draw on, won’t be able to identify attacks and implement the appropriate solution, basically, they won’t have a clue what they are doing, right? Isn’t that the same if they encountered a real-life situation at this stage of training? It is. It’s far better they learn to at least try and deal with it than do nothing. Confidence and competence will soon develop with training and experience.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they learn better and quicker! I’ve been lucky enough to teach both adults and kids for years and have trained in and experimented with many different training methodologies. Without question, those that involved live, dynamic training (sparring) and pressure testing are more successful.
There is a downside. Occasionally accidents happen. Kids haven’t yet completely developed the ability to control all their strikes, sometimes get a little over-enthusiastic, or play a little too rough. The occasional tear is sometimes shed in class. These incidents are few and far between and every effort is made to avoid them. Another way to view it is by comparing it to other sporting activities like gymnastics or football, tears are shed in the gym or on the pitch too.
To emphasize, safety is absolutely paramount. Injuries are extremely rare. The benefits of having the kids engage in sparring soon become evident in training. Confidence builds (always a good thing), and we get that step closer to our ultimate goal – help the kids develop a range of skills that will enable them to defend themselves and get to safety should they ever have to.