Sparring

Matsogi

Sparring is the physical application of attack and defence techniques gained from pattern and fundamental exercise against actual moving opponent or opponents under various situations. It is, therefore, not only indispensable to promote the fighting spirit and courage, to train the eyes, to read the opponents tactic as well as maneuvers, to forge, toughen and develop the attacking and blocking tools, to test his own skills and ability, to learn other movements hardly to be gained from pattern or fundamental exercise.

Sparring is the physical application of attack and defence techniques gained from pattern and fundamental exercise against actual moving opponent or opponents under various situations. It is, therefore, not only indispensable to promote the fighting spirit and courage, to train the eyes, to read the opponents tactic as well as maneuvers, to forge, toughen and develop the attacking and blocking tools, to test his own skills and ability, to learn other movements hardly to be gained from pattern or fundamental exercise.

The student first encounters sparring at 9th Kup, starting off with 3-Step Prearranged Sparring. When the student is promoted to 7th Kup they learn the more advanced 2-Step Prearranged Sparring and also Semi-Free Sparring. At 6th Kup or Green Belt, the student moves on to Free Sparring, while the next promotion to 5th Kup sees the introduction of One-Step Sparring.

In fact, nearly all students are anxious to move on to this phase of instruction. Not only does training become more interesting but for the first time, the student begins to achieve a degree of satisfaction through actual application of these techniques.

The danger lies in a student who has not built up a solid basic foundation, developing bad habits that are extremely difficult to lose when the student progresses. This is the reason that the instructor encourages the beginner to learn the necessary patterns and fundamental movements before participating in class sparring, especially tournament.

Free Sparring (Jayu Matsogi)
Free Sparring is essentially an open combat with controlled attacking and prohibition of attacking to certain vital spots. In free sparring, there is no prearranged mode between the students, and both participants are completely free to attack and defend with all available means and methods with one exception: The attacker must stop the attacking tool just before reaching the vital spot. Because Taekwon-Do is a lethal form of self defence, the sparring rules - unlike those of other competitive sports, count only blows focused within two centimetres of a vital spot, instead of counting the number of ineffective blows or the use of sheer brute strength. In sparring, focused blows, speed,power, balance, and strong and accurate blocking, skillful dodging and attitude are taken into consideration.

How important is Free Sparring?
Taekwon-Do is a martial art because it aims at a noble moral rearmament, good health and a variety of techniques to defend oneself and the weak by discriminating against political involvement and commercialisation to embody a just society. Unfortunately, many false or unqualified instructors, forgetting this true nature of Taekwon-Do, rely on showmanship and overemphasise free sparring to cover up their lack of technique. As a result, their students have a tendency towards arrogance once winning a local or national championship without trying to improve and expand their techniques. Of course, free sparring is a very important part of Taekwon-Do to build courage, experience, sense of victory, ability of performance, and significance of participation and so on. However, it should not be the only focus of the training. A student will see that free sparring is not a real combat and is a very small part of Taekwon-Do due to the following limitations:

  • Prohibition of attacking the vital spots.
  • Limited number of attacking tools.
  • Limited number of attacking areas.
  • Limited space for fighting.
  • Limited number of attacking methods.
  • Safety equipment.
  • No full contact and so on.

Accordingly, in free sparring, the student can have a chance to exchange less than a dozen fundamental movements, compared to the 3,200 techniques available in Taekwon-Do. This is why General Choi emphasises correct training of fundamental movements rather than free sparring.