Sparring and when to start sparring is a contentious issue, with each coach and trainer having a different view on when to start and if you should spar at all. The combat sport or martial art you practise will normally dictate the timescale for which you will start sparring. but first, you should ask yourself the question, do I need to spar?
Do you need to spar?
This question is answerable by asking yourself another question, what do you want to get out of your training, if you happen to be training just for fitness, then sparring should probably not be on your list. This is because the risk to reward ratio for your goal i.e. to be fitter, is too low for just this goal.
However, if you want to compete or learn to fight, or even if you just want to go beyond just fitness, then you should definitely start to spar. Now the only question remaining is when do you start?
When do you start sparring?
This question is really answered by what martial art you’re learning. normally for striking arts like Boxing or Kickboxing you can be waiting a little while, 3-6 weeks would probably be the earliest you could try any sort of contact training. Some old school trainers might get you to spar straight away but this sort of training style is going out the window as while it can provide a roster of strong fighters, it also pushes away more casual participants.
With grappling arts however it is commonplace to begin sparring on your first session, this is due to there being no strikes, allowing you to train at a high intensity with less risk of immediate damage.
it is also important to think of what constitutes sparring, personally I would place contact drills into a different column to full contact open sparring, however you still probably shouldn’t be taking part in any full contact drills either, not until you’ve proved that you can actually control yourself, both athletically and emotionally.
if you personally have been training consistently for a while aren’t sure when you should start sparring, you should ask your coach, your coach, if they’ve been keeping an eye on you, will be able to tell you if you’re ready to spar or how close you might be. For some coaches asking them this question is the turning point for letting them know your ready to take the next step in training.
For full contact sparring, where the timer beeps and then all bets are off, it isn’t unheard of to be training for 6 months before you get the nod from your coach.
To conclude , when SHOULD you start sparring
Sparring should only ever happen when you feel competent and ready enough to do so. You should start sparring when you feel ready to, there’s a real chance that you wont be or feel ready to spar for a long time, that is when you should ask your coach for advice, they will more than likely help you out by telling you their honest opinion and will probably come up with a plan to integrate sparring into your training, normally this takes place with your coach pairing you up with someone much more experienced who will let you work, while also keeping you honest.
Conversely if you really feel ready to spar and your coach keeps saying no and you have been consistently training for some time, ask them why, chances are they have a good insight into something your missing, maybe you just aren’t as ready as you think you are.
if the coach cant give you a good answer though, it may be time to move gyms, after all its your time and money your spending to train there, if you aren’t getting what you want out of your training and there is no real argument as for why, then it may be time to move on.