Detailed Drills: Bystander Sparring

bystander sparring

Today we’ll look at a pair of drills using classmates on the border of the sparring ring where they will be playing the role of innocent bystanders. These drills reinforce the awareness needed when defending yourself against an attacker in a crowded environment. In a sparring match, it’s easy to run out of the ring and not give it a second thought. By having actual people at the border it makes you pay more attention to the boundaries. These drills also introduce negative consequences to making contact with the bystanders, which will affect the participants’ mindsets as well.

Innocent Bystander Sparring

In this drill two participants spar while everyone else plays a bystander. In the easier version, the bystanders stand around the perimeter of the ring. If a participant bumps into or makes any kind of contact with a bystander they lose a point.

This drill reinforces awareness and especially control. The fear of injuring an innocent bystander is something we don’t often think about when training, but it is very important. This really teaches you to look before you move. As a strategy you can play the bully and try to force you opponent into the bystanders.

You can also tweak this drill for more difficulty by having the bystanders stand throughout the ring, not just on the borders. Another way is to allow the bystanders to move around instead of staying stationary.

Angry Bystander Sparring

This drill builds on the previous one by having the bystanders be “angry.” If they are bumped by a participant, they will begin to attack that participant! This can cause the situation to escalate from a 1 on 1 match to being outnumbered very quickly!

This drill teaches the same skills as the previous, but it adds the headache of multiple attackers into the mix. I suggest trying the Innocent Bystanders drill first and building up to this one. Make sure everyone maintains good control and that the drill doesn’t devolve into a chaotic slugfest!

Fight the Tunnel Focus!

It’s easy to only see your opponent, and in tournaments and class that’s mostly okay. Just remember that if you need to defend yourself you’ll need to always be aware of your surroundings. One wrong move and you might anger a stranger who will be more than happy to help out your attacker. Remember, the best move isn’t the one that hits your opponent the hardest, it’s the one that leaves you in a better position than where you started!

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