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Sparring and Communication: Learning Skills Outside Throwing Punches



Any rational human being would agree that the person (him/herself) is responsible for their words and actions. 

The same rational human being would also agree that the same person is responsible for how that statement or action lands. 

If you ask that same person whether they make mistakes, they will also say yes. 

If you ask that same person if they deserve to be looked at individually and not labeled, they will say (you guessed it) yes. 

When you touch gloves with a training partner for a “light spar,” and depending on your experience, you may experience one or a combination of the following: 

This is fun This hurts This is exciting I don’t ever want to get in a fight with that guy. Ever.

We benefit from these sparring experiences (believe it or not) because it teaches us a lot of things among which are: EXECUTION, CONTROL, AFFECT, and ADAPTABILITY. 

EXECUTION: 

When you throw a punch and it connects you discover that the strategy was adequate. If it did not work, you are compelled to try again. 

The same can be said if you explain your point of view in a conversation and you manage to convey what you want to say. If it did not work, you attempt to further rationalize. 

CONTROL: 

When you throw a successful punch in its appropriate context, and it is well received with other training partners and interpreted as not going outside of boundaries. 

When the same point of view is received well or non-confrontational (even though different) in a conversation whether or not your belief system matches the person you speak to. 

AFFECT: 

When you threw the punch that connected and your partner’s facial expression went from positive to negative (IN THAT LIGHT SPAR), he may have interpreted that you were going outside your boundaries which may escalate the spar into a fight of pride and egos (especially if left unchecked). 

In comparison, if you did not use the appropriate vernacular (control) in that same statement it can be interpreted as insensitive and progresses into an argument. 

ADAPTABILITY: 

Refers to being able to successfully transfer skill into more complex abilities. Inexperience and inability to read context (negative perception) may result in retaliation and maladaptive behavior. This can create a snowball effect that may turn the spar into a fight. 

A conversation goes well when both parties have a well thought out conversation and use appropriate language, context, and vernacular. It goes awry when a person makes a statement and it is perceived as a generalization and it challenges the other person’s self-affirmations and belief system. This occurs because these beliefs collectively make the person’s integrity intact. 

A harder lesson to understand for beginners is this: if you cannot handle the defense of what you are throwing, then you will not be able to handle the offense of the person who is reciprocating.

When you spar on the mat or communicate with your peers what you are doing is mapping out your commonalities and seeing about meeting in the middle. If your feelings are affected it is because one of your self affirmations are challenged (or momentarily bested with a good combination) and you are likely to escalate the situation without knowing. 

Here’s a good strategy; DO A BUDDY CHECK. Take a step back and take a deep breath (AND a mental break) from the spar or discussion. Observe your sparring partner, is your interaction predicated on logic or are feelings involved? Then ask, “Are MY feelings involved?” If they are then YOU may need the buddy check. 

The take home is this:

It takes a conscious EXECUTION of humility to accept that people are different from us. A conscious CONTROLLED effort to understand that they have not failed when they act in a way different than we expect. 

It takes a conscious effort of empathy to realize AFFECT and that others may want what we want, and believe that what they believe IS NOT WRONG and that they are right. 

If we grew up how they grew up, saw what they have seen, were treated how they were treated, we would probably have the same ADAPTATIONS just like them. 

Thanks for reading -Mr. Noi

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