Training Partners and Sparring

Since I have been here at Team Quest, one of the biggest things I have been taking advantage of is training partners. I have a different experience with training partners than others might have but I am sure most people will be familiar with some of my issues.

For one I am the coach at my gym, I am the person who introduced MMA to Pakistan and I am quite sure I will be the person to carry it forward until it takes off on its own and I am long forgotten (or pushed out of the way). So being the coach brings three separate but related problems. 1) I have a problem with getting sparring partners that are at my level or have my experience. Which means I don’t get challenged as I need to be and my training gets boring. 2) Being the coach and the pioneer of MMA in Pakistan I can’t take the risks I need to in training because I am always under pressure to save face and “be the best” which means I am always relying on my A game while others are improving. This is something I have realized is my problem and not of my environment. As a leader I am supposed to set the standard not simply reinforce the status qou (the myth of the untouchable master) 3) Pakistani society unfortunately is experiencing corruption that extends past the government and into the psyche of the people, one of the manifestations of that is too much ego. So when people spar it usually ends up in people trying to beat the person. One of the few times I tapped to a student was during a heel hook and the sad part about it is that I could have tried to get out of it, but I really felt that if I hesitated or took too long that heel hook would  be cranked 100 percent with bad intentions and I would be possibly never compete again. I have been in heel hooks here in Team Quest and I take my sweet time and look at the position and try to get out of it because I have peace of mind that no one going to try and hurt me. When I think about that time in Pakistan, it really makes me resent the person and not want to teach them and that’s unfortunate because they have a lot of potential.

After my experience here I have learned a lot as a student and surprisingly a lot as a coach and not simply in terms of technique but in terms of the training VALUES I need to impart to my students which maybe I have failed in. I need to create a positive LEARNING environment where everyone can LEARN without any negative thoughts about winning or losing. We can save that stress for competition. So for these lessons I really need to thank Team Quest for creating the type of environment with great people, no egos and sincere desires to get better and grow with your team mates and not at the expense of them. In fact just today, I was telling Joel Bowen, the manager at Team Quest Thailand that I have not enjoyed martial arts this much since I started about 6 years ago.

Just to clarify, my gym has great people too, and I hope I haven’t blown things out of proportion. But I need to strive for perfection and although it may never get there I need to make sure it is closer to that ideal with eaach passing day and with each passing lesson I receive in martial arts.

A final thought to ponder. My wife was training yesterday and she was watching the twin brother instructors Joe and Jen spar. She remarked about how fast they were and skillful etc. But one thing that really stuck out and just summed up what the sparring experience should be like 90% of the time she said –

“It looks like they’re helping each other”

Now, when she said this, it wasn’t because they stopped mid spar and gave each other tips. She said that because she noticed that they gave each other opportunities sometimes to try  new techniques, they would back off and let the other throw a combo, they went back and forth and gave each other every opportunity to play with any and every technique with no risk of getting hurt, elbows, knees, throws, every technique, dangerous and otherwise you see in Muay Thai was on display this is the standard that is technical sparring.

What are your thoughts on this matter PAKMMA fans and readers of this blog? Sparring, ego in training etc? Write your comments below!




  • <cite class="fn">Ahmed Qasmi</cite>

    I guess you cant stop this ego thingy from some guys, because they just want to stay at top and beat the same people again and again. Mostly in our gym, i have seen that seniors and big guys have superiority complex and they use all there power to put the guy down, and they dont even use technique. I still dont forget how badly i got my ass kicked on the first day of my sparring in synergy. Even though it was my third day there.

  • <cite class="fn">Ehtisham Karim</cite>

    Nothing but the universal secret of progress in any Martial Arts. I had been reading and watching a lot (and i mean a lot) on the topic of technical progress for a while now and i was stuck between the thoughts of; kill each other in sparring and what you mentioned above in your blog, and a ton of thanks from me, personally, and my team (because they’re the ones who’ll benefit from this) to clear my mind on the issue. And you were spot on about the sparring mentality that floats around in the minds of Desi martial artists. We’re so hung up on our petty ‘victories’ that we forget the big picture, and probably this is why we don’t have world champions (there are of course other reasons to that but talking about what happens in training).
    Big up from Team Fight Fortress and hope to see you kicking ass soon, we have our fingers crossed.

  • <cite class="fn">Gohar</cite>

    I think ego guys should be kicked for lifetime. They dont last long and they come to training for just proving something. Training with people like that is like, for example close quater war games with real explosive and rounds shot at eachother, it will just kill you, you will never learn like that.

  • <cite class="fn">Johnny</cite>

    Hey, fantastic blog. I’m currently training at a different gym in Chiang Mai and was curious what TQ was like. I agree with you on the sparring thing an ego. I can imagine it’s hard for you in Pakistan needing to live up to your reputation. The best advice I could give you for this is:

    1. Either recruit high level fighters or other coaches to train at your gym, so you have sparring partners. (Maybe even spar with them behind closed doors)

    2. Sit your students down and explain to them that the only way to learn and grow is to put your ego aside and to learn from losing. Also explain to them the fear of being hurt and out of competition. Then have a class where you are purposely supposed to tap let your partner tap you. As in, only defend and let your partner get situations to tap you. That way when you spar with students, they can see that you are letting them win on purpose sometimes to learn.

    Also I really liked your posts about recovery and over-training. I’m 31 years old myself and just beginning my pro muay thai career and know exactly what you mean about needing rest and recovery. Currently I train 2 hours a day, 5 days a week and it’s been perfect for me.

    • <cite class="fn">admin</cite>

      Thanks, funny but we seem to following each other around. I was at PTT last year (July 2011) and you had just fought so we never ended up training. Now, I am here in Chiang Mai and your in a camp just a few kilometers away!

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