It’s very common when we spar to limit ourselves to simply moving forward and backward. This flat approach to sparring is very limiting as a strategy for both sports and self-defense. In both scenarios, it’s very possible to run out of room when you need to retreat. Being able to sidestep and circle around your opponent will help you succeed in competitions and also escape in self-defense.
For today’s drills, we’ll look at sparring in 1 dimension, 2 dimensions, and finally all 3 dimensions. Our first dimension is essentially a vertical line, and for today that means no moving throughout the ring. One dimensional sparring means height only – striking and blocking to different height zones. Two dimensions means a plane (or all places within a flat area). This means you go up and down as well as forward and backward. If you think of an old fighting video game, this is what it will feel like. Finally, three dimensional sparring means you can go anywhere in a 3D space: high and low, forward and back, and also side to side (AKA normal sparring).
When you do these drills, make sure you do them in order to get the progression!
1D Sparring (Height Only)
This drill is great for floors that use checkerboard style mats. Have two participants spar as normal except they must stay in neighboring squares. With no retreating, circling, or big movement, this drill forces the participants to guard high and low while they look for openings. Doing this a lot will get your reflexes very sharp.
Don’t forget to keep your hands up! Unlike kicking distance, the closer your are the more you need your hands ready to defend. Block high with your hands and low with your elbows. Be sure to use your legs to make yourself taller and shorter. At this range, sinking down a bit to get a better angle on a strike to the body could catch your opponent off guard.
2D Sparring (Height and Length)
Another great drill for checkerboard floors! Have 2 participants spar as normal except they must stay inside one row on the floor (so no circling or sidestepping). Essentially they can only move forward or backward as they attack and defend.
Even though this is a fairly basic sparring drill, it’s a great opportunity to practice timing on offense and knowing when to retreatVS jam on defense. Sometimes when we remove an option (in this case moving sideways) it forces you to maximize the fewer options at your disposal. Also, sparring normally after this will encourage participants to use circular footwork once they’re again allowed to.
2D VS 3D (Height, Length, and Width)
Here’s where the attacker gets an advantage. The defender must stay in a line of tiles (like the line drill above), but the other may move around in any direction. This will teach participants to utilize the advantage of circling and sidestepping.
The defender must time their attacks and retreats to make sure they don’t run out of room. The attacker can sidestep indefinitely but the defender can only retreat a few times before they’re stuck. Meanwhile, the attacker should try to maximize their mobility advantage with spiral footwork, engaging and retreating, and pressuring the defender constantly to overwhelm them and force them to run out of room.
These Drills Should Make You Want to Move More
Not letting you move in certain ways should make you realize how powerful that ability is. After sparring where your opponent can circle but you can’t, you should be motivated to circle as much as possible! After doing these three drills in order I would encourage you to do some normal sparring afterwards. You’ll feel so free and realize how many options you really have!